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Welcome to the ScaleMath Content Style Guide

This style guide was originally created for ScaleMath employees and the companies we work with, but we hope it’s helpful for other content teams, too.

If you work at ScaleMath

This is our company style guide. It forms the basis of all our communications at ScaleMath as well as the foundation for the style guide that we use internally at all of the companies we work with.

It helps us write clearly and consistently across teams and channels. Please bookmark it and use it as a reference when you’re writing for ScaleMath.

We expect you to know this guide inside out – it goes significantly beyond just basic grammar and style. There are occasions when we break a number of grammar rules for clarity, practicality, and/or preference.

This entire guide lives in the ScaleMath Docs and is therefore searchable, so you should find it easy to dive straight into the item you’re looking for.

If you work at an org. that works with us

If you have any questions, please direct them to your point of contact at ScaleMath and we’ll be more than happy to help.

If you fall into neither of the above

Please feel free to use this style guide and adapt it to fit your purposes.

Our style guide has been put together over the course of our operation (albeit, more recently, we are actively updating and maintaining it). This means that parts of it are based on style guides of companies we’ve worked with, alongside as well as looked up to over 7+ years, including MailChimp, DigitalOcean & dozens more.

Introduction

ScaleMath can only outdo its rivals consistently on two scores. The quality of our strategy (how we think), and the other is the quality of our writing (how we execute on strategy and share our work).

The first requirement of all content that we produce is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of writing is usually a byproduct of clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible. We find it helpful to keep in mind George Orwell’s six elementary rules (“Politics and the English Language”, 1946):

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

The people who consume anything we produce are primarily interested in what we have to say

Those who consume anything you produce are primarily interested in what you have to say. The way in which you say it may encourage them to either read on or to give up. If you want them to read on:

Don’t be stuffy. “To write a genuine, familiar or truly English style”, said Hazlitt, “is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation who had a thorough command or choice of words or who could discourse with ease, force, and perspicuity setting aside all pedantic and oratorical flourishes.” Use the language of everyday speech, not that of spokesmen, lawyers or bureaucrats (so prefer let to permit, people to persons, buy to purchase, colleague to peer, way out to exit, present to gift, rich to wealthy, show to demonstrate, break to violate). Pomposity and long-windedness tend to obscure meaning, or reveal the lack of it: strip them away in favor of plain words.

Don’t be hectoring or arrogant. Those who disagree with you are not necessarily stupid or insane as much as it may feel that way! Nobody needs to be described as silly: let your analysis/information show that this is the case. When you express opinions, do not simply make assertions. The aim is not just to tell readers what you think, but to persuade them; if you use arguments, reasoning, and evidence – you may succeed. Go easy on the oughts and shoulds.

Do your best to be lucid. Simple sentences help. Keep complicated constructions and gimmicks to a minimum.

Updated on February 28, 2024

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