A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. The implementation of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting of a document.
A set of standards for a specific organization is often known as "house style". Style guides are common for general and specialized use, for the general reading and writing audience, and for students and scholars of various academic disciplines, medicine, journalism, the law, government, business, and industry.
Organizations advocating for social minorities sometimes establish what they believe to be fair and correct language treatment of their audiences.
Many style guides are revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. For example, the stylebook of the Associated Press is updated annually.
Publishers' style guides establish house rules for language use, such as spelling, italics and punctuation; their major purpose is consistency. They are rulebooks for writers, ensuring consistent language. Authors are asked or required to use a style guide in preparing their work for publication; copy editors are charged with enforcing the publishing house's style.
Academic organization and university style guides are rigorous about documentation formatting style for citations and bibliographies used for preparing term papers for course credit and manuscripts for publication. Professional scholars are advised to follow the style guides of organizations in their disciplines when they submit articles and books to academic journals and academic book publishers in those disciplines for consideration of publication. Once they have accepted work for publication, publishers provide authors with their own guidelines and specifications, which may differ from those required for submission, and editors may assist authors in preparing their work for press.
Indexing of the published work, which can be a tedious task, can be done by the author, by a professional editorial indexer, or by computer software. If done by the author or close collaborators of the author who are not professional indexers, the work is called "self-indexed".
Some organizations, other than the aforementioned ones, produce style guides for either internal or external use. For example, communications and public relations departments of business and nonprofit organizations have style guides for their publications (newsletters, news releases, web sites). Organizations advocating for social minorities sometimes establish what they believe to be fair and correct language treatment of their audiences.
Many publications (notably newspapers) use graphic design style guides to demonstrate the preferred layout and formatting of a published page. They often are extremely detailed in specifying, for example, which fonts and colors to use. Such guides allow a large design team to produce visually consistent work for the organization.
Several basic style guides for technical and scientific communication have been defined by international standards organizations. These are often used as elements of and refined in more specialized style guides that are specific to a subject, region or organization. One example is ISO 215 — Presentation of contributions to periodicals & other serials.
In the United States, most nonjournalism writing follows the Chicago Manual of Style, while most newspapers base their style on the Associated Press Stylebook. A classic style guide for the general public is The Elements of Style.