Dragonfly Guide to Style Guides

Dragonfly Guide to Style Guides

An editor’s top resource is a style guide. Style guides dictate how to format elements like bulleted lists, and how to handle hyphenation, capitalization, and even 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 chicagomanualofstyle.org

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
apstylebook.com

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

AMA Manual of Style, 11th Edition
Essential style guide for medical and scientific publishing amamanualofstyle.com

Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association, 7th Edition

Style manual for writers in the social and behavioral sciences; dabblers in APA style can use the Concise Guide to APA Style, 7th Edition apastyle.org

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

Reference for editors in all areas of science and related
fields scientificstyleandformat.org

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

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

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/book/10.1021/acsguide

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

publications.agu.org/agu-grammar-and-style-guide

ASA Style Guide, 6th Edition, published by the American Sociological Association
asa.enoah.com/Bookstore/Reference-Materials

IEEE Editorial Style Manual, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 
computer.org/publications/computer-society-style-guide

Guides for academic publishing
MLA Handbook, 9th Edition
Style manual used in the liberal arts and humanities, especially for research focused on language, literature, and culture style.mla.org 

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 chicagomanualofstyle.org/turabian.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
Edition

In-depth, A–Z coverage of Australian spelling,
punctuation, and word choice
www.cambridge.org/au/9780521702423

Australian Government Style Manual
Style guidance from the Australian Government describes best practices in design, editing, production, and writing australia.gov.au/about-government/publications/style-manual

Editing Canadian English, 3rd Edition
Guidance on Canadian English usage, spelling, and punctuation; Canadianisms; and working with French in an English text editors.ca/publications/editing-canadian-english

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
theguardian.com/guardian-observer-style-guide

The Economist Style Guide, 12th 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 
shop.economist.com/products/the-economist-style-guide-12th-edition

Business Writing
The Business Style Handbook: An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job, 2nd Edition
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
https://www.mhprofessional.com/9780071800105-usa-the-business-style-handbook-second-edition-an-a-to-z-guide-for-effective-writing-on-the-job-group

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

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 21st Edition
legalbluebook.com

The Maroonbook: The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation
lawreview.uchicago.edu/maroonbook

Entertainment and news
BuzzFeed Style Guide
Online guide for entertainment and news writers,
reflecting current internet and social media usage
buzzfeed.com/emmyf/buzzfeed-style-guide

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

PDF manual listing style conventions for U.S. government publications. Includes sections on foreign countries, U.S. geographic divisions, and currencies.
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016/pdf/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016.pdf

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
www.dimoc.mil/documents/styleGuide/DoD_
Captioning_Style_Guide.pdf


U.S. Army Style Guide
www.army.mil/e2/rv5_downloads/armydotmil_style_
guide.pdf


U.S. Navy Style Guide
https://www.navymwr.org/modules/media/?do=download&id=d6c2671c-e9b5-43ea-be3e-a20a4a8b62cf

USA.gov Bilingual Style Guide
usa.gov/style-guide/style-guidance

USAID Style Guide
https://www.usaid.gov/work-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
https://onbrand.clevelandclinic.org/explore-the-guidelines/writing-guidelines/

Mailchimp Content Style Guide
styleguide.mailchimp.com

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

Emory University
https://communications.emory.edu/resources/style-guide/index.html

University of Illinois
https://publicaffairs.illinois.edu/resources/writing-style-guide/

University of Baltimore
http://www.ubalt.edu/about-ub/offices-and-services/marketing-and-creative-services/the-ub-brand/index.cfm 

University of Oxford
ox.ac.uk/public-affairs/style-guide

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
Association
https://www.aaja.org/2020/11/30/guide-to-covering-asian-pacific-america/

NABJ Style Guide
Guidelines published by the National Association of
Black Journalists nabj.org/page/styleguide

NAJA AP Style Guide
Guidelines published by the Native American Journalists
Association https://najanewsroom.com/ap-style-insert/

NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide
Guidelines published by the National Center on Disability and Journalism
ncdj.org/style-guide

NLGJA Stylebook
Guidelines published by the Association of LGBTQ
Journalists
nlgja.org/stylebook

A Progressive’s Style Guide
Guidelines published by the nonprofit SumOfUs; covers language in areas such as age, disability, race, gender, indigeneity, and geopolitics
http://interactioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Sum-Of-Us-Progressive-Style-Guide.pdf

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

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.”