A style guide is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication. To do that, it ensures consistency (within a document and across multiple documents) and enforces best practice in usage and in language composition, visual composition, orthography (including spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and other punctuation), and typography. For academic and technical documents, a guide may also enforce best practice in ethics (such as authorship, research ethics, and disclosure), pedagogy (such as exposition and clarity), and compliance (technical and regulatory).
Style guides are common for general and specialized use, for the general reading and writing audience, and for students and scholars of various academic disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business, and specific industries.
Style guides vary widely in scope and size. A comprehensive guide tends to be long and is often called a style manual or manual of style (MOS or MoS). A short style guide is often called a style sheet. (The words manual and sheet thus connote long and short guides, respectively.) The 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 publishing (for example, how inline styles in HTML cascade over CSS styles). Each project (such as one book, journal, 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—large enough in scope and length to be a reference work in the form of a website (online) or a book (print). Examples of the latter include Oxford style and Chicago style for general publishing and readership; USGPO style or AGPS style for government publications; AP style for journalism; APA style and ASA style for the social sciences; CSE style for various physical sciences; ACS style for chemistry; AMA style for medicine; and Bluebook style for law. Finally, these reference works cascade over the orthographic norms of each language (such as English orthography), which may be subject to national variety (such as the different tendencies of American English and British English) and, for some standard languages, a language academy.
Some style guides focus on graphic design (including typography). Website style guides cover a publication's visual and technical aspects, along with text. Style guides that cover usage include ways to describe attributes of people (such as race, gender, or sexual orientation) that are preferred because they are fair and accurate (avoiding racism, sexism, or 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 periodically 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 16th, 6th, and 4th editions, respectively. Many house styles and individual project styles change more frequently, especially for new projects, and version dates, notifications to users, or both are often used.
- 1 History
- 2 Examples
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Publishers' style guides establish house rules for language use, such as spelling, italics and punctuation; their major purpose is consistency. They are rulebooks for writers, ensuring consistent language. Authors are asked or required to use a style guide in preparing their work for publication; copy editors are charged with enforcing the publishing house's style.
Academic organization and university style guides are rigorous about documentation formatting style for citations and bibliographies used for preparing term papers for course credit and manuscripts for publication. Professional scholars are advised to follow the style guides of organizations in their disciplines when they submit articles and books to academic journals and academic book publishers in those disciplines for consideration of publication. Once they have accepted work for publication, publishers provide authors with their own guidelines and specifications, which may differ from those required for submission, and editors may assist authors in preparing their work for press.
Some organizations, other than those previously mentioned, produce style guides for either internal or external use. For example, communications and public relations departments of business and nonprofit organizations have style guides for their publications (newsletters, news releases, web sites). Organizations advocating for social minorities sometimes establish what they believe to be fair and correct language treatment of their audiences.
Many publications (notably newspapers) use graphic design style guides to demonstrate the preferred layout and formatting of a published page. They often are extremely detailed in specifying, for example, which fonts and colors to use. Such guides allow a large design team to produce visually consistent work for the organization.
Several basic style guides for technical and scientific communication have been defined by international standards organizations. These are often used as elements of and refined in more specialized style guides that are specific to a subject, region or organization. One example is ISO 215 Documentation — Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials.
The European Union publishes an Interinstitutional Style Guide—encompassing 23 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. ISBN 0-7016-3648-3.
- Australian Guide to Legal Citation
- The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing: by Dundurn Press in co-operation with Public Works and the Government Services Canada Translation Bureau. ISBN 1-55002-276-8.
- CP Stylebook: Guide to newspaper style in Canada maintained by the Canadian Press. ISBN 0-920009-38-7.
- Lexicographical Centre for Canadian English A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles: Dictionary of Canadian English Walter Spencer Avis (ed.) Toronto: W.J. Gage (1967) OCLC 301088035
- Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers Judith Butcher. 3rd ed. 1992 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-40074-0
- Fowler's Modern English Usage. Ed. R. W. Burchfield. Rev. 3rd ed. London: Clarendon Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-861021-1 (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 ed.).
- The Complete Plain Words, by Sir Ernest Gowers.
- Usage and Abusage, by Eric Partridge.
- The BBC News Style Guide: by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
- The Economist Style Guide: by The Economist (UK).
- The Guardian Style Guide: by The Guardian (United Kingdom)
- The Times Style and Usage Guide, by The Times.
- The Associated Press Stylebook, by The Associated Press.
In the United States, many non-journalistic professional compositions follow The Chicago Manual of Style. Journalism generally follows the Associated Press Stylebook. Scholarly writing often follows the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. A classic style guide for the general public 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
- A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, by Kate L. Turabian. (Commonly called "Turabian style".)
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers by Joseph Gibaldi. (Commonly called "MLA style".)
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association by the American Psychological Association. Primarily used in social sciences. (Commonly called "APA style".)
- AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors by the American Medical Association. Primarily used in medicine. (Commonly called "AMA style".)
- Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers by the Council of Science Editors. Used widely in the natural sciences, especially the life sciences. (Commonly called "CSE style".)
- The printed versions of the manual produced by the American Chemical Society (ACS) are entitled ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed. (2006), edited by Anne M. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson, and ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors (1997). Primarily used for the physical sciences, such as physical chemistry, physics, and related disciplines. (Commonly called "ACS style".)
- The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job, by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene. 
- The Gregg Reference Manual, by William A. Sabin.
Legal writers in most law schools in the United States are trained using the Bluebook Uniform System for Citation, which was developed jointly by the faculty at Harvard and Columbia Universities' Schools of Law. Despite this near uniform training, 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. Most states' methods and the Supreme Court method 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.
- The Associated Press Stylebook, by the Associated Press (AP).
- The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, by The New York Times
- The Chicago Manual of Style, by University of Chicago Press staff.
- Words into Type, by Marjorie E. Skillin, Robert M. Gay, et al.
- The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web, by Chris Barr and the Yahoo! Editorial Staff.
- "ISO 215:1986 - Documentation - Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials". Iso.org. 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
- Publications Office of the European Union (24 July 2008). "Interinstitutional Style Guide". Europa. European Union12 May 2010.
- Directorate-General for Translation (European Commission). "English Style Guide". European Union.
- Catherine Craig et al., ed. (2000). Editing Canadian English (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. p. 258. ISBN 978-1-55199-045-3.
- BBC News Styleguide, retrieved 2012-04-18
- The Economist Style Guide, 10th edition (2010), ISBN 1-84668-175-8. Online version as of May 2012.
- The Guardian Style Guide, London, 19 December 2008, retrieved 2011-04-13
- The Times Style and Usage Guide (2003) ISBN 0-00-714505-5. Online version as of May 2011 via archive.org
- The Associated Press Stylebook, retrieved 2011-04-13
- June Casagrande, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite (New York: Penguin, 2006).
- "What Is MLA Style?", mla.org, Modern Language Association, 2011, Web, 31 January 2011.
- Library of Congress Catalog Record for The Business Style Handbook, 2nd edition: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012033481
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- But the stylebook says ...—Blog post about stylebook abuse, by Bill Walsh of The Washington Post
- Handouts about writing style guides, from a conferences of the American Copy Editors Society in 2007
- Language Log » Searching 43 stylebooks