If you are a student, you should have a style guide supplied by your department or institution. That doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to supplement it with your own (more limited) list.
All writers, particularly authors, should think about putting together their own style sheet. (Publishers and large organisations are likely to already have a house style guide but you might want to keep a list of any things it doesn’t cover.)
Keep a record of the style decisions you make and then tidy it up into a neat list.
The style decisions you make should include the following:
- Word endings: ‘ize’ or ‘ise’?
- Numbers: numerals or words?
- Commas: serial or not serial?
- Dashes: spaced en rules or closed-up em rules?
- Quote marks: single or double?
There will be lots more, and many are not as simple as choosing one option for all circumstances – just make sure your decisions make sense.
If you are formatting your own work, extend your style sheet by creating a design specification. This should include decisions such as how headings of equal importance should look and what size the margins should be.
It may seem like a lot of effort, but a style sheet should help you spot where you have been inconsistent. Spotting inconsistencies is a key part of the proofreading process. If you aren’t sure where to start, there is a sample style sheet available on my Resources page.
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