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Style sheet

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Maintaining consistency in your manuscript

Compiling a style sheet as you write can help in keeping track of your preferred spellings (this is particularly true if you are writing fiction which uses unusual or invented names, jargon or neologisms) and the decisions you make about the formatting of your manuscript, and your choice of punctuation in some situations. Style sheets are also a useful guide for the copy editor and the publisher in understanding an author's intentions.


A typical style sheet may include the following: 


Lists of of spellings used, including proper nouns and place names (both of which take an initial capital), jargon, technological terms, neologisms, unusual spellings, or preferred spellings of words which can be spelled in several different ways (i.e. pajamas or pyjamas), anything you wish to be spelled in a particular way, contrary to conventional practice, i.e. referring to 'the Humanities' rather than 'the humanities'. 


Notes on punctuation, including whether you have used single quotation marks or double quotation marks, en dashes – or em dashes —. (Hyphens are only ever used to join words together , i.e. copy-editing.) 


Maintaining consistency in your manuscript is important, particularly if you are planning to self-publish. Here are a few pointers about standard editorial practice.



  • Keep capital letters to a minimum. Avoid using them for emphasis if at all possible. 

  • Don't over-use quotation marks. You can put quotes round a new word or term when you introduce and explain it. Aftter that, the word should appear without them.

  • Use italics instead of quotation marks for foreign names, words or phrases. 

  • Also, use italics for book and film titles, plays and newspapers

  • Spell out all numbers under 21 and any number that starts a sentence.

  • Use numerals for all dates and most large numbers but it is acceptable to spell out one hundred, one thousand, etc.

Your word processing program can help in ensuring consistency but it has limitations.



  • Word processing programs can be helpful in picking up grammatical inconsistencies but equally they can be very prescriptive about 'good writing'. 

  • However, you may be able to set the rules you want the program to apply via a range of styles so investigate the advanced settings.

  • Add any special names to the dictionary. This will ensure consistency, but make sure you've spelled them correctly to begin with!

  • If you use the 'replace' facility, the word processor will find the word or symbol and replace it with the punctuation or spelling style you are planning to use, but be careful about using the 'global' search and replace facility.

Try reading the work aloud to pick up problems you might otherwise miss.


All of these checks will help to make your manuscript as consistent and professionally presented as possible, and will prevent mistakes creeping into the finished text.


Writers Services offers a full range of editorial services, including copy editing.

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