Create Your Style Guide [Editing Tips]

Welcome to a new and busy week. I thought I would give some editing tips every day this week, of course, some of this will have been covered before but  I think it’s always useful as a reminder.

So hands up who uses a Style Sheet or Style Guide when they write?Do you even know what one is? 

A style sheet is a list setting out the decisions that your editor has made on aspects of the layout and language of your document, in order to keep the document consistent.

This is a really useful thing, especially if you intend to write this as part of a series and so how you do something in one book must be consistent across books as well as within the book.

As you come to edit your work you don’t just focus on the shape of the story and if it works, on filler, character development etc. When it comes to the nitty gritty bits of the narrative don’t just focus on the flow of the language and the construction of the sentences either, you have to think about how you represent things. So, for example, do you use a hyphen in ‘no-one’ like that or ‘no one’, both are acceptable. Which of the OK or okay forms do you use (ok is not generally an accepted form). Do you write -ise in words like recognise or realise OR the more US form of recognize/ realize and how is this in other forms of -ise/ize words. Do you use capitals in some of your expressions, like the Magic Sword, the Golden Knife. Do you capitalise the East and the West? Do you use a capital in Professor? University… here I would say unless part of the official address, his name, the university’s name then use a small letter — get the idea? US or UK spelling?

By writing these things down you can create a guide so you don’t have to remember because, inevitably, you will use forms interchangeably. The sheet helps you create consistency — which is key here. For a final edit/proof, it’s vital, especially if you plan to self-publish. But to submit you also want to show the highest level of professionalism. It’s very rare I am sent a ms with the writer’s own style guide but it happens from time to time and it shows me they appreciate this aspect is important.

 

It might include notes on what font is used, whether the text is left or fully justified, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, how much indent your indented quotations have, what is put in italics.

Especially if you’ve learned English as a second or other language, you will know that the English language is not consistent, and it doesn’t even have proper rules for some things! This can be really frustrating, as two people might do things in two different ways, BOTH of which are correct.

For example, in English …

  • We can use -s- spellings or -z- spellings in words like “organisation”
  • We can capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 1 or experiment 2
  • We can hyphenate or not hyphenate pairs of words like policy-maker

 

And that’s before you get to decisions like …

 

  • Are you going to use 20%, 20 percent or twenty percent?
  • Are you going to describe America as America, the United States, the US, the USA, the U.S. etc. etc.?
  • Are you going to use double inverted commas for quotations and single inverted commas for concepts, or vice versa?
  • Are you going to refer to other research as (Brown, 2003; Green and Jones, 2005, p. 23) or (Brown 2003, Green & Jones 2005:23) or any other variant

 

Now, the important thing with all of these is to keep it consistent.

 

More editing tips tomorrow!

editing cartoon

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