Style Guide

Style Guide – Click  here to download (in MS Word)

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Reading Writers’ Style Guide

Information for the Reader

(i) Work should contain a title (even a work in progress title if required) and the author’s name

(ii) Where possible work should include a genre description

(iii) Work should include a word count (of the section provided and of the whole piece where appropriate)

General Formatting of the Page

(i) Include a header with abbreviated author and title information

(ii) Include a footer with page number

(iii) Include good sized margins

General Formatting of Text

(i) Font: Arial, Times New Roman, or similarly readable font

(ii) Font size: 12

(iii) Line spacing: double

(iv) Paragraph formatting:

  • new paragraphs should always start on a new line
  • do not leave a blank line between paragraphs
  • first paragraph of a new chapter (or a distinct new section within a chapter) do not indent
  • all following paragraphs should be indented (use the TAB button on your keyboard)

(v) Text should be left-aligned (not justified)

Formatting of Dialogue

(i) Speech marks should be used to identify the spoken word – either “…” or ‘…’ is acceptable providing that they are used consistently throughout

(ii) The words inside speech marks always end with a mark of punctuation (full stop, comma, question mark or exclamation mark)

(iii) If the sentence is continued after the speech marks (with a speech tag such as he said) then you don’t end the speech with a full stop, and the first word outside the speech marks must begin with a small letter

(iv) If the sentence begins with He said, a comma must follow this before you open the speech marks

(v) When a new speaker begins, you must begin a new (indented) paragraph

Use the Direct Address Comma

When speech directly addresses another person, that person’s name should always be preceded by a comma


“Will you pass me that pen please, John?”

Use Single Spaces between Sentences

Single space is appropriate between the full stop of the previous sentence and the first (upper case) character of the next


If, in the font you are using, italics are easy to see, then use italics where necessary.  If italicisation is not clear in your font (such as in Courier), then underline the words instead of italicising them.

Writing Numbers

(i) Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine. (If a sentence includes numbers below and greater than nine, choose whichever you feel suits the writing, and remain consistent for both numbers.)

(ii) When writing decades, spell them out and lowercase them – eighties. If you want to use the incomplete numerals, use an apostrophe before, but not between the numerals and the s – ’80s.

(iii) When writing time, if you are including o’clock always spell out the time – five o’clock. Use numerals for specific time or when using A.M. and P.M. – 5:15 A.M.

Section Breaks

If you wish to include a section break in your text do so with an extra blank line between paragraphs, and do not indent the following paragraph. If this does not appear clear with the font type and size you have selected, use a number symbol # in the blank line and centre.


Recommended On-line Style Guide

The Economist

NB: This contains a useful and extensive guide to style for magazine production and general written communication; please tailor it with the specific advice in this document for fiction.


by Josh Williams for Reading Writers