Style Guides

Westercon 69 and My Resulting “To Do” Items

Checklist.

I’m currently attending Westercon 69 in Portland and enjoying both the company of friends old and new, and the panels. I’ve attended quite a few panels on writing and getting published, with many of these geared toward indie and small press authors. As a result of listening to the audience questions, I now have the following items on my list to add to this site.

  • Tips for Hiring an Editor
  • Tips for Working with Editors
  • Signs You Need a New Editor
  • What are General Editing Categories
  • Editing Contracts
  • What is a Style Guide and Why Do You Care?
  • How to Be a Good Beta Reader

Those are just the topics off the top of my head. If you are particularly interested in one or more of these, let me know in comments or on Facebook, and I’ll move them up in the queue. Otherwise I’ll tackle them in some random order.

For those people I have met at Westercon – pleased to meet you! Hope you are having a great convention.

Style Guides

In many aspects of life, but especially in the written word, it’s important to have a common set of rules or guidelines. These provide continuity, uniformity and clues that remove some of the burden of guesswork as something is being read.

There are layers of these rules that stack on top of each other, from rules inherent in the alphabet in use, to those that are inherent in the language in use, to those inherent in the work’s intended audience or publication. For example:

  • The alphabet in use will tend to have rules about letter formation and order.
  • The language in use will tend to have rules like the directional flow of text, punctuation usage and spelling.
  • The intended audience will tend to have rules like how terms are used, which specific terms are appropriate, and even how long a work should be.

Most of these rules are built around standardization. If everyone at least tries to do things the same way, then it will be far easier for everyone to make sense of what others do. Imagine the chaos of one person randomly deciding that they would write their newspaper with a diagonal text alignment and alternating left-to-right and right-to-left text flow. Maybe it would work for a brief time as a publicity stunt, but everyone who tried to read it would give up because it would be just too hard to make sense of it.

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