A style guide helps authors and editors ensure the writing style and formatting of a book like an open textbook remain consistent throughout.
Style guides cover topics such as:
Below are some examples of style guides for open textbooks:
Style guides are time-consuming to create and update, so it’s best to choose an existing style guide.
Some points to consider when selecting a style guide for your textbook:
Some style guides you may already be familiar with include:
Your institution may already have its own in-house style guide. These can often be found on your website, or on your staff intranet along with other branding resources (e.g. logos, templates, colour palettes, etc.) developed by your institution’s marketing department. For example, Monash University's Monash Editorial Style Guide.
One of the most common style guides in Australia is the Australian Government Style Manual, which as of 2020, is available free online. It outlines Australian standards for grammar, punctuation and language, as well as providing guidelines for digital publishing, accessibility and inclusive language.
The New Zealand government provides similar Content Design Guidance – including writing style, grammar and punctuation and inclusive language and readability – on their digital.govt.nz website. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission)'s Guidelines for Māori Language Orthography (2012) provides best practice guidelines for spelling and writing Māori.
It’s also helpful to adopt a shared dictionary (e.g. the Macquarie Dictionary, which is recommended by many education institutions in Australia) for smaller decisions not covered in the style guide such as the spelling, capitalisation and hyphenation of specific words.
As you’re writing (and editing), try to adhere to the rules of the style guide and dictionary you’ve chosen.
In addition to choosing a style guide, you may also want to create a style sheet for your textbook.
Style sheets are used to keep track of book-specific styling and formatting exceptions – such as spelling choices, design and placement of learning objects, and differences in punctuation, layout and style – to the adopted style guide.
Frequently used style elements can also be noted on the style sheet for easy reference – especially during the copyediting and proofreading stages. You can also use it to record the names of any style guides or dictionaries you’re following.
Keeping your book’s style sheet updated throughout production will ensure all co-authors and editors are on the same page.
‘Style Guides’ in Authoring Open Textbooks Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, adapted from B.C. Open Textbook Authoring Guide by BCcampus and licensed with a CC BY 4.0 licence.