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A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication or organization. A set of standards for a specific organization is known as "house style". Style guides are prevalent for general and specialized use, for the general reading and writing audience, and for students and scholars of the various academic disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business, and industry. Some style guides focus on graphic design, covering such topics as typography and white space. Web site style guides focus on a publication's visual and technical aspects, prose style, best usage, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and fairness. The strict implementation of style guide regulations provides uniformity in style and formatting of a document.

Many style guides are revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. For example, the stylebook of the Associated Press is updated annually.

For academia and publishing

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.

Indexing of the published work, which can be a tedious task, can be done by the author, by a professional editorial indexer, or by computer software. If done by the author or close collaborators of the author who are not professional indexers, the work is called "self-indexed".

For general use

Some style guides are created for the general public, and may adopt the approaches of publishing houses and newspapers. Others, such as Fowler's Modern English Usage, third edition, report how language is practiced in a given area and outline how phrases, punctuation and grammar are actually used.

Specialized guides

Some organizations, other than the aforementioned ones, 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.

Graphic design guides

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. Some examples are:

  • EN-15038:2006Draft European Standard for Translation Services Annex D (informative)
  • ISO 8 — Presentation of periodical
  • ISO 18 — Contents lists of periodicals
  • ISO 31Quantities & unit
  • ISO 214 — Abstracts for publication & documentation
  • ISO 215 — Presentation of contributions to periodicals & other serials
  • ISO 690 — Bibliographic references — Content, form & structure
  • ISO 832 — Bibliographic references — Abbreviations of typical words



  • 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 1550022768.


  • CP Stylebook: Guide to newspaper style in Canada maintained by the Canadian Press. ISBN 0920009387.
  • The Globe and Mail Style Book: Originally created to help writers and editors at the Globe and Mail present clear, accurate and concise stories. ISBN 0771056850

United Kingdom


For legal documents

For journalism

United States

In the United States, most non-journalism writing follows the Chicago Manual of Style, while most newspapers base their style on the Associated Press Stylebook. A classic style guide for the general public is The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

For general writing

For legal documents

For academic papers

For journalism

For technical writing

Style guides are particularly important in technical writing projects. Where technical writing is undertaken in a large team or project, it is important that the finished documentation is devoid of any one individual's discernible personal style. A style guide is just one of the tools that can be used to help achieve this along with the use of specific standards, e.g., AECMA S1000D in the aerospace and defense industries. Some disciplines use a style guide published by a professional society, such as the one offered by the American Physical Society or the one from the American Chemical Society referenced below.

For electronic publishing

For the computer industry (software and hardware)

  • Apple Publications Style Guide by Apple Inc.marker Provides editorial guidelines for text in Apple instructional publications, technical documentation, reference information, training programs, and the software user interface.
  • Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, by Microsoft Corporation. Provides a style standard for technical documentation including use of terminology, conventions, procedure, design treatments, and punctuation and grammar usage.
  • Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, by Sun Technical Publications.

Editorial style guides on preparing a manuscript for publication


See also


  1. Casagrande, June. Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite. Penguin, 2006.
  3. SCE

External links

General use of style guides
American English
U.S. government publications
British English
Canadian English
Australian English

International organizations

Medical journals
Scientific journals

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