Style guides (also known as style manuals or stylebooks) are collected standards for writing and formatting. They have information about punctuation, spelling, usage, citations, and document design. Authors and editors use style guides to make sure everything written and released is consistent.
The style guide you choose may depend upon your client or field of study. Below are some examples of the most common style guides, along with hyperlinks to find out more. Several of these publications offer online subscriptions.
Academic writers of papers and articles have several options, depending on their discipline. They may use the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Social and behavioral scientists may follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (commonly known as the APA Style Manual). Medical writers often consult the AMA Manual of Style.
If you're writing news articles, releases, newsletters, or online content, you may use the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (often called AP Style).
Government agencies often, but not always, follow the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (commonly referred to as GPO).
Many business writers and book authors choose The Chicago Manual of Style. The classic Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, is a popular choice for many writers. It's also just fun to read.
If you're not constrained by a client or field of study and can choose a style guide for yourself, then browse through the shelves at a bookstore or sample some online. (Many universities offer online guidance that are distillations of popular style guides.) Ask yourself some questions: Is the guide applicable to the kind of writing you do? Is it organized in a reader-friendly way? Can you find the information you need?
Style guides give you a place to start by answering common questions about punctuation, spelling, usage, citations, and document design. They help you to make sure that every piece of writing that goes out the door is consistent and meets standards of quality.