A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting and design of documents. It is often called a style sheet, although that term also has other meanings
. The standards can be applied either for general use, or be required usage for an individual publication, a particular organization, or a specific field.
A style guide establishes standard style
requirements to improve communication
by ensuring consistency
both within a document, and across multiple documents. Because practices vary, a style guide may set out standards to be used in areas such as punctuation
, citing sources
, formatting of numbers and dates, table appearance and other areas. The style guide may require certain best practice
s in usage
, language composition
, visual composition
. For academic
documents, a guide may also enforce the best practice in ethics
(such as authorship
, research ethics
, and disclosure
(such as exposition
and clarity), and compliance (technical
Style guides are specialized in a variety of ways, from the general use of a broad public audience, to a wide variety of specialized uses, such as for students and scholars of various academic
disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business in general, and specific industries. The term house style refers to the individual style manual of a particular publisher or organization.
Style guides vary widely in scope and size.
This variety in scope and length is enabled by the cascading of one style over another, in a way analogous to how styles cascade in web development
and in desktop
cascade over CSS
A short style guide is often called a ''style sheet''. A comprehensive guide tends to be long and is often called a ''style manual'' or ''manual of style'' (''MOS'' or ''MoS''). In many cases, a project such as one book
, or monograph
series typically has a short style sheet that cascades over the somewhat larger style guide of an organization such as a publishing
company, whose content is usually called ''house style''. Most house styles, in turn, cascade over an ''industry-wide or profession-wide style manual'' that is even more comprehensive. Some examples of these industry style guides include the following:
* AP style
for journalism and some business writing
* Chicago style
for some business writing and corporate communications, as well as academic writing and publishing.
* USGPO style
or AGPS style
for government publications
* Oxford style
for academic publishing and readership
* APA style
and ASA style
for the social sciences
* CSE style
for various physical sciences
* ACS style
* AMA style
style for law
Finally, these reference works cascade over the orthographic
norms of the language in use (for example, English orthography
for English-language publications). This, of course, may be subject to national variety such as the different varieties of American English and British English
Some style guides focus on specific topic areas such as graphic design
, including typography
. Website style guides cover a publication's visual and technical aspects along with text.
Style guides that cover usage
may suggest ways of describing people that avoid racism
, and homophobia
. Guides in specific scientific and technical fields cover nomenclature
, which specifies names or classifying labels that are preferred because they are clear, standardized, and ontologically
sound (e.g., taxonomy
, chemical nomenclature
, and gene nomenclature
Most style guides are revised from time to time to accommodate changes in conventions and usage
. The frequency of updating and the revision control
are determined by the subject matter. For style manuals in reference work
format, new editions
typically appear every 1 to 20 years. For example, the AP Stylebook
is revised annually, and the Chicago, APA, and ASA manuals are in their 17th, 7th, and 4th editions, respectively. Many house styles and individual project styles change more frequently, especially for new projects.
Several basic style guides for technical and scientific communication have been defined by international standards organization
s. One example is ISO 215
''Documentation – Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials''.
The European Union
publishes an ''Interinstitutional style guide'' – encompassing 24 languages
across the European Union. This manual is "obligatory" for all those employed by the institutions of the EU who are involved in preparing EU documents and works. The Directorate-General for Translation
of the European Commission
publishes its own ''English Style Guide'', intended primarily for English-language authors and translators, but aiming to serve a wider readership as well.
* ''Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers'' by Snooks & Co for the Department of Finance and Administration
. 6th ed. .
* ''The Australian Handbook for Writers and Editors'' by Margaret McKenzie. 4th ed. .
* ''The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage'' by Pam Peters of Macquarie University
. 2nd ed. .
* ''The Complete Guide to English Usage for Australian Students'' by Margaret Ramsay. 6th ed. .
* Australian Guide to Legal Citation
published by University of Melbourne
Law School. 4th ed. .
''Australian manual of scientific style (AMOSS) – online''
by Biotext; illustrated by Biotext. 1st ed.
* ''The Canadian Press Stylebook: A Guide for Writers and Editors'', 14th ed. Toronto: Canadian Press
, 2006. Guide to newspaper style in Canada. .
* ''Editing Canadian English'', 2nd ed. Prepared for the Editors' Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs by Catherine Cragg, Barbara Czarnecki, Iris Hossé Phillips, Katharine Vanderlinden, and Sheila Protti. Toronto, ON: Macfarlane Walter and Ross, 2000.
