Our online proofreading course students have a thorough understanding of what a style guide is and how to use it.

A style guide is a book of rules or manual of style for certain things such as spelling, punctuation and grammar. But it also includes more complex rules about layout, format and use of certain words etc. It ensures consistency within the document / website / business etc.

There are many different style guides and they are used in various genres / fields. For example, students on our proofreading course use the Guardian style guide.

House style

House style is where a company or newspaper does not agree with certain aspects of their chosen style guide, for example, the style guide they use says to write the date as “21 May 2017”. But they prefer to write it as “May 21, 2017”. Note the change and the added comma.

Obviously, there are half a dozen ways to write the date, but ensuring consistency within a document or company is very important.

So there will usually be a house style crib sheet / cheat sheet which covers all their preferred styles.

Style guides in the UK and US

Style in the UK is different to the US, as we spell words differently, use punctuation differently and have different words for things. For example, we call a bottle of fizzy drink pop and they call it soda. They also use “-ize” at the end of words, where we use “-ise”. For example: specialise / specialize, realise / realize etc.

In the UK there are four widely-used style guides. They are:

  • The Guardian style guide.
  • Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers.
  • The Times style and usage guide.
  • The Telegraph style guide.

In the USA there are quite a few, but these are the most popular:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook.
  • The Careful Writer.
  • The Elements of Style.
  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace.
  • The Well-Spoken Thesaurus.

Using a style guide on your proofreading course

Using a style guide is a fundamental skill for a proofreader. We place a lot of emphasis on style in our proofreading course.

Our online proofreading course gives step-by-step instructions on how to use a style guide and implement the rules when carrying out proofreading jobs.

But some people find it difficult to use one, especially if style is a new concept to them.

Some people have trouble finding what they are looking for, which is common considering the vast amount of information in the guide.

So, we recommend starting by checking under a likely heading, such as “capitals” or “dates” etc.

If you find nothing, try a general Google search, such as: “Guardian style guide capitals” and sift through the results.

Some students ask whether they should check the dictionary and the style guide for every word.

We tell our proofreading course students to check every single word against the style guide first, then the dictionary – we use Collins, as the Guardian style guide recommends it.

They should never leave anything to chance and never use their “instinct”.

This is because they may have been taught to express things in a certain way at school, and the Guardian style guide may be different.

To begin with, it’s time-consuming work, but with practice you remember the main style points and can correct them without having to look anything up.

What should you do if your style guide doesn’t provide a clear answer to a style issue?

If the Guardian doesn’t include a certain spelling of a word or style to be used, check it in the Collins dictionary.

If you are still uncertain, it is best to see what the Guardian do themselves in the same situation.

Search for the phrase on their website where you will find useful examples.

See our proofreading courses