Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Writers often ask me
what style guides they should use when they write and which style I will use to
edit their work. My answer is: it depends on the subject matter.
Some publishers have
their own House Style and when you work with a specific publisher, your
contract will spell out which guide you must use. If a House Style is used, the
publisher will most likely provide a copy for you. If no guide is provided, or
if you are still working toward that contract, you have other options.
Attorneys and legal
writers will refer to The Bluebook: A
Uniform System of Citation.
classes adhere to APA Style, the Publication Manual
of the American Psychological Association for social and
behavioral sciences writing, while the Modern Language Association’s MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is
the preferred guide for academic writing in languages and literature.
The Chicago Manual
of Style is used by some
social science publications and most historical journals. Many fiction writers
also use CMOS.
AP Style is the short term for The Associated
Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, often called the AP
Stylebook. This is the primary style and usage guide for most
newspapers, magazines and some online writing.
The style guide used by U.S. Government agencies is the
United States Government Printing Office Style Manual, also
called GPO Style. Another option is The Complete Guide to Citing Government
Information Resources: A Manual for Social Science and Business Research.
Turabian style is the book scholars will pick up to help
format and write research papers and dissertations and many institutions of
higher learning, such as Oxford and Purdue have their own style guides, which
are often a mixture of several other styles.
Engineers often refer to the Chicago Manual of Style,
the IEEE Editorial Style Manual (Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers) or APA Style.
and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers is the
reference biologists and other science writers reach for when they need help
and guidance in their writing, although chemists will probably have a copy of The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication
of Scientific Information handy.
Geowriting: A Guide
to Writing, Editing, and Printing in Earth Science is the reference of
choice for geologists.
Physicists use Style
Manual: Instructions to Authors and Volume Editors for the Preparation of AIP
Book Manuscripts. Another
option is the American National
Standard for the Preparation of Scientific Papers for Written or Oral
Professionals and executives who don't use Chicago
Manual or AP Style will refer to the The AMA Style Guide for Business Writing
(American Management Association).
Other writers use specialized style guides that have been
customized for specific professions such as the Language Style Sheet provided by the Linguistic Society of
American Mathematical Society uses the AMS Author Handbook.
Music: A Style Sheet is the guide of choice for music writers.
Writers for the American Medical Association will reach for AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and
American Political Science Association writers use APSA Style Manual for Political Science.
Technical writers, especially those writing about computer
technology will reach for their copies of Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications or Science and Technical Writing: A Manual
The National Association of Social Workers Press created NASW Press Author Guidelines for its
Many writers, especially Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers, like to
create their own Style Sheets, which is a list of rules for their
editors. These Style Sheets may be used for all writing or customized for each book
or world they create. A custom Style Sheet helps the editor – and the writer,
who needs to remain consistent – with unique spellings and special effects. An
editor will need to know if one character uses jargon or if all the characters
speak a certain way. Likewise a custom Style Sheet tells the editor if a writer
uses specialized spellings for names. Often, writers build their characters on
their style sheets by describing physical features and providing biographical
sketches, so while the editor is reading, it’s clear if a typo has been made or
if the character is supposed to say or do something in particular.
Style guides are meant to strengthen writing and make it
easier to read. Specific styles cater to particular industries to keep the
writing uniform. Whichever guide you prefer, the point is to remain consistent
in your writing. If you know a publishers preferred style, your writing is more
likely to be accepted. If you publish your own work, having a style guide helps
polish your writing.
So, what's your style?
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