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What is a Style Guide?

What are the most common style guides and what are they for?

  • Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for book publishing and much academic work.

  • Associated Press (AP) is the standard for news writing and is used by journalists. It applies to most online as well as all print magazines (with an exception made for literary stories published in literary magazines).

  • Modern Language Association (MLA) provides guidelines for academics writing in the humanities. If you’re an academic, you already know that.

  • American Psychology Association (APA) is used for academic writing in the social sciences and education. Again, you’ll know it if you need it.

In 2014, Buzzfeed created the Buzzfeed Style Guide to ensure that its own content was accurate and consistent and now many writers consult it when creating online-specific content.

Aside from Buzzfeed, other publications may have their own style guides. If this is the case for where you intend to publish, make sure you give your editor access to the one you need.

The Conscious Style Guide

More recently, Karen Yin launched The Conscious Style Guide. Karen Yin is a celebrity among my peers (I met her at a conference in 2018!). Karen's mission for The Conscious Style Guide is to “help writers and editors think critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation — to empower instead of limit.”

As an editor dedicated to working with traditionally marginalized writers, I write regularly about the power of language and how much of it is wielded by the overwhelmingly homogeneous publishing industry. The Conscious Style Guide takes that power seriously and provides an invaluable resource for anyone committed to writing about all people with dignity and respect .

Should I pay attention to which style guide(s) an editor uses?

Absolutely. Different publishing formats have different requirements and using the correct style guide for your manuscript (short or long form) is essential. So, if you don't already know, and you want to make sure you’re hiring the right editor for the job, ask which style guide(s) they use; you don’t want to get too far down the road before you discover that your editor is planning to use — or has already used — the wrong style guide for the job. No one wants to have to hire a second editor.

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