A matter of style – style guides

Style manuals or guides set out standards for writing, proofreading, and editing documents

They provide guidance on matters such as:

  • use of abbreviations
  • preferred punctuation styles
  • formatting of lists
  • capitalisation of words
  • how numbers are expressed.

    Style guides may be specific to the writer’s audience, such as academic papers, legal documents, business documents, or journalistic articles.

Country variations

There are some variations across Australian, British and American English.

In Australia, editors and writers usually reach for the Australian Government Style Manual 7th ed, managed by the Digital Transformation Agency.

 

This online guide replaces the previous, well-loved handbook, Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers by Snooks & Co,6th ed. 

 

In the US, commonly used style guides include the Associated Press Stylebook (AP) for journalists, or the Chicago Manual of Style, Yahoo (for the web) and APA for academia.

In the UK, there is the Oxford Guide to Style, formerly known as Hart’s Rules and the University of Oxford website provides a less comprehensive on-line style document. Other guides include The Guardian style guide (also done according to an index), Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers, and The Times Style and Usage Guide.

Style sheets

Beyond the recognised guides and manuals that inform style, a writer and his or her editor may wish to discuss any particular preferences. These may include punctuation (double/single quotation marks, paragraph breaks, use of the serial comma), writing numbers, spelling (UK, US, Australian English), etc. The editor will record any special characteristics of the writer’s style in a style sheet. As well as capturing editorial decisions, style sheets are handy for monitoring the internal consistency of a work. For example, if you call a character ‘Marian’, then her name will need to be spelled this way (not ‘Marion’ or ‘Marianne’) throughout the manuscript.

Summary

Style manuals and guides set out standards for writing, proofreading, and editing documents.

They are country-specific.

Where an author departs from the usual language conventions or has idiosyncratic rules, a style sheet helps the writer, the editor and finally the proof reader understand and apply what the author wants.

Author: Beverley Streater

Australian woman loving language, helping authors, embracing change ...

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