Major Style Manuals for Editors and Writers

What is a style manual?

A style manual (or style guide) lists a set of standards for writing, proofreading, and editing documents. It lays down guidelines on how to handle matters of style, such as capitalization of words, use of abbreviations, preferred punctuation styles, formatting of lists, and use of numerals versus words for numbers. As a freelance editor looking for work, you will be preferred by clients and editing agencies if you are familiar with at least one of the many major style guides.

Listed here are 10 popular style guides used by editors and followed by academic programs, journals, and businesses. Now don’t go rushing out to buy all of these. Preferred styles vary across fields, and which style manual you follow will depend on who your clients are.

1. Chicago Manual of Style

A bible for many proofreaders and editors, the Chicago Manual of Style discusses grammar and usage, and prescribes the Chicago citation style. For book editing (both literary and academic) in American English, you are best off consistently following Chicago style. Chicago is also the preferred citation style for many university programs in the United States. With an entire section dedicated to grammar and usage, shedding light on some of the thorniest questions we editors wrestle with daily (such as those of capitalization and punctuation), this book is indispensable. The entire book is also available online through subscription. You may also find Chicago’s Q&A section, where readers post questions for Chicago’s editors to answer, both amusing and interesting.

See also the Purdue OWL’s resource on the Chicago citation style.

2. AP Stylebook

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the most commonly used style guide in US journalism and corporate communication. With information on grammar, punctuation, and style (including capitalization, abbreviations, numerals, and spelling), it is an invaluable resource for editors. Being an expert on AP style should land you a number of lucrative writing and editing gigs. The AP Stylebook is available both in book form and online.

3. APA Publication Manual

The Publication Manual of the APA is used in the social sciences and is an indispensable resource for those interested in academic editing. Apart from listing rules for citing sources, the APA Publication Manual also has sections on the mechanics of style, which discuss writing clearly and concisely and displaying results in charts and tables.

See also the Purdue OWL’s resource on the APA citation style.

4. New Oxford Style Manual

Combining New Hart’s Rules and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, the New Oxford Style Manual provides authoritative and accepted guidelines for those editing in British English. In addition to discussing how to cite sources, the book is full of examples and explains, for instance, how to handle abbreviations and capitalization.

5. MLA Handbook

Developed by the Modern Language Association, the MLA Handbook discusses how to credit sources and lays down the principles of MLA style, including formatting and layout. If you want to find work editing for the humanities, such as language and cultural studies, consider investing in this style guide. (The travel-friendly Kindle version is great for digital nomads.)

See also the Purdue OWL’s resource on the MLA citation style.

6. AMA Manual of Style

The AMA Manual of Style is used by authors and editors involved in medical and scientific publishing. It has information not just on preparing an article for publication (references and presentation of data) but also on style (grammar and punctuation), terminology (abbreviations and Greek letters), and measurement and quantification.

See also the Purdue OWL’s resource on the AMA citation style.

7. IEEE Editorial Style Manual

Available for free online, the IEEE Editorial Style Manual is used by those writing and editing in technical fields such as engineering and computer science. The IEEE reference style is based on Chicago style. The manual contains a set of style guidelines for punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, headings, numbers, equations, and footnotes.

8. Microsoft Writing Style Guide

Formerly called the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications (MSTP), now available for free online instead of in book form, the Microsoft Writing Style Guide is used for technical publications, especially in the field of computer science. Editors of technical writing (e.g., help documents) find this an indispensable resource. Apart from presenting guidelines on the elements of style (such as capitalization and abbreviations), this style manual discusses how to document the user interface, edit web content, and present technical terms.

9. CSE Manual

Scientific Style and Format, or The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, is used to write and edit scientific papers. This is a useful style to be familiar with if you plan to edit academic documents and journal submissions for scholars conducting research in the hard sciences.

10. Turabian

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, popularly known as Turabian, this style guide is based on The Chicago Manual of Style. Minor differences exist between the two styles: while Chicago focuses on publishing, Turabian focuses on academic writing and editing.

Did You Know?

Either is grammatically singular but may be treated as plural in informal usage.
Know more:Either Is or Are: Is Either Singular or Plural?