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If you’re an aspiring book editor or author, you may be wondering how to make a style sheet and why you might need a manuscript style sheet.
A style sheet in editing and publishing is a document outlining all the spelling, grammar, and style rules and preferences to maintain consistency throughout the entirety of the project.
What Is a Style Sheet?
Style Sheet vs. Style Guide
A style guide shares any and all comprehensive rules and preferences so every project can remain consistent.
A style sheet is typically a shorter document. It features extremely specific items, such as preferred spellings and treatment of words.
A style sheet houses all notes about any decisions that may deviate from the style guides, whether that’s The Chicago Manual of Style or a house style guide.
How to Create a Style Sheet for Editing and Proofreading
You should include the following items on your style sheet (in Word).
#1. A Word List
Mark terms specific to the subject matter, from proper names to titles of works.
Write down any words you had to look up to make a decision about treatment, whether that’s:
- Capitalization style
- Unique terms, dialogue, and sounds
- Possessive form for proper nouns
- Variant spellings
If you have a notes or bibliography section in your manuscript, you should include examples for the treatment of each kind of source so everything is consistent.
Mark any points of style for this particular project that aren’t listed in the style guide. For example, treatment of words as words set in italics instead of quotes, capitalizing or not capitalizing deity pronouns, treatment of ellipses, and more.
Here are some points of style to note:
- Special treatment
- Spelling and capitalization
- Foreign words
- Trademarks and copyright marks
- Footnotes, bibliographies, tables, and charts
- Plurals and possessives
#4. Formatting Treatment
Mark how chapter titles or epigraphs are treated, whether new sections or chapters are flush left, treatment of bulleted lists, codes in use, any diacritical marks and symbols, and any other formatting preferences.
It’s important to note that the typed copy format for each style element will be different from the typeset copy format.
#5. Author Preferences
Any author preferences that deviate from the style guide should be marked on the style sheet. This really depends on the nature of the work; some authors don’t get much of a say stylistically.
If you’re editing a book that is going to be self-published, the author is the one who decides on any stylistic changes.
#6. Miscellaneous Facts/Notes
You may or may not be responsible for any factual misinformation or inconsistencies, depending on the nature of the project. But in general, it’s difficult to remember important facts as you read. Consistency is the goal, as always.
The miscellaneous section is a catchall for any words or phrases that don’t fit into other categories on the style sheet, such as addresses, telephone numbers, legal terms, and more.
Style Sheets for Fiction
In fiction books, a style sheet should have a character list and chronology, querying any discrepancies throughout the project. If a character has brown hair in chapter 3 and becomes a blonde in chapter 7, you’ll want the author to address it.
Note: If you want to edit fiction specifically, check out The Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction.
Style Sheet Example: Using Abbreviations
Copyeditors often use abbreviations when marking style points on a style sheet. These include:
- Adjective (a)
- Predicate Adjective (pa)
- Noun (n)
- Verb (v)
- Adverb (adv)
- Singular (s)
- Plural (pl)
- Lowercase (lc)
- Uppercase (UC)
- Roman type (rom)
- Italic type (ital)
For example, you may mark the word inpatient under the I-J-K section of your word list as:
- inpatient (n, a)
The word decision-making is hyphenated as an adjective, but open as a noun. Marking these style distinctions will be imperative for the proofreader. For example, under the D section of your word list, you may have the following:
- decision making (n)
- decision-making (a)
Frequently Asked Questions about Style Sheets
How do I make a copyediting style sheet?
To make a copyediting style sheet, list out the points of style in a project, including format, special treatment of words, capitalization, hyphenation, punctuation, numerals, foreign words, and more.
As you begin to faithfully mark points of style, formatting, and other rules to abide by through the production process, make sure to alphabetize items in your word list so certain terms are easier to find. Create different sections for non-alphabetized points, such as special symbols, treatment of numbers, and so on.
Finally, indicate what other style guides were referenced and what specific dictionaries you used for word breaks and spellings. This is especially important for style sheets in proofreading.
What isn’t a style sheet?
A style sheet isn’t a random list of words to remember while you read a manuscript. It’s intended to be an organized sheet to save you time.
How do I create a style sheet in word?
If you’re wondering how to create a style sheet in Word, just know it doesn’t need to be fancy. Lists, broken into sections, are sufficient. However, you can find an editing style sheet template out there.
I have a style sheet template available to students in my e-course, Freelance Editing 101: How to Launch or Grow Your Editorial Business.
Why should authors create style sheets?
In most cases, the style sheet isn’t really for the author. A style sheet is for the team of editors and publishing professionals at every stage of production to ensure correctness, coherency, consistency, and clarity.
In book publishing, the copyeditor will create the style sheet and the proofreader will abide by it and add to it as necessary.
However, if any author is self-publishing or writing several books in a series, it will be helpful to refer to a style sheet throughout the revision process.
How to Make a Style Sheet
When designing your style sheet, you have a lot of freedom in terms of how to visually organize certain style items. Simple is always better, and you want to think about functionality above all else.
A good editor will ask these questions:
- Is the style sheet easy to navigate for all the stages of the publishing process?
- Will the proofreader have any questions about what you’ve created?
If you anticipate the proofreader will have questions, try to address them to make the document as straightforward and easy to navigate as possible.
Resources on Style Sheets
This article has been all about what is a style sheet in editing and proofreading, and how to create a style sheet with examples!
To learn more about how to make a style sheet for copyediting and proofreading, check out McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, and The Chicago Manual of Style. You can find many editing style sheet templates and examples from seasoned editors.
If you want to learn how to create a style sheet in addition to how to write an editorial letter, query authors, set your editorial rates, rate your clients, and ultimately grow your business, check out my self-led e-course, Freelance Editing 101: How to Launch or Grow Your Editorial Business.