Style guide

ISBN (identifier) Usage APA style

A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting and design of documents. It is often called a style sheet, although that term also has other meanings. The standards can be applied either for general use, or be required usage for an individual publication, a particular organization, or a specific field.

A style guide establishes standard style requirements to improve communication by ensuring consistency both within a document, and across multiple documents. Because practices vary, a style guide may set out standards to be used in areas such as punctuation, capitalization, citing sources, formatting of numbers and dates, table appearance and other areas. The style guide may require certain best practices in usage, language composition, visual composition, orthography and typography. For academic and technical documents, a guide may also enforce the best practice in ethics (such as authorship, research ethics, and disclosure), pedagogy (such as exposition and clarity), and compliance (technical and regulatory).

Style guides are specialized in a variety of ways, from the general use of a broad public audience, to a wide variety of specialized uses, such as for students and scholars of various academic disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business in general, and specific industries. The term house style refers to the individual style manual of a particular publisher or organization.


Style guides vary widely in scope and size.


This variety in scope and length is enabled by the cascading of one style over another, in a way analogous to how styles cascade in web development and in desktop cascade over CSS styles.

A short style guide is often called a style sheet. A comprehensive guide tends to be long and is often called a style manual or manual of style (MOS or MoS). In many cases, a project such as one book, journal, or monograph series typically has a short style sheet that cascades over the somewhat larger style guide of an organization such as a publishing company, whose content is usually called house style. Most house styles, in turn, cascade over an industry-wide or profession-wide style manual that is even more comprehensive. Some examples of these industry style guides include the following:

Finally, these reference works cascade over the orthographic norms of the language in use (for example, English orthography for English-language publications). This, of course, may be subject to national variety such as the different varieties of American English and British English.


Some style guides focus on specific topic areas such as graphic design, including typography. Website style guides cover a publication's visual and technical aspects along with text.

Style guides that cover usage may suggest ways of describing people that avoid racism, sexism, and homophobia. Guides in specific scientific and technical fields cover nomenclature, which specifies names or classifying labels that are preferred because they are clear, standardized, and ontologically sound (e.g., taxonomy, chemical nomenclature, and gene nomenclature).


Most style guides are revised from time to time to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. The frequency of updating and the revision control are determined by the subject matter. For style manuals in reference work format, new editions typically appear every 1 to 20 years. For example, the AP Stylebook is revised annually, and the Chicago, APA, and ASA manuals are in their 17th, 6th, and 4th editions, respectively. Many house styles and individual project styles change more frequently, especially for new projects.



Several basic style guides for technical and scientific communication have been defined by international standards organizations. One example is ISO 215 Documentation – Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials.[1]


The European Union publishes an Interinstitutional style guide – encompassing 24 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.[2] 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.[3]






United Kingdom



United States

In the United States, most public-facing corporate communication and journalism writing is written with styles following The Associated Press Stylebook.[11] Book publishers and authors of journals requiring reference sections generally choose the Chicago Manual of Style, while scholarly writing often follows the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.[12] One of the most popular grammar guides used in third-person writing is The Elements of Style. The Associated Press Stylebook is written to be used together with The Elements of Style to provide a very complete grammar and English style reference with no conflicts.[citation needed]


Academic papers





Despite the near uniform use of the Bluebook, 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. However, in most cases these 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.



Natural sciences
Social and cognitive sciences

Web publishing

Guidelines for citing web content also appear in comprehensive style guides such as Oxford/Hart, Chicago and MLA.

See also


  1. ^ "ISO 215:1986 – Documentation – Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials". Iso.org. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  2. ^ Publications Office of the European Union (24 July 2008). "Interinstitutional Style Guide". Europa. European Union12 May 2010.
  3. ^ Directorate-General for Translation (European Commission). "English Style Guide". European Union.
  4. ^ Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada (1997). The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing (Softcover) (Revised ed.). Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited. ISBN 978-1-55002-276-6. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. ^ Catherine Craig; et al., eds. (2000). Editing Canadian English (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. p. 258. ISBN 978-1-55199-045-3.
  6. ^ McGill Law Journal / Revue de droit de McGill (2014). Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation / Manuel canadien de la référence juridique (Hardcover) (in French and English) (8th ed.). Toronto: Carswell. ISBN 978-0-7798-6075-3. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ BBC News Styleguide (PDF), retrieved 18 April 2012
  8. ^ The Economist Style Guide, 10th edition (2010), ISBN 1-84668-175-8. Online version as of May 2012.
  9. ^ The Guardian Style Guide, London, 19 December 2008, retrieved 13 April 2011
  10. ^ The Times Style and Usage Guide (2003) ISBN 0-00-714505-5. Online version as of May 2011 via archive.org
  11. ^ June Casagrande, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite (New York: Penguin, 2006).
  12. ^ "What Is MLA Style?", mla.org, Modern Language Association, 2011, Web, 31 January 2011.
  13. ^ "Ask the MLA: Is a new edition of the MLA Style Manual going to be published?". The MLA Style Center. Modern Language Association. 8 April 2016. Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  14. ^ Library of Congress Catalog Record for The Business Style Handbook, 2nd edition: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012033481
  15. ^ "U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual". United States Government Publishing Office. 2016.
  16. ^ The Associated Press Stylebook, retrieved 13 April 2011
  17. ^ "Language Style Sheet" (PDF), Linguistic Society of America.
  18. ^ "Unified Style Sheet" (PDF), Linguistic Society of America.