Friday Fundamentals: Style Sheet


Keeping a style sheet.

To ensure consistency, for each manuscript the editor must keep an alphabetical list of words or terms to be capitalized, italicized, hyphenated, spelled, or otherwise treated in any way unique to the manuscript. Changes that are made simply for consistency with house style need not be noted on the style sheet.

Special punctuation, unusual diacritics, and other items should also be noted on the style sheet. Not only the author but also the publisher may need to refer to the style sheet at various stages of editing and production.

CMoS, 16th ed., p. 72

One of my personal pet peeves as an editor is inconsistency. The tiniest details are the things I will go back over a manuscript (often using CTRL + F) and look for specifically, even after I think I’m done with it.

So, I create a style sheet for the different stories I work on, if the author doesn’t have one already.

I do style sheets a little differently because there’s often more information than what the CMoS* suggests that I want to have at quick reference. This is particularly important if I work with the author regularly on stories set in the same world. I’m fairly good at remembering the details, but having a style sheet handy makes it much easier to confirm if my memory was correct or not.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I started copyediting the second set of stories for Jay Requard’s Manwe the Panther series. I hadn’t worked on stories set in this world since February, so I needed to refresh some details. Manwe’s world is politically detailed (they’re in the middle of a rebellion) with complex characters, so I need to be able to keep track of which characters align with what side…and if they ever change alliances.

The image below is the information I started gathering on one of the characters in the short stories set that coming soon from Falstaff Books.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.31.43 PM

As you can see, I have it laid out in a pretty simple table — about, description, and other. This is different from what a lot of editors do, from what I’ve seen, in that I prefer table format to list format.

In the “About” section, I collect essential profile-type information, the main ideas. The “Description” section is pretty self-explanatory. The “Other” section is for things I might want to refer back to, or things that stand out to me as unique about the character.

I also include information about how things work in the particular world, how things are spelled, common terms (often with a brief definition), and other information that I may find useful at some point.

In the image below, I have a selection pulled up from the Cybil Lewis world, created by Nicole Givens Kurtz. I was just recently editing Cozened, the second book in the Cybil series, which comes out next month. (The first book, Silenced, is available now.) This series is a futuristic sci-fi where the main character is a P.I. solving cases and kicking butt. The image below shows some of the terms unique to the world (p-drive) as well as spelling and capitalization preferences for the series (tee-shirt, JPEG).

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.39.29 PM

In this example, I have the items in the table organized by category.

My process for completing these is that I generally scribble notes on paper as I edit — otherwise I would have to use three different screens and that’s just awkward — and then transfer it over to Evernote. If you’ve ever seen me on a panel or talked to me about gadgets and technology, you’ll know that I am a HUGE fan of Evernote (and, no, they don’t pay me to say that…I just love it!) and I use Evernote for pretty much everything.

I can create a notebook for the series and then within that notebook create notes for the individual pieces I want to include. I can then tag them in different ways. One way I like to tag them in this case is by story. For example, I have worked on five stories in the Manwe the Panther world, so if a character appears in multiple stories, I will add a specific tag for each story. Then I can see if that character appeared in, for example, story number four. In the example of the Latian Lion above, I haven’t added any tags because the set of stories where he appears isn’t complete yet. I add those tags last.

I can also create a table of contents for the notebook if I want as well. It automatically creates links each note in the notebook. This is especially useful if I have lots of notes in the notebook and don’t want to scroll.

One of my favorite features is to tell Evernote to sort alphabetically or by recent use. This is helpful if I am working in the same couple of notes but not using others.

I can also use their “work chat” function, share the notes and notebooks, attach files, and link to Google Drive files. This way I can share what I’ve created easily with the author or other editors.

So, in the comments, tell me how you’ve used style sheets and how you’ve structured them — especially those of you who’ve worked with a variety of publishers. I’ve only gotten to see a few style sheets from New York publishers, and this kind of thing is mighty interesting to me!

Until next time,



1 comment to Friday Fundamentals: Style Sheet

  • I am so, so sorry about what you’re going to face with our book. I promise that going forward we’ll be more consistent in style. There are two of us, so not only are we likely not fully consistent as individuals, I’m certain we’re not doing some things the same way between us. I know, for example, that em-dashes are going to be a nightmare. I am very excited about the whole Evernote thing and am off to check it out right now!