Monday, August 31, 2020

Why Writers Should Use Style Sheets When They Edit

If you're new to writing, or maybe you've never heard of style sheets, then you'll definitely want to know how beneficial they are when you write or edit.

What is a Style Sheet

Writing style standards and practices used by publishers of newspapers, books or magazines use a style sheet, in order to keep language and layout consistent.

This may include notes on fonts used, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, whether the text is fully justified or left, how much your quotations are indented, or what to put in italics, etc.  

All of these recommendations, used in-house and not, comprise the publisher's style guide or style sheet.

Many writers choose to create their own style sheet for their manuscripts, not solely relying on the publisher's style guide.

Why Style Sheets are Good for Consistency

English language is probably one of the hardest languages to get to grips with, because it can be so inconsistent, which can be really frustrating. 

Some great reasons why you should use a style sheet:

  • You can choose to hyphenate or not hyphenate words like life-size
  • You can choose to capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 10 or experiment 1
  • Decide whether you're going to use 20%, 20 per cent or twenty per cent?
  • Choose whether you're going to describe America as, the United States, America, the US, the USA etc?

The rules above may be in place in a style sheet, which makes it a lot easier when you have this advice on hand. 

Important note: I haven't created my own style sheet but blogger Louise Harnby includes her own version here, which you can download and use.


What Can You Use a Style Sheet For?

You can use a style sheet to:

  • Capitalise proper nouns, as well as names of books and films etc.
  • Choose a style for quotations.  Some editors prefer single quotations, others may prefer double.  Additionally you may prefer italics instead of quotation marks, when you're dealing with quotes.
  • Choose a particular font style.  You may want your font at a certain size, to keep your document consistent.
  • Choose how numbers are going to appear, if they are spelled out or written.  Or maybe you prefer percentages to be written instead of as a character.

A useful tool for both writers and editors, and can be easily forgotten to be filled out.

Let me know your thoughts about style sheets in the comments section below.

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