What’s a style Sheet?
Style sheets are very useful to editors. In the simplest of terms, a style sheet is a rule book for a writer’s book. It’s a compilation of the choices a writer has made for their book. Preserving a writer’s voice is the most important goal of an editor’s job, and a style sheet is a tool that’s used to accomplish that goal.
What’s in a style sheet?
Style sheets are as unique as the editors who create them, but most will include a list of words, any resources the editor has used, and a list of style and grammar preferences.
The word list serves two purposes. It provides a list of proper nouns that have been verified for correctness, and it lists the writer’s preferred spelling for words that have multiple correct spellings. For example: doughnut vs. donut.
For American English, the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and Merriam-Webster dictionary are standard resources. For British English, New Hart’s Rules and the New Oxford dictionary are the most common resources.
Style and Grammar
Here is where the writer’s preferences regarding grammar, usage, and style would be listed. This would include any part of the book that doesn’t involve a specific word. Here are some examples:
- Using a space before and after an em dash
- Formatting all numbers in numerals
- Intentional use of slang
Why should you create your own style sheet?
You may be wondering if creating your own style sheet is necessary when well-known resources such as the ones listed above are readily available and are supposed to cover the rules. From an editing perspective, these resources are excellent and should definitely be used—in conjunction with your own style sheet.
Creating your own style sheet allows you to keep track of large and small details within the book you’re editing. Names of places, character names, character descriptions, specific spellings, formatting choices, etc., should all be included in your style sheet. The purpose is to create a detailed reference document so that the book you’re editing is consistent from beginning to end.
How I create a style sheet
I primarily edit on-screen. However, I still prefer to create a style sheet on paper rather than using a spreadsheet on my computer. I’m a pen and paper girl; having a notebook next to me while editing is easier than switching between computer programs. Afterwards, I type the details into a Word or Google doc and share them with my clients.
Do you have a preferred way of making a style sheet? I’d love to know!
If you’ve never made a style sheet before, I’ve created a free word list template to get you started. Grab it here.