A style guide (or manual of style) is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. (It is often called a style sheet, though that term has other meanings.)

A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication. To do that, it ensures consistency within a document and across multiple documents and enforces best practice in usage and in language composition, visual composition, orthography and typography. For academic and technical documents, a guide may also enforce the best practice in ethics (such as authorship, research ethics, and disclosure), pedagogy (such as exposition and clarity), and compliance (technical and regulatory).

Style guides are common for general and specialized use, for the general reading and writing audience, and for students and scholars of various academic disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business, and specific industries.


Style guides vary widely in scope and size.


This variety in scope and length is enabled by the cascading of one style over another, in a way analogous to how styles cascade in web development and in desktop publishing (e.g., how inline styles in HTML cascade over CSS styles).

A short style guide is often called a style sheet. A comprehensive guide tends to be long and is often called a style manual or manual of style (MOS or MoS). In many cases, a project such as one book, journal, or monograph series typically has a short style sheet that cascades over the somewhat larger style guide of an organization such as a publishing company, whose content is usually called house style. Most house styles, in turn, cascade over an industry-wide or profession-wide style manual that is even more comprehensive. Some examples of these industry style guides include the following:

Finally, these reference works cascade over the orthographic norms of the language in use (for example, English orthography for English-language publications). This, of course, may be subject to national variety such as the different varieties of American English and British English.


Some style guides focus on specific topic areas such as graphic design, including typography. Website style guides cover a publication's visual and technical aspects along with text.

Style guides that cover usage may suggest ways of describing people that avoid racism, sexism, and homophobia. Guides in specific scientific and technical fields cover nomenclature, which specifies names or classifying labels that are preferred because they are clear, standardized, and ontologically sound (e.g., taxonomy, chemical nomenclature, and gene nomenclature).


Most style guides are revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. The frequency of updating and the revision control are determined by the subject matter. For style manuals in reference work format, new editions typically appear every 1 to 20 years. For example, the AP Stylebook is revised annually, and the Chicago, APA, and ASA manuals are in their 17th, 6th, and 4th editions, respectively. Many house styles and individual project styles change more frequently, especially for new projects.



Several basic style guides for technical and scientific communication have been defined by international standards organizations. One example is ISO 215 Documentation — Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials.[1]


The European Union publishes an Interinstitutional style guide—encompassing 24 languages across the European Union. This manual is "obligatory" for all those employed by the institutions of the EU who are involved in preparing EU documents and works.[2] The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission publishes its own English Style Guide, intended primarily for English-language authors and translators, but aiming to serve a wider readership as well.[3]




  • Public Works and Government Services Canada, Translation Bureau. The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing. Rev. ed. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997. ISBN 1-55002-276-8.[4]
  • The Canadian Press Stylebook: A Guide for Writers and Editors, 14th ed. Toronto: Canadian Press, 2006. Guide to newspaper style in Canada. ISBN 0-920009-38-7.
  • Lexicographical Centre for Canadian English A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles: Dictionary of Canadian English Walter Spencer Avis (ed.) Toronto: W.J. Gage (1967) OCLC 301088035[5]
  • Editing Canadian English, 2nd ed. Prepared for the Editors' Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs by Catherine Cragg, Barbara Czarnecki, Iris Hossé Phillips, Katharine Vanderlinden, and Sheila Protti. Toronto, ON: Macfarlane Walter and Ross, 2000.


  • McGill Law Journal. Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation / Manuel canadien de la référence juridique. 8th ed. Toronto: Carswell, 2014.[6]

United Kingdom



United States

In the United States, most public-facing corporate communication and journalism writing is written with styles following The Associated Press Stylebook.[11] Book publishers and authors of journals requiring reference sections generally choose the Chicago Manual of Style, while scholarly writing often follows the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.[12] One of the most popular grammar guides used in third-person writing is The Elements of Style. The Associated Press Stylebook is written to be used together with The Elements of Style to provide a very complete grammar and English style reference with no conflicts.


Academic papers



  • The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Writers and Librarians. Rev. ed. Edited by Diane L. Garner and Diane H. Smith. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service for the Government Documents Round Table, American Library Association, 1993.
  • United States Government Printing Office Style Manual, 30th ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2008.
  • U.S. Geological Survey. Suggestions to Authors of the Reports of the United States Geological Survey, 7th ed. Revised and edited by Wallace R. Hansen. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.



Despite the near uniform use of the Bluebook, nearly every state has appellate court rules that specify citation methods and writing styles specific to that state - and the Supreme Court of the United States has its own citation method. However, in most cases these are derived from the Bluebook.

There are also several other citation manuals available to legal writers in wide usage in the United States. Virtually all large law firms maintain their own citation manual and several major publishers of legal texts (West, Lexis-Nexis, Hein, et al.) maintain their own systems.


  • Catholic News Service. CNS Stylebook on Religion: Reference Guide and Usage Manual, 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Catholic News Service, 2006.
  • The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing, 13th ed. By Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Stanford Goss. This popular guide provides a fresh understanding and distinctively Christian examination of style and language. It covers the basic rules of grammar, style, and editing, and is intended for writers and editors.
  • The SBL Handbook of Style for Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines, 2nd ed. Edited by Patrick H. Alexander. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014 (1st ed.: The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999). The industry standard.[1]
  • Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Religion's Best Beat. Edited by Diane Connolly and Debra I. Mason. Westerville, OH: Religion Newswriters, 2007.


Hard sciences
Social sciences

Web publishing

Guidelines for citing web content also appear in comprehensive style guides such as Oxford/Hart, Chicago and MLA.

See also


  1. ^ "ISO 215:1986 - Documentation - Presentation of contributions to periodicals and other serials". Iso.org. 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  2. ^ Publications Office of the European Union (24 July 2008). "Interinstitutional Style Guide". Europa. European Union12 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Directorate-General for Translation (European Commission). "English Style Guide". European Union. 
  4. ^ Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada (1997). The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing (Softcover) (Revised ed.). Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited. ISBN 1-55002-276-8. Retrieved 27 November 2017. 
  5. ^ Catherine Craig; et al., eds. (2000). Editing Canadian English (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. p. 258. ISBN 978-1-55199-045-3. 
  6. ^ McGill Law Journal / Revue de droit de McGill (2014). Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation / Manuel canadien de la référence juridique (Hardcover) (in French and English) (8th ed.). Toronto: Carswell. ISBN 978-0-7798-6075-3. Retrieved 27 November 2017. 
  7. ^ BBC News Styleguide (PDF), retrieved 2012-04-18 
  8. ^ The Economist Style Guide, 10th edition (2010), ISBN 1-84668-175-8. Online version as of May 2012.
  9. ^ The Guardian Style Guide, London, 19 December 2008, retrieved 2011-04-13 
  10. ^ The Times Style and Usage Guide (2003) ISBN 0-00-714505-5. Online version as of May 2011 via archive.org
  11. ^ June Casagrande, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite (New York: Penguin, 2006).
  12. ^ "What Is MLA Style?", mla.org, Modern Language Association, 2011, Web, 31 January 2011.
  13. ^ Library of Congress Catalog Record for The Business Style Handbook, 2nd edition: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012033481
  14. ^ The Associated Press Stylebook, retrieved 2011-04-13 

External links