What Is a Style Guide and Which One Do You Need?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Desk with a laptop and a style guide book with various clutter nearby.

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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 Manuals

Foreward, "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."

Foreword, "AP Stylebook 2006"

"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 source of information for writers and editors of any publication."

Book Description, "The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition"

"'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 Economist Style Guide (UK)

Preface, "The Economist Style Guide, 10th Edition"

"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."

  • Global English Style Guide

Preface, "The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market"

"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."

Introduction, "Guardian Style"

"[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."

J. Gibaldi, "MLA handbook for writers of research papers"

"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."

Preface, "A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers"

"['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."

Sources

The Associated Press. "The Associated Press Stylebook 2015." Paperback, 46th Edition, Basic Books, July 29, 2015.

"The Economist Style Guide." Paperback, 10th edition, Economist Books, 2012.

Kohl, John R. "The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market." Paperback, 1 edition, SAS Publishing, March 7, 2008.

Marsh, David. "Guardian Style." Amelia Hodsdon, 3rd Edition, Random House UK, November 1, 2010.

Modern Language Association. "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition." 7th Edition, Modern Language Association, January 1, 2009.

Modern Language Association. "MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd Edition." 3rd Edition. Modern Language Association, January 1, 2008.

"Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association." 6th Edition, American Psychological Association, July 15, 2009.

Turabian, Kate L. et al. "A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers." 8th Edition, University of Chicago Press, March 28, 2013.

University of Chicago Press Staff. "The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition." 16th Edition, Univesity of Chicago Press, August 1, 2010.