Why do writers need a copyediting style sheet?

A copyediting style sheet

 A copyediting style sheet records all decisions regarding spelling, punctuation, styling/formatting, abbreviations, capitalisation and references governing these decisions. Editors and writers create it to ensure that these elements are applied consistently throughout the text, thus improving the text’s overall quality and readability.

This post closely examines the importance and function of a copyediting style sheet:

  • What is  style sheet?
  • What is copyediting?
  • Why should writers create a style sheet?
  • How can a style sheet help your editor and proofreader?

At the bottom of the page, you will find free style sheet templates (one with example content and a blank one) for your next writing project. It will help regardless of the type of text you write. An academic article, professional book, lifestyle blog or marketing content will benefit from its help. After all, it matters what we communicate but also how.

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet records all decisions made regarding writing rules that apply to a text, especially those with more than one option (think: organize vs. organise). It should include all aspects that govern your text and ensure the style is consistent:

  • preferred language localisation (for instance, UK English)
  • spelling
  • capitalisation
  • abbreviations styling
  • punctuation and grammar
  • tenses
  • list styling

It is, in fact, a component of the editing process, recording preferences about the language and styling. Every text goes through several editorial processes before it is publication-ready. The same goes for manuscripts commissioned by publishing houses and self-published works. Essentially,  editing should have the same powerful effect as diamond processing, which changes a rough stone into a faceted gem.

What is copyediting?

Copyediting is an essential step in the editing process that focuses on improving a manuscript’s accuracy, consistency and readability. It involves reviewing the text to ensure that it adheres to the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling and style. It may also suggest changes to improve the flow of the text, eliminate redundancies and ensure that the tone and voice are consistent throughout the manuscript.

In sum, copyediting is an integral part of the editorial process that helps produce high-quality, polished, professional documents. Without copyediting, a manuscript may contain errors and inconsistencies that can distract readers and undermine the credibility of the author. Therefore, it is essential to invest in copyediting services to ensure that your text is error-free, consistent and easy to read.

Why should writers create a style sheet?

Suppose you have no idea about editing, you only want to write and leave the rest to editors and proofreaders. In that case, there is one thing you can do: create a style sheet. iIt can help you prepare for editing and proofreading any text, whether you have already started or only planning to write:

  • an article
  • a book or book series
  • a blog post or entire blog content
  • a white paper
  • an essay
  • a thesis or dissertation
  • or any other text(s) destined for readers.

More specifically, there are several reasons why authors, particularly self-publishing ones, should create one:

  1. Cutting editing costs: If you seek a professional editor’s help, setting up a style sheet (and following it through) will drastically cut the editor’s time spent establishing consistency and correctness across the manuscript. In turn, this will save you money spent on editing.
  2. Improving the text: It will standardise the text, keep track of your preferences and make it easier to edit, proofread and read.
  3. Maintaining consistency: It will help maintain a consistent style across all your publications, from book series to blog posts.
  4. Saving your time: Since you will only make the style decisions once, a style sheet removes the focus from grammar and language and brings it back to what is important here — writing. Consequently, it will save you time considering how to capitalise your headings or style abbreviations (for instance, U.S. or US?)
  5. Saving even more of your time: The style sheet will aid you in maintaining consistency if you take a break from your project and need a reminder of your style choices. Therefore, reviewing the manuscript and looking for inconsistencies will save you time.

How can a style sheet help your editor and proofreader?

Whether you are a self-publishing author or submitting your text to a publisher, attaching a style sheet to your text will aid the work of editors and proofreaders. In sum, it will save their time and — if you are a self-publisher — your money. Let’s look at other ways how a style sheet can help:

  1. Improve communication with the editor: A style sheet will explain the editor’s intervention in their text: what have they done and why. In other words, it will increase the clarity and reduce the number of the author’s queries since a good style sheet should convey the answers.
  2. Explain the editor’s changes: A style sheet supports the editor’s decisions (and changes to the text) by citing references, such as New Heart’s Rules or Chicago Style Manual. By looking at the style sheet, you will understand that an editor made a specific change to align the text with the style guide or  the spelling with  the preferred dictionary.
  3. Cut down editing time: Often, various editing processes — developmental editingline editingcopyediting and proofreading — are conducted by different editors. A style sheet can ensure that all editors involved in preparing a text for publication follow the same guidelines. They can simply reference the style sheet to understand the text’s style and language preferences.
  4. Cut down proofreading time: A style sheet records the spelling. This includes words with more than one accepted spelling (for instance, smidgen vs smidgeon) and spelling of names and other proper nouns. If these words made their way to the style sheet, a proofreader, as the last person checking the text before publication, will not have to spend time checking if they are correctly spelt because the style sheet guarantees it.


In conclusion, a copyediting style sheet is an essential tool for writers and editors alike. It helps maintain consistency, improve the text’s overall quality, and save time and money during editing. 

So, the next time you are working on a writing project,  remember to create a style sheet. It will ensure your text is of the highest quality and consistency and easy for readers to enjoy and understand. Download the free style sheet template and look at the example style sheet with predefined content for inspiration. 

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.