The Basics of Writing - Style Guides: Writing with Style

Writers, editors, and publishers all use style guides. With one by your side, readers will not be distracted by mistakes in consistency, clarity, quotations, or word usage. But style guides do much more than set standards for punctuation and grammar usage. They show you how to index subject matter, organize text, and format pages. Style guides solve vexing questions, such as the use of the serial comma:

Betty, Dave, and Georgia wanted to go to the beach.

or

Betty, Dave and Georgia wanted to go to the beach.

Should you add the comma in front of "and" or should you omit it? That depends upon which style guide is preferred. A newspaper would tell you to omit the comma but another publication might say to leave it in.

There are several different style guides, depending upon the subject and the place it will be presented. Journalists use the The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Magazines might use it, too, although many magazines prefer Words into Type. More academic writers and publications might also use the The Chicago Manual of Style, which is a favorite of many.

Although your professor might have another preference, most term papers would be written using the classic The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. However, another is gaining popularity because of changing language patterns: Adios, Strunk and White: A Handbook for the New Academic Essay.

Academic research journals might require The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Technical writers could consult The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors, or Standards for Online Communication.

When in doubt, always ask which style guide is preferred. Moondance uses The Chicago Manual of Style.

Some of the advice contained in these style guides can be found online. Others cannot. If you can afford to buy one, it is a wise investment. We'll try to guide you where you can find online sources. Although these are the official style guides, there are other books, usually less expensive, that address the principles of each. You may want to explore these alternatives, too.

The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (14th Edition)

The Chicago Manual of Style is the standard in the book publishing industry, providing consistent, systematic guidelines for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, and publishers. It addresses usage in punctuation, documentation, foreign languages, indexes, design, and typography. The 14th edition, published in 1993, has nearly 200 additional pages reflecting significant changes in style, usage, procedure, and technology. Information on copyrights and permissions is included.

 
Words into Type

Although this book has not been updated in way too long, it is still a lot clearer and easier to use than The Chicago Manual of Style, which tends to be more formal and academic in its style conventions. Words into Type is geared more toward the looser style of magazines and is still considered an invaluable style resource for many.

 
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law

Newly revised and updated, this book is useful for professional journalists and beginning writers alike. It addresses punctuation, bibliographies, proofreading, media law, business and sports writing along with the usual style related topics.

 
The Elements of Style

A timeless and indispensable classic for writers that focuses on the principles of clear and concise writing. Its pages are filled with simple tips for better writing ranging from punctuation and grammar to format and language levels.

 
Adios, Strunk and White: A Handbook for the New Academic Essay

For those who want to escape the tight traditions of older style guides, this book offers examples of those who've been defiant before and achieved great effects. It's focus is on the changes in styles, media and adapting writing to the modern reader who is bombarded with more information than any previous age.

 
MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing

One of two books published by the Modern Language Association and the complete guide, this book is best for graduate students and scholarly writers. It discusses the basics of writing, source citations, publishing and legality. It also provides examples. For those with lesser academic needs, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers might be better. It is an easier and cheaper version which includes the MLA Style Sheet, a step-by-step guide to writing research papers, including information on narrowing the topic, outlining, and note taking. The mechanics of writing as spelling, punctuation, and format are included, as are the use of library catalogs (online and paper), indexes, and databases.

 
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (5th ed)
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Ed

An authorship and style manual for researchers, practitioners, and students of psychology and other behavioral and social sciences. Includes new features on contemporary language issues and publishing standards, plus easy-to-use guidelines on how to prepare manuscripts according to APA style.

 
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications

A comprehensive, concise, and logical style guide for technical documentation, including terminology, conventions, procedures, and design treatment. Three appendices define acronyms, abbreviations, and style rules associated with them; keyboard characters and their correct names; and words with numbers. Originally created for in-house use by Microsoft, this style manual includes a glossary for the use and spelling of both general and computer-related terms, including significant changes in Internet terminology and usage. Alphabetically tabbed pages make it easy to locate topics of interest, such as style design and interface issues.

 
Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors

This practical guide, developed by IBM software documentation experts, provides easily accessible and practical information. It includes tech writing examples, a glossary, red flag words, and bibliography and quality checklists to ensure accuracy, organization, and visual effectiveness.

 
Standards for Online Communication

Focusing on Internet guidelines, this book provides both a design and development process, including how to judge what will work for your users, how to translate users' needs into a set of clear specifications, and how to implement these specifications. The authors provide advice on how to organize online information, special design requirements of the Web, intranets, and online help systems; sound and video; accessibility and navigation; and site maps. The accompanying CD has a searchable winhelp file of the book. Screen shots show both correct and incorrect presentations that can be accessed on the CD with point-and-click ease, concentrating on such topics as hypertext, graphics, user-interface design, and multimedia.

Also in the Basics of Writing.....

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