One issue of surprising contention was the introduction of a style guide to govern our linguistic and typographical usage at TSR.
The problem with imposing any rules of this sort is that everyone writes differently. Some people write colloquially, some formally; some favour concise prose, some prefer to be more verbose. And then we have the big debate: the traditionalists vs the revisionists. Traditionalists in the extreme believe the rules of language are there to be followed to the letter (literally), and that any deviation serves only to wreak havoc upon the world. On the other end of the spectrum, ultra-revisionists repeatedly tell us language is constantly evolving, and that to regulate language is an offence worthy of The Hague.
The problem, of course, is that both camps do stand on solid ground. Language is how we communicate, and without a set structure we can’t possibly hope to make ourselves understood. At the same time, it would be ridiculous to say language does not and should not change as culture and society change around it.
And so the issue becomes one of which evolutions to allow, and when. For example, the commonly confused “infer” and “imply” are two words that should not be allowed to become interchangeable, for to do so would be to lose the valuable ability to distinguish between suggesting an argument and assuming one. On the other hand, a mistake made at least as regularly is “who” vs “whom,” and there is definitely a case to be made for abolishing the latter.
On the whole, we try to be neither traditionalist nor revisionist at TSR. A quick glance over our style guide may make us appear grammatical sticklers (who avoids putting prepositions at the end of sentences these days?) but we can also be progressive (we find it hard to believe “Web site” is still in common usage, and prefer “website”).
The role of the style guide is not to be a definitive tome on language. Instead, it is merely a practical guide to the usage we believe best fits the publication and our readers. It is a way to ensure uniformity across TSR, not only for copy-editing and writing but also for reading; a markedly different style from one article to the next would only confuse, particularly if the change in style would include a change in the meanings of some words. We also aim to avoid distracting our readers by giving off the impression that we cannot write standard English, and so often come down on the side of established rules when the merits of breaking them are uncertain.
Ultimately, we try to be pragmatic. Will a particular locution only confuse our readers? Avoid it. Is this neologism so new it will come across as slang? Leave it out. Can we enforce this grammatical rule to improve the eloquence of our prose without sacrificing clarity? Include it.
The style guide will forever be a work in progress, and we expect to update and tweak it as time passes and language evolves. But traditionalists and revisionists alike will have to accept that for practical purposes we have had to settle on a middle ground.