Personal style guides and why you need them

Whether on the computer or on paper, writers need to consider creating personal style guides.
Whether on the computer or on paper, writers need to consider creating personal style guides.

I’m not talking about “The Chicago Manual of Style,” “AP,” “MLA,” or any of the rest — no, I’m talking about writers creating their own personal style guide tailored to their novel or series — particularly fantasy and sci-fi writers. Why? Speculative fiction writers in general are prone to using names even words that are not English; the same could also be applied to writers in other genres, too. After all, especially if you have a cast of several, spellings can become muddled over the course of a long manuscript, even if they are only morphed by a letter or two.

These inconsistencies can add up during revisions, taking time to correct and, in some cases, determine the originally intended spelling. A personal style guide cuts down on this time by being a compilation of all the correct spellings in one handy place. Beyond helping with revisions, style guides will also help while writing.

I started my own personal style guide after one of my readers suggested it, and it has more than proved its worth. I have been able to use it to help straighten out a few spellings that were a few letters off from previous entries, in addition to looking at it for spellings rather than having to pour through previous chapters hunting for words. Since words are placed in alphabetical order, I can easily find entries to settle any questions I might have.

Beyond setting different spellings in stone, I have also included dictionary-like definitions or little notes for myself and eventually hope to include pronunciation guidelines. Thanks to Microsoft Word I have been able to use bookmarks and in-document hyperlinks to make for easy navigation to each letter section and back to the top, thus making my job as a writer much easier.


Published by smwright

Sarah Wright is the author of The Heritage Lost Series and several other works of speculative fiction. Professionally, she works as a staff writer and editor at a newspaper/magazine company. She enjoys interweaving her love of history into her writing, even in the most fantastic settings.

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