Shakir's Style Guide

My personal machine learning style guide.


About this guide

Consistent writing can be a challenge to attain, even for the most seasoned of writers. This is the purpose of many well written style guides: to help distinguish between the rules of grammar and conventions for good writing style (and often for a particular field/purpose). I use a number of style guides as a reference, but have always had the belief that writing is a very personal matter, and we should be free to cultivate our own style of writing and be consistent with this style.

This is the purpose of this 'personal style guide'. It is my reference for aspects of writing that I use often and documents the adopted convention in my writing, whether this be for general writing, or for technical writing in statistics, machine learning or computer science. Of course, I might choose to change my mind regarding the usage of certain elements, but this is part of growing as a writer.

I keep adding to this style guide as I go along and as I uncover my scattered notes on wtiting style, and as I find time to add them to this online version. My default English form is British English, but spelling conventions are a small part of the English language so this is not a restriction and will give consistency in any spelling convention – use the English form that looks and feels best to you. Feel free to contact me with comments or to correct any of my inevitable mistakes.

Useful resources

At times, I find myself unsure of the correct usage or form of a word or phrase. It is easiest to clarify such confusion by examining how such phrases have been used in existing writing and in what context. Two extremely useful resources for checking word frequencies for English that I use often are:

  • British National Corpus (BNC)
  • Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)

My favourite guide to English usage is Fowler's great work:

  • The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, edited by R.W. Burchfield, 3rd edition, Oxford University press, 1998. This is an older version and I should get the newer version at some point – an invaluable reference.

Another useful reference is:

  • Guardian Style, D. Marsh and A. Hodsdon, Guardian news and media, 2010. The style guide used by the Guardian newspaper and is obviously written with the requirements of a newspaper in mind, but a useful resource and an enjoyable read. Also available online.
  I use British English to represent the 'Commonwealth English': AU-, NZ-, UK-, ZA-En, since these English forms use the same spelling and construction conventions. The individual English forms make accomodation for words specific to each country, such as braai in South African (ZA) English or biro in UK English.