Whether you’re writing for your blog or your latest novel, you probably have preferences about certain elements of your writing. Maybe you love the Oxford comma. Maybe you have an alien language you need to keep track of. Maybe it’s both!
Keeping track of those stylistic things makes life a lot easier as you begin to revise; you’ll no longer have to guess or dig through old writing to figure out exactly how to spell that alien phrase. You could write it all down… in something called a style sheet.
(Don’t forget to grab your free style sheet template at the end of the post!)
// What is a style sheet?
A style sheet is a guide that keeps track of all of your stylistic preferences. It’s your one-stop-shop to all of the little nuances that go into your writing. Most style sheets are one or two pages and cover the basic styles and spellings you’re going to follow.
Don’t confuse a style sheet with a style guide. A style guide is a massive compilation of all of the rules and styles a publication is going to follow. Two of the more famous of these are the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and the AP Style Guide.
// Creating a style sheet
Creating a style sheet doesn’t have to be intimidating or take you days and days of work.
Start by breaking your style sheet down into a few sections:
- Common Terms
Then, consider a few questions for each:
Formatting: When will you use bold? When will you use italics? What font size are headings? What font size are paragraphs?
Punctuation: Will you use the serial (Oxford) comma? Do you put a period at the end of each bullet point?
Common Terms: What names and titles are used frequently? Are there any words with strange or specific spellings?
You may also include the fonts you use (like Arial or Times New Roman), colors you use (the specific HEX or RGB codes for easy access). For example, here’s a glimpse at that part of my style sheet for Between the Lines Editorial:
If you’re creating a style guide for a fiction project, even names of characters and places in your manuscript can go in your style sheet. Just be sure to give everything its own distinct category for easy searching. 😉
Remember, a style sheet is for things you need to remember easily and quickly both as you write and revise. It is not a comprehensive guide to grammar, punctuation, the rules of language, and the like. Leave that sort of thing to the major style guides like CMS, and look up any questions you have about those types of rules.
// Style Sheet Template
Creating a style sheet from scratch doesn’t have to be hard. If you want to go off of my template, enter your info below for your free blog AND novel style sheet templates.
// Your Next Steps
If you have an editor for your blog or novel, make sure you give them your style sheet when you have it! They’ll be grateful that you’ve consolidated these for them.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.