When I started writing, I also started reading about writing. There is no shortage of material available, believe me! I think it’s possible that you can get obsessed with the how to’s and never get around to doing it. Nevertheless, as per my copyediting workshop, I added a new tool to my author arsenal: a style guide. I had a copy of Elements of Style by William Strunk –a classic. However, it is a bit outdated, having been printed in 1918! I decided to move into the twenty-first century and upgrade to The Chicago Manual of Style.
So what is the purpose of the style guide? It sets standards for usage, writing and citation styles, and formatting. This results in consistency of writing style within a company. The type of style guide used is determined by the sort of material being published. For example, in book, newspaper and magazine publishing, the company will likely require The Associated Press Style Book or The Chicago Manual of Style, while in the fields of law or medicine, the copyeditor will use The Blue Book or The AMA Manual of Style respectively. These will include terminology specific to the profession.
An example of the standards set by a style guide is in the way numbers are written. Numbers can either be spelled out (ex. three) or written as numerals (ex. 86) and the style guide will determine how this is done. The Chicago Manual of Style requires numbers from one to one hundred to be spelled out as well any number that consists of only two words (ex. seven hundred). Once you know the rules as laid out by the style guide you are using, you can apply them throughout your entire article or manuscript to keep the writing consistent.
Along with my dictionary–I use Merriam-Webster–my Chicago Manual of Style has already proved very useful. I highly recommend the investment.
Wishing you happy writing and productive editing.