How to Make a Style Sheet

Bonnie Trenga Mills explains why a style sheet is different from a style guide.

Bonnie Mills, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #388


How do you know whether your business or school requires you to capitalize a certain word or to use a hyphen in this term or that? Unless you’ve memorized a bevy of rules, you need to look it up somewhere. Today’s topic is the editorial style sheet, the perfect place where writers, editors, publishing professionals, office workers, and students can find this kind of information. 

What an Editorial Style Sheet Is and What It Should Contain

An editorial style sheet delineates style standards a company or publisher prefers so that all written documents remain consistent. For example, some companies want certain bullet styles to be maintained throughout; others have strong opinions on hyphens after prefixes like “non.” The style sheet often lists topics alphabetically or is broken down into sections such as “Formatting” and “Commonly Used Terms.” It can cover items such as 

  • Whether or not to use a comma after the last in a series (called the serial comma)
  • What words should and shouldn’t be capitalized
  • What terms and phrases should and shouldn’t be used
  • The spelling of commonly appearing names and titles of individuals and entities
  • Formatting guidelines, such as when to use bold, when to use italics, and whether to use a period at the end of each bullet in a list

What an Editorial Style Sheet Is Not and Should Not Contain 

A style sheet is different from a style guide.


About the Author

Bonnie Mills, Writing for Grammar Girl

Bonnie Mills has been a copyeditor since 1996.