Friday, October 31, 2014

Style Sheet, You Need One

If you’re a writer and you haven’t heard of a style sheet, it’s time. You need one. (It will help you make your book consistent, which is incredibly helpful if you self-publish. And it will be a HUGE blessing to any copy editor if you can give them something to start with.)

A style sheet is a listing of the elements that make up your book’s style so that it will be consistent through the entire manuscript. (Yeah, I know never define a word using that word.)

Here are a few of the things that a style sheet should include:


    1. British vs. English (there are grammar differences too).

    2. Names (Catherine vs. Katherine vs. Catherin vs. Katheryn). It also helps a copy editor (or your super helpful beta reader). That way if you’ve made a mistake somewhere and typed in the wrong spelling, the copy editor (or beta reader) can correct it.

    3.  Made-up terms or place names, etc.


    1.  Serial comma vs. no serial comma.

    2.  Comma after introductory word/clause (Some publishers no longer use a comma after a "short" introductory clause or word. Personally, as a reader and copy editor, I HATE that. Just sayin’.)

    3.  Hyphenated terms: anything that is specialized to your book.

    4.  Anything that breaks standard usage—that way the beta reader or copy editor knows that you haven’t made a grammar error. I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve wasted correcting the same grammar errors over and over while wondering if the error is intentional. (If you are weak in this area, beef up your skills by visiting the Grammar Girl site or Daily Writing Tips.)


    1.  Do you want your coined words capitalized?

    2.  Do you want nicknames capitalized if they are real words? (For example, a character is called “Bobcat.”)

Plot Details:

    1.  Jot down the characters’ names and relationships, i.e., Margaret, mother of Anna. (I once changed a character’s name midway through a novel—not on purpose. But my amazing beta reader caught it. Thanks, Misha!)

    2. To help with consistency, keep track of things of like characters' hair/eye color, the type of car they drive, brand of cigarette they smoke, their pets' names, etc. It's also wise to keep track of the chapter or page number when these bits of information are mentioned.  

Here's some more information about style sheets: Here. And Here.

Here's an example of real style sheet.


  1. I've never heard of style sheets (beyond CSS, which isn't the topic). They look super intense!

    I have a private Google site which acts as my personal wiki. It has the stuff like made up words, character descriptions, personalities, relationships, world layout, magic rules, and social structure. I actually have one made-up name that I have to look up every time, wondering if I had the letter h in there twice or only once. I guess that doesn't help anyone except me though.

    I don't tend to keep track of the grammar stuff, at least nowhere outside of my head.

  2. This is a great tip! I keep notes in a separate document and have learned to jot down even the little things. What a character was wearing at some point to make sure it's consistent, what day of the week/month it is as each scene starts, etc. You can easily lose track of these things and have inconsistencies that you never catch.

  3. I'm doing something along these lines now, but I sure wish I had before. :)

  4. I had one of these for my debut novel, but only a detailed outline for the sequel. (Since I was working with the same beta readers & editors.) I totally agree--it's a must for the writer who really hopes to succeed.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

  5. you're such a smartie!! I had to write all this down because in my last novel I kept scrolling trying to remember what someone's details were. this time, thank goodness I have it noted :D

  6. Hi...Thanks for stopping by my place.

    A lot of bizarre stuff gets included in my style sheets...most of it to remind me of the details about all my characters. I'm getting old I guess...I can never remember that stuff.

    (I just call them my cheat sheets)