What Is a Style Guide (Reference Work)?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

style guide
"A good style guide should lay down rules for everything from the meanings of specific terms, the use of typographical conventions, accepted spellings, and just about anything you can think of" (The Insider's Guide to Technical Writing, 2012).

A style guide is a set of editing and formatting standards for use by students, researchers, journalists, and other writers.

Also known as style manuals, stylebooks and documentation guides, style guides are essential reference works for writers seeking publication, especially those who need to document their sources in footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical citations, and/or bibliographies.

Many style guides are now available online.

Popular Style Guides

  • APA Publication Manual
    "From its inception as a brief journal article in 1929, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association has been designed to advance scholarship by setting sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication. ...
    "The Publication Manual is consulted not only by psychologists but also by students and researchers in education, social work, nursing, business, and many other behavioral and social sciences."
    (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. American Psychological Association, 2010)
  • The AP Stylebook
    "The first Associated Press Stylebook came out in 1953. It was 60 pages, stapled together, distilled from a thousand suggestions and ideas, a stack of newspapers and a big dictionary. ...
    "Far more than just a collection of rules, the book became part dictionary, part encyclopedia, part textbook--an eclectic soource of information for writers and editors of any publication."
    (The Associated Press Stylebook 2015, 46th ed., ed. by Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. The Associated Press, 2015)
  • Chicago Manual of Style
    "The Chicago Manual of Style is the one book you must have if you work with words. First published in 1906, the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers ... [is] replete with clear, well-considered advice on style and usage."
    (The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed.Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010)
  • The Economist Style Guide [UK]
    "Every newspaper has its own style book, a set of rules telling journalists whether to write e-mail or email, Gadaffi or Qaddafi, judgement or judgment. The Economist's style book does this and a bit more. It also warns writers of some common mistakes and encourages them to write with clarity and simplicity."
    (The Economist Style Guide, 10th ed. Economist Books, 2010)
  • Global English Style Guide
    "As its title suggests, [The Global English Style Guide] is a style guide. It is intended to supplement conventional style guides, which don't take translation issues or the needs of non-native speakers into account. ...
    "I have focused on the types of issues that I know the most about: sentence-level stylistic issues, terminology, and grammatical constructions that for one reason or another are not suitable for a global audience."
    (John R. Kohl, The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market. SAS Institute, 2008)
  • Guardian Style [UK]
    "[T]o say that journalists are 'required' to read the stylebook may suggest that it could be considered a bit of a chore. Hardly. For a great many of us, . . . it is exciting and necessary stuff, moving enough to have had us reaching for a pen or hastening to our keyboard, perhaps in an initial lather."
    (David Marsh, Guardian Style, 3rd ed. Random House, 2010)
  • MLA Handbook
    "MLA style represents a consensus among teachers, scholars, and librarians in the fields of language and literature on the conventions for documenting research, and those conventions will help you organize your research paper coherently."
    (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. Modern Language Association of America, 2009).
  • MLA Style Manual
    "Unlike the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, which is intended primarily for undergraduates, the Manual establishes ground rules and provides practical advice for scholars--from advanced undergraduates to authors preparing their first books for publication--in a variety of subfields such as literary history and theory, rhetoric and composition, second-language acquisition, and ethnic and cultural studies."
    (MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. Modern Language Association of America, 2008)
  • Turabian (Chicago Style)
    "[A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations] has been extensively revised to follow the recommendations in The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2003), to incorporate current technology as it affects all aspects of student writing . . .."
    (A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 8th ed. University of Chicago Press, 2013)

For additional style guides, see Choosing a Style Manual and Documentation Guide.

Also see: