ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Every Writer Should Use a Style Guide

Updated on April 10, 2017
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

Every person who wants to be taken seriously as a writer should learn how to use a style guide. This article offers tips on how to create your own style guide so that your writing is clean, crisp, and consistent across all your writing platforms.

A style guide is an important tool for professional writers.

Being a good writer is about more than just using correct spelling and grammar.
Being a good writer is about more than just using correct spelling and grammar.

If you’re a storyteller, blogger, or freelance writer with your own site, consistency in the way you write and format your material is essential to building credibility as a reliable, trustworthy author. For example, if you use serial commas in one piece of writing and then not in another, or you capitalize all the letters in headings in one article, and then don’t do the same elsewhere, your readers might pick up a underlying vibe that your writing is inconsistent and scattered. Some readers may even wonder if your material is original or if it has been scraped from another site. Consistency in spelling, grammar, usage, and style can give your writing an edge over those who don't take the time to develop uniform writing and design habits.

What is a style guide? A style guide is a documented set of writing and design principles that are used consistently across all documents produced by a single publisher, institution or corporation. Style guides are used by all major online and print publications. Because major publications often hire freelance writers, they need to ensure consistency in English usage, grammar and the layout of an article. And since articles are shared by news wires, most professional journalists will write based on the Associated Press Style Book.

Corporations, government departments and publishers big and small often either use an external style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style or they might use what is known as a house style guide. Some house style guides focus on graphic design, typography and the use of white space. House style guides used by web designers and online publishers might be more concerned with visual, technical and text styles over punctuation.

The essence of a house style guide is that it ensures uniform decision-making on punctuation and design elements that are malleable and differ from region to region, corporation to corporation and publisher to publisher.

Creating your own house style guide. Creating your own style guide is about paying attention to the choices you make when writing and formatting your material. The assumption here is that you already have a good grasp of spelling and grammar, and that you are simply documenting the decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously, that you make when more than one choice presents itself. Go through a selection of three to five of your most recent documents and make a list of some of your style preferences.

For example, here are some choices that one writer might make, while another might choose a different style:

  • Don't use serial commas (i.e.; “one, two and three”)
  • Don’t use end punctuation on bullets, except when a question mark is required
  • Capitalize the first word in each bullet
  • Capitalize all major words in headings (title case)
  • Use American English
  • Don’t hyphenate ‘website’ or ‘online’
  • Spell out all ordinals from first to ninth
  • Spell out numbers from one to nine and use
  • Arabic numerals for numbers greater than nine, except in the case of dates, time, addresses and phone numbers

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may find you make different style choices than the ones noted above. Perhaps you are a serial comma user. The point is that you're recording the choices that you make so that you'll never have to second guess your design process.

A high quality dictionary is an important part of your writer's toolbox. Be sure to add a style guide to your reference library. It will address certain grammar and formatting questions that aren't covered in a dictionary.
A high quality dictionary is an important part of your writer's toolbox. Be sure to add a style guide to your reference library. It will address certain grammar and formatting questions that aren't covered in a dictionary.

Keep the style sheet near your computer for easy reference. Having a style sheet is also important if you allow guest posts on your blog. You can send the style sheet to the guest blogger so that they can refer to it as they write. Or, you could simply explain your guest blogging policy and that you reserve the right to edit submissions according to your house style guide.

Consistency is key. By taking some time to create your own house style guide, you can keep track of your own personal writing and formatting choices and avoid presenting mix messages across the materials you proudly put your name on.

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street.

— E. B. White

© 2016 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 

    4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    I agree that a writer needs to be consistent in how they use capitals, numerals, and punctuation. Making your own style guide will help you do that. But if you are going to write professionally for a variety of media you need to go by their style requirements. Academia has its own style. Newspapers have their own. Fiction needs to adhere to the style of whomever you are soliciting. Again, being consistent is a good start. But I'd encourage any writer to invest in a few of the professional style books that you have listed in your hub.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)