In the world of nonfiction writing, there are four primary style guides that explain everything from proper abbreviation usage to number formatting. However, we’re not limited to those guides; in fact, there are many alternative style guides that may meet your needs as standalone resources or as complements to your chosen primary guide.
Primary Style Guides
First, let’s look at the primary guides.
- The Chicago Manual of Style, called “Chicago style” or “CMOS,” is the go-to guide for the publishing industry and basic business writing.
- The Associated Press Stylebook, called “AP style,” is the primary manual for newspapers, magazines, and news websites. It has also been adopted by a variety of businesses that produce news-oriented content.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, called “APA style,” provides guidance for all social and behavioral science writing, not just psychology. APA has been adopted by a wide variety of academic and research communities.
- MLA Handbook, called “MLA style,” is published by the Modern Language Association of America for academic work in the humanities.
Alternative Style Guides
Here are six alternative style guides. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. If you have another guide that you think I should add, please let me know in the comment section below.
- The IBM Style Guide: Conventions for Writers and Editors outlines styles for, you guessed it, IBM. It is a good option for anyone writing or editing for a technical audience.
- Microsoft Manual of Style is another corporate style manual useful for anyone writing or editing technical or technology documents.
- The New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage hasn’t been updated since 1994, but it is still viable for those seeking basic usage advice.
- U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual is a must-have for employees or subcontractors who write or edit for the federal government. It is also a valuable resource for local or state agency writers or editors who want to align their documentation with that of the federal government.
- Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers is produced by the Council of Science Editors for all types of scientific writing, including physics, chemistry, and astronomy.
- AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors by the American Medical Association provides style advice for medical researchers, writers, and editors.
Of course, no single guide can cover every writing situation, so the best option is to find a combination that meets your needs and then document your most recurrent issues in your own in-house style guide.