One thing I rely on for every one of my clients is the style sheet: a simple document that outlines spelling and grammatical choices or preferences for that individual or business.
Any time I take on a new client, the first thing I do is create a style sheet, noting such preferences as:
- spelling style (Canadian, UK, American, etc.)
- capitalization style (I’m a minimalist when it comes to capitalizing words, but some people enjoy using Capitals For Added Emphasis or capitalizing job titles such as Chairperson)
- for businesses, certain industry words (noting capitalization, hyphens, etc.)
- for authors, any word that is made up (names of places, character names, spells, etc.)
- yay or nay for the Oxford comma
- certain punctuation rules, depending on the country of origin (e.g., Canadians put punctuation marks inside the quotes, whereas, in the UK, punctuation goes outside of the quotation marks)
- for academic writers, what reference style they’re using (APA, MLA, Chicago, CP, etc.)
- for blog posts, I’ll note keywords, word count target, and formatting styles such as headings and lists
A style sheet (also referred to as a “style guide”) is a living document, which means it grows over time. The more I work with a client, the more words and choices get added to their style sheet.
The benefit to a style sheet can be summed up with two words: consistent communication.
You might think a style sheet is a bit over the top when editing a 250 word blog post, but what happens when that same client wants an 800-word Linkedin article edited three months later? Or an author decides to write a sequel to the book that was published 5 years ago?
There’s no way I can remember every single word choice for each of my clients (and I’m a professional editor), so I rely on the style sheet to ensure my clients have consistent communication. This way, an author who starts off a 75,000 word novel using “okay” in their dialogue doesn’t switch to “ok” by word 34,000. And that the “Life Insurance” an insurance agent blogged about six months ago doesn’t all of a sudden become the “life insurance” on their website.
Following the same spelling, punctuation, and formatting styles ensures you’re using a consistent style, which, ultimately, ensures that your message is heard and understood.
My style sheet templates are available for you to download and use for free. If you visit the Manley Mann School (by clicking on that link I just included), you’ll see both a fillable PDF template that you can use for your own project, as well as an example for each genre. If you’d like to chat about setting up a customized style sheet for yourself or your business, please contact me.