Starting an Editing Project: Style Sheet



There are many good ways to start an editing project but experts all agree the first thing is to peruse the style sheet attached or to create one with the manuscript owner’s collaboration.

Louise Harnby defines a style sheet as “a record of preferences – the author’s or their publisher’s; a style manual’s; or some other agency’s”.

When there is a style sheet available, the editor simply gets down to work, ensuring the manuscript is tailored to the specifications of the style sheet. This can be approached through a number of ways; however, first, what to do if the author/ project commissioner does not have a style sheet.

You create one for them.

As long as the manuscript you want to work on is more than 20 pages, it’s a good idea to have a style sheet supporting your journey with the manuscript and its owner.



  • It is a guide for you, a map if you will. A style sheet is the only way to maintain consistency in a book-length project. If you have one, even if the project stalls for years, when the client is ready, all you need do is pick up their style sheet and you are ready to continue.
  • It is a mini-agreement between you and your client on the technicalities and expected outcome of your effort.
  • If any other editor or proofreader needs to deal with the manuscript later, they can easily pick up your track, just like you started the work together.
  • It is a branding strategy for businesses and bloggers. In fact, you can create personalized fonts for websites such that when plagiarists copy and paste, they end up with half sense, half gibberish.


Most self-publishers don’t have a style sheet.




It is actually easy to create a style sheet though it also depends on the kind of manuscript at hand. What would be required for a book-length project is different from what would be required for a manuscript with a small number of pages. Also, the requirements of an academic project can be a bit different from that of a fiction project.

Butcher’s Copy-editing goes into great detail on how to create a style sheet and I heartily recommend the excellent book. If you create content or manage content for yourself or an outfit, it will be wise and professional to create a style sheet.

The next post will discuss this process in detail.


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