When I copyedit a chapter, article, dissertation or anything for a client, I create an individualized style guide for that project. That doesn’t mean that I’m creating the page design, and it doesn’t mean that I’m overriding the writer’s choice of APA or Chicago style. An individualized style guide is a way for me to edit faster while honoring the writer’s preferences.
Capitalization and phrasing reveal where your priorities lie and send a message with precise, carefully chosen language.
A personal style guide will always need to work in conjunction with other, published style manuals. The guide that I create will never be comprehensive enough to cover every grammar and punctuation question. However, published manuals tend to leave a lot of wiggle room. For example, in your dissertation, do you tend to capitalize the first word of each listed point? Or, do you prefer to treat the list as one long sentence? When writing a manual, does the organization prefer to capitalize job titles like Assistant Director? Are there some job titles that aren’t capitalized? Creating a guide for your document allows me to remember your preferences so that I can work more quickly. It also allows me to pick up where we left off if I’m working on a single chapter at a time.
When I create a style guide, I help organizations promote their personal brand and public image. Consistency across documents helps organizations look professional. For organizations and academic writers, capitalization and phrasing reveal where your priorities lie and send a message with precise, carefully chosen language. What positions are important enough to earn capitalizations? How do you choose to refer to marginalized groups?
If you want to curate some consistency in your own, you may choose to create a style guide for yourself. Your style guide doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Mine looks like a digital version of an elementary word wall. Each style guide is created using a table. The cells in the table are labeled A to Z so that I can sort important language alphabetically. I use bullet points underneath the table to keep track of punctuation and formatting preferences. Once I’ve created the style guide, it’s the quickest place to find answers to any questions I have while I’m copyediting. If you do create your own style guide, please send it to me when you send me your paper for an edit! That way, your message will be presented exactly like you’d like.