Tools of the Trade – Style Guide

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 However, it is a bit outdated, having been printed in 1918!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.

22 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade – Style Guide

  1. It’s weird how I have random ‘rules’ that I remember… and some that I look up as needed. Of course, like you said… the answer depends on the source and what I’m working on. And then there are the ellipses… I throw those all over the place even though I know they don’t belong. I think it’s a typing habit/quirk of mine… I just can’t help it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, me too. I had to break my ellipse habit along the way. It’s just such a perfect way of letting a sentence hang – leaving the unfinished thought up to the reader to determine; or making a longer pause in conversational tone. More than a comma would infer. Everything I just typed is probably grammatically wrong! I’m kind of getting a kick out of paging through the style guide. It’s a English class refresher!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think some of my bad habits would be *really* hard to break. I tend to make up some of my own rules because I think things look nicer… lol! Yeah, I shouldn’t base my grammar decisions on aesthetic preference! I guess that’s where poetry is good… you can get away with breaking rules. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely! I know what you mean about the aesthetics. I suppose if enough writers began doing the same things, eventually the rules would have to change… Let’s start an insurrection! 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, my, wish I could unearth my old journalism books but I’m guessing I didn’t keep them all. I do, however, have medical and legal dictionaries from my years as a transcriptionist for a court reporting firm. Never know when those resources will come in handy, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think one of the rules I read decades ago (and still stick to) is that numbers one to twelve plus hundred, thousand and million are spelled but pretty much everything else are digits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s a rule for one of the style guides. The number rules are the most ‘fluid’ so I suppose consistency is the most important thing to maintain!

      Liked by 1 person

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