''Public Service Commission Style Guide''
Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2011.
* Public Works and Government Services Canada, Translation Bureau. ''The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing''. Rev. ed. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997. .
* J.A. McFarlane & Warren Clements. ''The Globe and Mail Style Book: A Guide to Language and Usage'', rev. ed. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998.
* McGill Law Journal. ''Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation / Manuel canadien de la référence juridique''. 8th ed. Toronto: Carswell, 2014.
, by F. L. Lucas
, 1955; 3rd edition, Harriman House, 2012
* ''Butcher's Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders'', Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake, Maureen Leach. 4th ed. 2006 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
* ''Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage
''. Ed. Jeremy Butterfield. 4th ed. Oxford University Press
, 2015. (hardcover). Based on ''Fowler's Modern English Usage
'', by Henry Watson Fowler
* ''The King's English
'', by Henry Watson Fowler
and Francis George Fowler
* ''New Hart's Rules
'' 2005. (formerly republished as ''The Oxford Guide to Style'', 2002).
* ''The Complete Plain Words
'', by Sir Ernest Gowers
* ''MHRA Style Guide: A Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Writers of Theses'', 2nd ed. London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2008.
* ''The Oxford Style Manual''. Edited by Robert Ritter. Oxford–New York: Oxford University Press, 2003 (republished as ''New Oxford Style Manual'', 2012). Combines ''New Hart's Rules'' (2002) and ''The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors'' (2000).
* ''Usage and Abusage'', by Eric Partridge
* ''The BBC News Style Guide'': by the British Broadcasting Corporation
* ''The Economist Style Guide'': by ''The Economist
* ''The Guardian Style Guide'': by ''The Guardian
* ''The Times
Style and Usage Guide''. Rev. ed. Compiled by Tim Austin. London: Times Books, 2003.
In the United States, style guide usage varies depending on the industry and purpose of the content. Some public corporations follow the The Associated Press Stylebook
for content related to journalism (such as press releases), but use the Chicago Manual of Style
for printed and digital documents, such as reports or website content. Many corporations create their own internal style manuals based on multiple style guides. Journalists use The Associated Press Stylebook
. Book publishers and authors of journals requiring reference sections generally choose the Chicago Manual of Style
, while other scholarly writing in the humanities often follows the ''MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing
''. One of the most popular grammar
guides used in third-person writing is ''The Elements of Style
* ''The Careful Writer'', by Theodore Bernstein
* ''The Elements of Style
'', by William Strunk Jr.
and E. B. White
. (Commonly called "Strunk and White")
* ''Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace
'', by Joseph M. Williams
* ''The Well-Spoken Thesaurus
'', by Tom Heehler
* ''The Chicago Manual of Style
'', 17th ed. Chicago–London: University of Chicago Press
* ''Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors''. By the editors of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1998. (rev. ed. of ''Webster's Standard American Style Manual'', 1985)
* ''The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage''. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
* William A. Sabin. ''The Gregg Reference Manual
: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting'', 10th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
* ''Words into Type'', 3rd ed. Based on studies by Marjorie E. Skillin, Robert M. Gay, and other authorities. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.
* ''MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
'', 8th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2016. (Commonly called "MLA style
* ''MLA Style Manual and Guide in Scholarly Publishing
'', 3rd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008. Discontinued as of 2016.
* William A. Sabin. ''The Gregg Reference Manual
: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting''. 10th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
* Kate L. Turabian
. ''A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers'', 7th ed. Revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and University of Chicago Press editorial staff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. (Commonly called "Turabian style
* Kate L. Turabian. ''Student's Guide to Writing College Papers'', 4th ed. Revised by Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and the University of Chicago Press editorial staff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
* ''The Chicago Manual of Style
'', 17th ed. Chicago–London: University of Chicago Press
* ''The Associated Press Stylebook
and Briefing on Media Law'', 44th ed. Edited by Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. New York: Associated Press
* ''The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job
'', by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene.
* ''The Wall Street Journal Guide to Business Style and Usage''. Edited by Paul R. Martin. London: Free Press, 2002.
* ''The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Writers and Librarians''. Rev. ed. Edited by Diane L. Garner and Diane H. Smith. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service for the Government Documents Round Table, American Library Association, 1993.
