The right style guide can make or break the effectiveness of your writing for its intended audience. Style guides are a blueprint which cover the fundamentals of grammar, punctuation, terminology, formatting, abbreviations, slangs, capitalizations, industry-specific words and phrases. It assists in keeping the voice, tone, and communication consistent throughout the book. The specific instructions and rules will add value to your work, making the language concise and meaningful.
It all depends on the kind of guide you choose to abide by. The set of rules or standards of writing, formatting or editing the particular document will help you segregate the contents of your book. It is advised to follow them for a certain flow and consistency of the write-up. Select and follow the correct style guide to receive clarity and deliver consistent, professional content.
Before determining the style guide for your content, identify the audience who will be reading the final draft. Accordingly, decide how formal or informal the style guide should be.
There are various style guides in the literary world but a few of them are universally known and widely used knowingly or unknowingly. The major guides are Chicago Manual of Style, Economist Style Guide, and American Psychological Association or popularly known as APA and Modern Language Association.
But the question stands, why should one even consider these different style guides whilst documenting their work? Simply put, working on your writing style will prevent your readers from skimming through the pages and assist you in creating a distinct voice.
Here are a few things you as a self-publisher should consider while putting your thoughts, facts and discoveries into words and accordingly pick a style guide.
Economist Style Guide:
Economist Style Guide is the easiest guide to follow. Your goal is to incorporate words that you use in your everyday interactions. Refrain from trying to sound intelligent, but try to get your intelligent point across. Writing long paragraphs to explain one simple reason will make the reader uninterested. Keeping your sentences crisp and clear is the thumb rule here. The Economist Style Guide devotes more space to the craft of writing, the choice and arrangement of words than most other style guides do.
Economist Style Guide is the expanded twelfth edition which points out common errors and clichés; offers guidance on consistent use of punctuation, abbreviations and capital letters.
Chicago Manual of Style:
Published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press, the Chicago Manual of Style also known as CMS formatting is is usually preferred for writing fictional and non-fictional manuscripts. It is important to provide reference and guide your readers, writers, editors, proofreaders, and publishers back to the source of information. Where does CMS help? The answer is “citations”. There are different sets of rules to follow when citing the same source multiple times. It has two ways of citations i.e., notes and bibliography citations and the author-date system.
The seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style offers updated guidelines on publication formats, tools for PDF annotation and citation management and how to effectively use metadata, abstracts and keywords.
American Psychological Association:
The American Psychological Association famously known as APA writing is usually used for academic books and journals. Use proper references within the text and bibliography. If you are citing a specific part of the book for research, pagination is necessary. This writing style discourages the use of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms with the exception of well-known and accepted units of measurement and some well-recognized terms. A simple rule for mentioning dates in the text is to use numerals for the day and year and writing the name of the month. For example, December 27, 1998. However, you may use numerals for the month in a table. For example, 27/12/1998. In all, it brings a certain uniformity and consistency to your paper and helps the readers in reading all the necessary information.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association will help you choose the headings, tables, figures, language, and tone to help you communicate in a concise manner.
Modern Language Association:
When it comes to writing academic papers on humanities and literature, Modern Language Association (MLA) is the preferred choice. It is heavy on the citation rules and can be tedious to understand if you are a fresh writer. It has certain similarities to the Chicago Manual Style (CMS) but it inclines more towards the documentation rules. Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism.
The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook will guide you through the principles behind evaluating sources for research.
The Associated Press Stylebook:
The AP Stylebook was the creation of American journalists to bring uniformity to the rules of mass communication. It is the first-hand guide to the rules of basic reporting and is usually recommended to students in media schools. It is a go-to book for journalism students and covers the aspect of magazine writing too. It encourages the writer to use recognized abbreviations and emphasizes on capitalization.
A definitive resource for journalists, The AP Stylebook provides guidelines for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style.
If you are confused about which guide to choose for your work, make your decision on the basis of your field of discipline and modify it according to the target journal guidelines. Check with your publisher to determine which guide they follow. The right software to enforce the style guide you are following will make a big difference. Practice will help improve your writing and make it concise.