When it comes to looking good in print, small details make a big difference.
As one ministry assistant pointed out, “Members use word processing at home now, so they pay more attention to our printed materials and notice how we put things on the page. I really want to feel secure about how the bulletin and our newsletter look.”
One effective way to achieve that security is to develop an office style book. Start by choosing a reference to use as an authority. My personal preference is The Gregg Reference Manual, but there are others equally reliable. As questions regarding usage occur in your writing—newsletters, bulletins, correspondence, reports—look up answers in your reference and mark them for future use or make a list you can refer to easily.
The following brief guidelines from Gregg can get you started. In your own style book you can add examples and expand topics you use most.
Express ages in numerals (including 1 through 10) when they are used as significant statistics. Spell out ages in nontechnical references and in formal writing.
• Clock time
Always use figures with a.m or p.m. If you have the option (and you likely do) use the small capitals A.M. and P.M. instead of lowercase letters. No internal spaces are used in either case. Avoid the use of all capital letters.
For time “on the hour,” zeros are not needed to denote minutes unless you want to emphasize the precise hour. In lists, however, when some entries are given in hours and minutes, add a colon and two zeros to exact hours to maintain a uniform appearance. Line up the colons to keep the lists neat and clean.
Only when the day precedes the month or stands alone, express it in either ordinal figures (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) or in ordinal words (the first, the twentieth). The default on some word processing programs superscripts ordinal suffixes (1st). For a more professional look, undo this feature and put ordinals, when you must use them, on the baseline (1st).
In most writing though, the day follows the month. In these cases, use a cardinal figure (1, 2, 3) to express it: on May 6. Do not use the form May 6th or May sixth, even though those versions reflect the way the date would sound when spoken.
In body text express percentages in figures, leave one space, and spell out the word percent: 20 percent. The % symbol may be used in charts and graphs, on business forms, and in statistical material.
• Sermon and hymn titles
Quotation marks are generally used around shorter works: television shows, poems, short stories, sermons, hymns, essays. Longer works are italicized: newspapers, books, magazines, movies, television series.
• Telephone numbers
The use of parentheses to enclose the area code tends to make publications look dated: (717)555-1111. The same can be said for the diagonal: 717/555-1111. An updated style uses periods to separate the elements:717.555.1111. This makes phone numbers consistent with the dot addresses used in website and email addresses.
Using these six guidelines consistently will keep you looking good in print!