September 7th, 2020 by Jane Turner
Two commonly used resources in any kind of writing are your chosen Style Guide and your personal Style Sheet. This post aims to tell you more about them, and also convince you to use one!
A Style Guide is a commonly used reference of prescribed formatting of certain words, terms and structures to maintain consistency within your text, and across your brand or business.
Consistency is important for reader trust, professionalism and clarity. A Style Guide will help you achieve it.
Style Guides maintain consistency in your text and, in the case of businesses or corporations, across all published material (articles, marketing, training, websites, etc). A Style Guide should be referred to and applied to any text to be seen by the public. (I can help your business create a Style Guide. Just get in touch.)
A Style Guide is not so much to correct your grammar or punctuation – instead, it provides guidance for when many possibilities exist. For example, should you use Doctor or Dr or Dr. (with a full point/period) or doctor?
Commonly used Style Guides for authors, journalists, scientists and copywriters include:
Peer-reviewed journals and scientific publishers all have Style Guides too – and these dictate exactly how your article should be formatted, including what your citations should look like and how your graphics should be presented (see the Nature Guide for Authors or The Lancet).
The Wall Street Journal has a particularly fluid Style Guide, constantly updating itself based on current events.
A plethora of Style Guides are available. Copywriters should confirm which Style Guide they are expected to conform to, authors should decide which Style Guide they’d like to use.
If you haven’t decided on a Style Guide to use with your manuscript, let me know which country you are based and I’ll use the most common for that country.
If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these Style Guides, there’s really no need – unless you’re curious. They’re thick, weighty, and expensive.
(NHR is 464 pp, AP is 620 pp and CMoS is a staggering 1,144 pages!)
Save your money – your editor will have copies on her reference shelf.
An author’s personal Style Sheet is an easy‐to‐follow and quick‐to‐reference document, pulling all the most important stylistic editorial decisions together, in one place. It’s not as exhaustive as a Style Guide, and usually runs to about 6-8 pages.
A Style Sheet helps me, as your editor, professionalise your work to industry‐recognised standards. It will show you why I’ve made certain edits in your manuscript without me having to explain each change.
It also helps you, the author, remain consistent when writing further books in the same series, when you review your manuscript, or when you move to proofreading. Your proofreader will appreciate having a copy of your Style Sheet to ensure they don’t inadvertently change things!
As an Author, a Style Sheet can contain anything you like; details about your characters, locations within the story, particular spellings of invented devices/nations/peoples etc. Believe me, readers WILL notice if you get it wrong…
If you don’t already have a Style Sheet for your manuscript, I’ll create one for you during your edit. You’ll receive it along with your edited manuscript.
For editorial purposes, a Style Sheet will contain which Style Guide your manuscript is using and detail on specific decisions on grammar, punctuation and formatting. It will also outline any specific formats used for special text (e.g. character thoughts), how you treat abbreviations, any specific dialogue quirks of characters, etc.
Each stylistic decision will be noted and logged on the Style Sheet, depending on which you use in your text. Your Style Sheet will also include specific spellings, detail on characters and locations – anything required to maintain consistency.
Here’s a snippet of my style sheet template. This one is based on New Hart’s Rules: