Copyediting and Proofreading: Lesson 3: Creation and Use of Style Sheets
The Part That Isn’t Just Common Sense
A style sheet’s purpose is to fill in the gaps left by the broad, sweeping rules of a chosen style guide. Because of that, there is a certain amount of leeway in their construction. Rather than following a rigid series of rules in their making and use, they are meant to be flexible in order to best serve the needs of copyeditor and proofreader. Communication is key. A copyeditor may allow a series of spelling errors to be kept in a manuscript if he feels it contributes to the author’s narrative styling. If he doesn’t let the proofreader know all these deliberate errors are meant to be there, the proofreader will correct them all and send the manuscript off to the printer without knowing any better, thus ruining what everyone had worked so hard up to that point to achieve.
In essence, style sheets must demonstrate changes, explain them, as well as explain exceptions to standard style guidelines.
Style Sheet Construction
Begin by clearly labeling your style sheet, whether it’s a notebook or a word processing file. Place the name of the work, the author, publisher, and all pertinent data centered at the top of the page. Remember, this will be passed from one desk to another, so it’s imperative that people always know what it’s for. This will reduce the chances of someone having a brain fart and throwing it out.
Then, running down the left margin of the page, place every letter of the alphabet in sequence. If on paper, be sure to give yourself a half-dozen spaces between letters. From that point, the creation of the style sheet continues organically. Every error or discrepancy which is to be handled in a manner that breaks from the standard rules of the style guide is included beneath its correspondent letter. To better help understand this, please look through the example style sheet provided below.
I’m Not Spock Dammit by Leonard Nemoy
Copyeditor: William Shatner
airflow, not air flow
common sense, n; commonsense, adj.
dietitian, not dietician
morningglory, not morning glory. When considered a weed in agricultural manuals, compound names are strung together
one-third, not one third
postman, not postman
Notes on Style
Numbers: Rule of 9: spell out all numbers up to 9; spell out round numbers above 99; spell out cardinal numbers to 99. Exceptions: Street numbers always figures, figures with units of measure except time: 20 miles, but twenty minutes.
Unit abbreviations are only presented in plain text. In dialogue, they’re spelled out. Example: He was moving at 20 kph. “We’re going 20 kilometers per hour!”
Standard two-word phrases in Stedman or Webster’s are not hyphenated when used as precedent adjectives. Example: Real-estate versus real estate boom.
This is just a preliminary style sheet. You will note the section at the bottom entitled notes on style, which is your catch-all for anything that doesn’t fit into an alphabetical category. It’s largely to do with how numerics are presented and the use of abbreviations. Just keep your sheet close by when reading through your copy and add more to it every time you find something that needs to be corrected. Or, if it’s not meant to be corrected, add that as well.
It really is that simple. Crazy that people get paid to do this, right?
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