The Guide to Style Guides

Dragonfly Guide to Style Guides

Next to a dictionary, an editor’s top resource is a style guide. Style guides dictate how editors should handle hyphenation, capitalization, and number style. They describe how to format elements like bulleted lists and reference lists. They even proscribe certain elements of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. But which style guide should be used for which type of material? This handy guide explains it all.

The big two
These all-purpose guides can be used in almost any
situation, in almost any industry, to answer almost any
question you might have on editorial style. Pick either
one as your default guide and you can’t go wrong. Both
are available in hard copy and online.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition
Standard resource for book publishing and other industries; contains comprehensive guidelines on grammar, punctuation, syntax, usage, and reference style

The AP Stylebook
Go-to resource for journalism and news
writing, with a massive A–Z words list
and other entries outlining rules of
grammar, punctuation, and usage

Guides to medical and scientific style
There are three major style guides governing medical
and scientific content

AMA Manual of Style, 10th Edition
Essential style guide for medical and scientific publishing

Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association, 6th Edition

Style manual for writers in the social and behavioral
sciences; dabblers in APA style can use the Concise Rules of APA Style, Sixth Edition

Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for
Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 8th edition

Reference for editors in all areas of science and related

In addition, many scientific associations publish their
own guidelines. For example:

The ACS Style Guide, 3rd Edition, published by the
American Chemical Society

AGU Grammar and Style Guide, published by the
American Geophysical Union

ASA Style Guide, 5th Edition, published by the American Sociological Association

IEEE Computer Society Style Guide

Guides for academic publishing
MLA Handbook, 8th Edition
Style manual used in the liberal arts and humanities, especially for research focused on language, literature, and culture

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses,
and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students
and Researchers, 9th Edition (aka “Turabian”)

Comprehensive guide to Chicago’s two methods of source citation: notes–bibliography and author–date bo27847540.html

Guides to non-U.S. English
Use these guides to edit English written for an
Australian, Canadian, or UK audience.

The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage, 2nd

In-depth, A–Z coverage of Australian spelling,
punctuation, and word choice

Style Manual: For Authors, Editors, and Printers, 6th

Style guidance published by the Australian Government; describes best practices in design, editing, production, and writing government/publications/stylemanual

Editing Canadian English, 3rd Edition
Guidance on Canadian English usage, spelling, and punctuation; Canadianisms; and working with French in an English text

The Guardian and Observer Style Guide
Online A–Z listing of word usage; contains UK-specific
terms, such as BBC One, garryowen, and parliamentary
Labour party

The Economist Style Guide, 11th Edition
Contains an A–Z words list similar to AP’s; guidance on
handling UK-specific terms, such as knight, dame, and
baroness; and a section outlining the differences between
American and British English

Business writing
The Business Style Handbook: An A-to-Z Guide for
Effective Writing on the Job

A–Z entries on handling terms such as “consumer price
index” and “return on investment”; also includes results
from a survey of Fortune 500 communications pros about effective business writing

Legal citation
These two guides govern legal citation. The Bluebook
is the definitive guide; The Maroonbook, a simplified

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 20th

The Maroonbook

Entertainment and news
BuzzFeed Style Guide
Online guide for entertainment and news writers,
reflecting current internet and social media usage

Government-specific guides
U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual, 2016

PDF manual listing style conventions for U.S. government
publications. Includes appendices on foreign countries,
U.S. geographic divisions, and currencies.
In addition to GPO’s “one guide to rule them” manual,
some branches of government and defense publish
their own guides. For example:

Department of Defense Visual Information Style Guide

U.S. Army Style Guide

U.S. Navy Style Guide Bilingual Style Guide

USAID Style Guide

Company-specific guides
Most large companies publish in-house editorial style
guides stipulating how company divisions, product
names, and trademarks should be handled. Most guides
are private; a few are public. For example:

Cleveland Clinic



University-specific guides
Most large universities publish style guides defining
university-specific terms, such as campus locations,
departments, and degrees. For example:

Emory University

Indiana University

University of Baltimore

University of Oxford

Guides to conscious language
These guides can help you create content that is
respectful, accurate, and inclusive.

AAJA Guide to Covering Asian America
Guidelines published by the Asian American Journalists

NABJ Style Guide
Guidelines published by the National Association of
Black Journalists

NAJA AP Style Guide
Guidelines published by the Native American Journalists

NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide
Guidelines published by the National Center on Disability
and Journalism

NLGJA Stylebook
Guidelines published by the Association of LGBTQ

The one style guide you shouldn’t use
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.

Yes, this is a classic. But it was published in 1959, and
some of its stylistic advice is dated, such as advice to
avoid split infinitives, ban the word “hopefully,” and
set “all right” and “worth while” as two words. Turn
to The Elements not as a rule book but as a source for
lyrical inspiration. For example: “Writing is, for most,
laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by.”