Style Guides and Style Manuals: An Overview

16 12 2012

style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. The implementation of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting within a document and across multiple documents.

A set of standards for a specific organization is often known as “house style”. 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 industry.

Organizations advocating for social minorities sometimes establish what they believe to be fair and correct language treatment of their audiences.

Some style guides focus on graphic design, focusing on such topics as typography and white space. Web site style guides cover a publication’s visual and technical aspects, along with text.

Many style guides are revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. The Associated Press Stylebook, for example, is revised annually.

Publishers’ style guides establish house rules for language use, such as spellingitalics 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.[citation needed] 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.

A page from an “identity standards manual”—so named for the field of graphic design that focuses on corporate identity design and branding—that identifies color standards to be used.

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 (newslettersnews releasesweb 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.[citation needed]

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 PressISBN 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[4]

United Kingdom


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 theBritish 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

United States

In the United States, most non-journalistic professional writing follows The Chicago Manual of Style“one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States”. Scholarly writing may follow the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. A classic style guide for the general public is The Elements of Style.

Journalism generally follows the Associated Press Stylebook.


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

Academic papers

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 chemistryphysics, and related disciplines. (Commonly called “ACS style“.)


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).

General publishing

The Chicago Manual of Style, by University of Chicago Press staff.

Words into Type, by Marjorie E. Skillin, Robert M. Gay, et al.

Web publishing

The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web, by Chris Barr and the Yahoo! Editorial Staff.




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