Style guides: your definitive list

Love them or hate them, style guides are an important part of written communication. In this post, we’re rounding up the most used and most (un)popular style guides, laying out where you can expect to see and use them.

If you’re a writer who has worked in corporate or agency roles, you’ll have been well aware of their specific style guide. When to use an em dash (or whether you use them at all!), when you start writing out numbers instead of using digits (is it nine or 10?), and how you refer to companies (it or they) will have all been laid out nicely. In the corporate world, the words ‘style guide’ and ‘brand guide’ tend to cross over quite a bit.

While for those of us who ever had to write a university essay, you’ll most likely be familiar with style guides as the citation and referencing nightmare that kept you up until 2am – finding out whether you were using MLA or Chicago Style could make or break a semester.

Why do we need style guides?

While amending our work to suit a specific style guide can be frustrating – and time-consuming – working to a style guide is an important step in building your brand identity and growing customer trust.  

Style guides dictate how communication materials are written and ensure that the ‘sound’ of the company carries across any and all comms, regardless of who writes them. 

They’re also important for ensuring consistency across punctuation, grammar, bullet point lists and referencing (do we use footnotes or not?).

Below, we’re listing the style guides you’re most likely to come across in academic and industry writing, and those that form the building blocks for many company style guides.

Chicago Manual of Style

Used by proofreaders and editors across the globe, the Chicago Manual of Style is a constitution. With sections dedicated to grammar and punctuation, if you’re editing a book, Chicago is your friend. Also used by many university programs, if you’re ever in doubt, this manual will almost always have the answer. 

AP Stylebook (Associated Press)

If you’re a journalist or work in corporate agency roles, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the AP Stylebook. Perhaps because it’s the style guide for people writing in a hurry (i.e. journalists), it’s got information on grammar, punctuation, when and how to use abbreviations and numerals and preferred spellings, and it’s available to access online.

The Australian Style Guide

The Plain English Foundation’s Australian Style Guide is a searchable online tool covering questions for government, corporate and university sector writers. They keep up to date with Australian standards, so if you ever find yourself looking for an Australian spelling amongst the confusing UK and US alternatives, the Australian Style Guide can help. 

New Oxford Style Manual

If you’re writing in British English, the New Oxford Style Manual has you covered. Prepared in consultation with professionals and endorsed by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, this style guide not only explains how to cite sources, but also provides advice on how to handle headings, hyphenation, capitalisation, punctuation and abbreviations.  

MLA Handbook Plus

Available on a subscription-based digital platform, you can access the MLA Handbook Plus and get all the information on how to cite and document your sources online. As a digital resource, the handbook is updated regularly and features chapters on grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, spelling, numbers, italics, abbreviations and the principles of inclusive language. 

APA Publication Manual

Used in the social sciences and humanities, the American Psychological Association Style Guide is an author-date referencing system. Since it provides rules for how to acknowledge authors in your text and in your reference list, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll come across this one outside of academia. Its citation list is extensive, covering everything from journals to apps to social media. 

Australian Guide to Legal Citation

Used by those in the legal field, the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, now in its 3rd edition, offers consistent advice on the use of ellipses and how to cite parties’ submissions in court cases. The latest edition also includes an international section, introducing rules for citing legal materials from China, France, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.

IEEE Style Manual 

Based on the Chicago Style Manual, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Style Manual is for those in technical fields like engineering and computer science. It offers guidelines for how to handle punctuation, capitalisation, abbreviations, section headings, numbers, equations, footnotes and biographies. There’s also the IEEE Mathematics Guide and IEEE Reference Guide if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the original. 

AMA Manual of Style, 11th Edition

Unsurprisingly, the American Medical Association Manual of Style is for writers and editors in the medical and scientific fields. Since it is for the sciences, in addition to the usual grammar and punctuation advice, the AMA Manual also includes how to handle terminology, measurement, quantification, an extensive glossary and a new chapter on ethical and legal issues. 

When you’re working with a style guide, it can be overwhelming – there’s a lot of information to cover. If you don’t want to deal with editing your work to fit the required style, a professional proofreader and editor can help. At Dot Point Proofreading and Editing, we handle the small stuff so you can get back to the writing. Contact us today!