At WordOSaurus HQ, we love stylesheets and think all writers and editors should too. Here, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about stylesheets and included a free downloadable, editable template to get you started.
What is a stylesheet?
A stylesheet is an essential reference for writers and editors that:
- captures editorial decisions
- complements, rather than replaces, an organisation’s style guide
- focuses on style preferences relevant to a specific project, making it more accessible than the weighty tome that is a style guide.
What is captured in a stylesheet?
Stylesheets are tailored to a specific writing project. They document preferences on:
- reference text such as dictionaries and style guides
- spelling of words that may cause confusion or debate
- style such as use of capitalisation, hyphenation, and numerals
- punctuation such as dashes for spans between years, quotation marks for dialogue, and serial commas
- grammar where context is essential, such as subject-verb agreement and pronoun agreement for collective nouns.
Here is a sample stylesheet created by the team responsible for the WordOSaurus web copy.
What are the benefits of using a stylesheet?
A stylesheet offers the following benefits to writers and editors:
- Supports credibility of business/author/publication through the professionalism and attention to detail projected by consistent spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Aids communication throughout the editorial process, literally getting those involved in the writing and editing process on the same page(s).
- Saves time (and money) by minimising the need to query style decisions, and mitigating the risk of errors in the final publication.
- Honours the writer’s intention, with decisions that matter captured and agreed upon.
- Encourages a thoughtful approach to writing when taking the time to consider and make decisions within the context of the audience, messages, voice, and purpose; this can only improve the quality of the final piece.
Of course, a stylesheet is only as good as the content within it. To realise the full benefits of a stylesheet, it is best to document decisions no later than at the first stage of editing, and ensure any changes are captured throughout the editorial process.
I need a stylesheet—where do I begin?
To get started on a stylesheet for your manuscript, web copy, newsletter, blog post, academic writing, online dating profile, or any other writing project, download your free stylesheet template. Add to the template as needed and keep headings alphabetical for quick and easy navigation.
A stylesheet is one of the first steps to saving your copy from extinction, one intentional decision at a time. For subsequent steps, get in touch today!