* Department of Defense, see United States Military Standard
* ''United States Government Printing Office Style Manual'', 31st ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2016.
* U.S. Geological Survey. ''Suggestions to Authors of the Reports of the United States Geological Survey'', 7th ed. Revised and edited by Wallace R. Hansen. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.
* ''The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law'', 44th ed. Edited by Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. New York: Associated Press
* ''The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage
''. Rev. ed. Edited by Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
* ''ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citations'', 3rd ed. Edited by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and Darby Dickerson. New York: Aspen, 2006.
* ''The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation
'', compiled by the ''Harvard Law Review
'' Association, the ''Columbia Law Review
'', the ''University of Pennsylvania Law Review
'', and the ''Yale Law Journal
''. Legal writers in most law schools in the United States are trained using this.
* Brian A. Garner. ''The Elements of Legal Style'', 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
* ''The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation'', 2nd ed. Edited by the University of Chicago Law Review. 2000.
Despite the near uniform use of the Bluebook, nearly every state has appellate court rules that specify citation methods and writing styles specific to that state – and the Supreme Court of the United States has its own citation method. However, in most cases these are derived from the Bluebook.
There are also several other citation manuals available to legal writers in wide usage in the United States. Virtually all large law firms maintain their own citation manual and several major publishers of legal texts (West, Lexis-Nexis, Hein, ''et al.'') maintain their own systems.
* Catholic News Service. ''CNS Stylebook on Religion: Reference Guide and Usage Manual'', 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Catholic News Service, 2006.
* ''The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing'', 13th ed. By Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Stanford Goss.
* ''The SBL Handbook of Style for Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines''
, 2nd ed. Edited by Patrick H. Alexander. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014 (1st ed.: ''The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies''. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999).
* ''Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Religion's Best Beat''. Edited by Diane Connolly and Debra I. Mason. Westerville, OH: Religion Newswriters, 2007.
* American Chemical Society
(ACS). Primarily used for the physical sciences
, such as physical chemistry
, and related disciplines. Commonly called "ACS style
** ''The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information'', 3rd ed. Edited by Anne M. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society, 2006; and
** ''ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors
* Robert Thomas Beyer
, ''American Institute of Physics
Style Manual'', New York
. 1st ed.: 1951. 1990: 4th ed..
*American Mathematical Society
. AMS Style Guide
', Edited by Mary Letourneau and Jennifer Wright Sharp, Providence, Rhode Island
* American Medical Association
. ''Manual of style: A Guide for Authors and Editors
'', 10th ed. Edited by Cheryl Iverson. Oxford University Press
, New York 2007. Primarily used in medicine
. (Commonly called "Ama-style".)
* American Society for Microbiology. ''ASM Style Manual for Journals and Books'', Washington, D.C., 1991.
* ''Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers
'', 7th ed. Compiled by the Style Manual Committee of the Council of Science Editors
. Reston, VA: Council of Science Editors in cooperation with the Rockefeller University Press, 2006. Used widely in the natural sciences, especially the life sciences. (Commonly called "CSE style
Social and cognitive sciences
* ASA. ''Style Guide''. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 2014.
* ''Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
'', 6th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association
, 2009. Primarily used in social sciences
. (Commonly called "APA style
* Style Manual for Political Science
', rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association Committee on Publications, 2006.
* "''Language'' Style Sheet." Linguistic Society of America
. Primarily for the journal ''Language
'', but also used elsewhere.
* "Unified Style Sheet for Linguistics."
[Unified Style Sheet]
(PDF), Linguistic Society of America.
Linguistic Society of America, 2007.
* Janice Walker and Todd Taylor. ''The Columbia Guide to Online Style
'', 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
* ''Microsoft Manual of Style
'' by Microsoft Corporation
* ''The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web'', by Chris Barr and the Yahoo! Editorial Staff.
* '' Wikipedia Manual of Style
Guidelines for citing web content also appear in comprehensive style guides such as Oxford/Hart, Chicago and MLA.
* Citation style
* Graphic charter
* Disputed usage
* English writing style
* List of style guides
* Prescription and description
* Sentence spacing in language and style guides
* Style sheet (disambiguation)
But the stylebook says ...
– Blog post about stylebook abuse, by Bill Walsh
of ''The Washington Post
* Handouts about writing style guides, from a conference of the American Copy Editors Society
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