I like your style

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Successful business writers have a certain style – and they stick to it.

I’m not talking about the clothes they wear, but rather, the words, punctuation and language they use. And how they use them will come down to their style guide.

Some organisations take the time to construct their own in-house style guide to cater for their business – such as this one developed by RMIT. The Queensland Government also has a handy guide for its web writers. And there are other dependable guides such as the Associated Press Stylebook.

No matter whether you’re writing for a digital or direct mail audience, or your style guide is American or English grammar, there are certain rules that will not change. And one of those rules is the use of symbols in writing.

Simple rule: symbols should not be used in body copy. 

Without a doubt, the biggest symbol offender is the ampersand. The ‘&’ symbol should not be used to replace the word ‘and’ in your writing. The exceptions are when space is tight in a table or graphic, or when ‘and’ forms part of an organisation’s name.

For example, Ernst & Young or AT&T is acceptable. But never write: “we went out to dinner & a show”. 

Similarly, the ‘@’ symbol only belongs in an email address. It should never be used to replace the word ‘at’ – unless you’re hitting your character limit in a tweet.  

And the ‘$’ and ‘%’ symbols should only be used with their numerals attached. The rule also states that ‘per cent’ or ‘percentage’ should be spelled out in general text.

Grab a copy of your organisation’s style guide and familiarise yourself with the style norms that will give your writing greater flair.