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House Style Guide

This is a list of preferences. If the author is consistent and has strong preferences, we are willing to follow his or her style. Before beginning work on the manuscript:

Headings should not be followed by a full stop, though a question mark or exclamation mark can follow them. Capitalisation should be internally consistent within headings. The relative importance of headings should be established, and headings on the manuscript marked according to a scheme – the preferred classes are A, B, C, etc.

The first paragraph of a chapter should always start full out. If the chapters have titles then there should be a contents page in the prelims. Always check that titles listed in the contents page tally with those in the text. At proof stage, check that page numbers agree between contents and text.

Check that indicators and notes correspond. Use superior Arabic figures rather than asterisks. These indicators should appear in the text after punctuation but before dashes.

A new line should be used when a new character starts speaking, except when the speech forms part of a sentence. For example: I heard my aunt shout from outside, ‘Come out of there, my lad.’ But: I went up and spoke to old Jack Lee. ‘They wasn’t that clever, you know,’ he said.


Quotation marks
We prefer single quotes. Quotes within quotes use opposite from that of the main text, i.e., double quotes within single quotes.

Punctuation and quotation marks
Punctuation comes outside quote only when quoted matter does not make a whole sentence, e.g., He had reached his goal, as one of his fellow-players later put it, ‘with no more trouble than Charlie Nicholas’.

Poetry and songs
Unquoted. Roman, centred, one line space above, one line below.


Italics must be used for:

Do not use italics for:


Remember to use hyphens:

Do not use hyphens:

We prefer unspaced em rules.

Consistency is all important. The possessive of names ending in a pronounced s is formed by adding an apostrophe, e.g. Dickens’ characters, Jesus’ parables, Sophocles’ plays.
Definitely no apostrophe for: bus, flu, keeper, phone, place, MPs, MAs. No apostrophe is used when referring to decades, e.g., 1960s, although an apostrophe is used if a decade is used as an adjective e.g. 1960s’ style. (When the century is dropped, numbers, rather than words, should be used, i.e. ’60s not sixties.)

Apostrophes used in the formation of possessive plural nouns: if noun already ends in s, the apostrophe alone is used, e.g. the boys’ dog, not the boys’s dog. Also expressions of time treated as possessive, e.g. in two weeks’ time, last year’s dress. No apostrophe for three months pregnant.

The modern trend is away from use of stops in abbreviations, e.g. BBC, TV, SAS. Do not use a full stop after an abbreviated title where the last letter of the abbreviation is the same as the last letter of the full word, e.g. Mrs Smith, Dr Jones, St Peter, but M. Dupont. Stops are not needed for am, pm, but are for e.g. and i.e., and also after initials, e.g. J.R. Hartley. Use etc (without full point) rather than etcetera.

Use three spaced points for ellipses with a space before and after the ellipses. The third point acts as a full stop at the end of a sentence. Christian name initials should not have a space inserted between point and next capital, e.g. J.R. Hartley (not J. R. Hartley).

Avoid too many capitals.
Spring, summer, autumn and winter all begin with lower-case letters, as do north, south, east and west, except when they are used as part of a political or ethnological division or territory (see below).

Capitals are necessary in the following cases:

Numbers up to ten should be written out, those above in figures. When dealing with a sequence of stated quantities, statistics or tables, use figures.
Never begin a sequence with a figure.

Inexact sums are always written out, e.g. He received about twenty thousand pounds. Use commas for any number greater that 999, e.g. 1,234 not 1234.
Write percentages using % e.g. 60%. Note that percentages take figures, even when the style is for numbers to be written out.

We prefer 2 June 1971. Add a comma if it is Monday, 2 June 1971.
Use 55 BC and AD 19 (small capitals for the BC or AD).
When referring to the century, 21st century. Never mix ‘from’ and a dash. Either use from 1914 to 1919 or 1914–19 (and en rule, not hyphen). The same applies to ‘between’.
4.30am but at four thirty.

We prefer -ise endings. Use Oxford English Dictionary.

all right
common sense (two words as noun, hyphenated as adjective)
connection, also reflection etc
for ever
goodbye, goodnight
no one
storey, storeys (of a building)
today (not to-day), also tomorrow and tonight
towards (not toward)
worth while (two words) when used predicatively; worthwhile (one word) when used