Style Guidelines: Staying in Style

6 Sep

Should I follow AP, Chicago, APA, or MLA? Should I use the serial comma? En-dash, Em-dash, or hyphen? Should I format the text with block paragraphs or indented? Is cellphone one word now? Times New Roman, Arial, or Comic Sans?

There are so many grammatical and formatting rules out there. Here at TSTC Publishing, the rules change depending on if you are working on manuscripts or marketing. For instance, I use the serial comma in manuscripts but not in any marketing pieces. Don’t get me started on the rules for abbreviating months. It can make your head spin, whether you’re the editor or the writer.

When there is not a set guideline for how manuscripts should be formatted and what grammatical/spelling rules to follow, chaos can ensue. A manuscript one person thinks is in great condition can be completely against the house’s preferred style guide and seem like a mess. To combat this, many houses create their own style guides, meshing together what they prefer editorially from each of the established guide books (AP, Chicago, and MLA, for instance).

Ever notice those short story submission guidelines? Typically included are font formats, double-space or single space, and word counts. These are usually small-scale rules to help keep stories looking uniform and save work later down the line.

To help the process at TSTC Publishing, we are creating a comprehensive editorial and formatting style guide. Over the course of the next two years, I will be coordinating style guides (AP, Chicago, MLA) to create one cohesive set of rules and guidelines for our future authors to use while writing manuscripts. Sounds relatively easy, right? Here’s a pop question for you: Do you abbreviate the month April?

If you said yes, you are correct. If you said no, you are correct. What’s the difference? The Chicago Manual of Style rules state all months four letters or fewer are not abbreviated. AP rules state all months comprised of five letters or fewer are not abbreviated. At TSTC Publishing, this means that in editorial pieces, I would abbreviate April, while in marketing pieces, I would not.

Here are a couple of other guidelines from the TSTC Publishing style guide:

  • This may sound obvious, but it’s already come up. If an abbreviation comes at the end of a sentence, do not include an extra period.
    Ex: The event was held in Washington, D.C.
    Not: The event was held in Washington, D.C..
  • Except at the beginning of a sentence, percentages should be expressed in numeral form, along with the word percent spelled out, not the symbol %.
  • When citing websites, include the www. if necessary for navigation. Some websites will not navigate to the site without www. included in the URL.
  • In a serial, do not use a comma if the word and has been replaced with an ampersand &.


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