A house style is a guide that saves you time and effort. Relax and let it make those arbitrary choices of a trivial nature, such as whether to choose eg or e.g.
A house style does not standardise any important aspect of your writing. Instead, as in any good newspaper, it leaves you free to concentrate on the message.
A house style brings external and internal benefits. Work leaving an organisation is more uniform, demanding less unnecessary thought of the reader. Inside that organisation, it is easier to exchange work among staff members.
A house style can be varied occasionally, if there are good reasons, eg for a North American readership.
All word-processed drafts should:
Keep text formatting simple. Leave it in when you transfer text to dtp. Also, pass a printed copy of your document to dtp, so that the intended layout and appearance is clear. When applying formatting, use the styles available in Word (style box near top left corner). The following will usually suffice, and can easily be translated into dtp:
If you do not use styles but apply formats manually, the text will not be internally ‘labelled’. This makes it harder to translate formatted text consistently into dtp.
Mark corrections and changes clearly in brightly coloured ink. Ensure each has a mark in the margin, making it obvious. Do not mask original text with correcting fluid or anything else. If you have several sets of corrections (eg from critical readers), collate all changes onto one document for return to the word processor. If corrections are heavy and any of the material is retyped, point this out to the author: it may cause further minor errors. Return the marked-up draft with the new version. No matter who improves a document, the author or project officer remains responsible for that document’s accuracy.
Machine and operator time is limited for dtp. Try to make all textual corrections or amendments on a word-processed document, before it goes for dtp. If you must get a feel for the look of the dtp version, please limit yourself to one page, a few pages or, at most, a small section. Further corrections may be necessary after the initial dtp version, eg if a programme has been piloted.
Ensure that you have, as needed:
If, excluding chapter or page titles, you need more than three levels of sub-heading, you may be inadequately organised. Logical organisation helps you, your readers, your typist or word processor and your editor. The hierarchy should be:
This three-level system is instantly obvious to the reader. Please avoid bold italic (ie bold and italic simultaneously) and fancy fonts in word-processed drafts.
Listed items, unless they will be referred back to individually, should be bulleted. For short, non-sentence bullets, use the form:
Some bullets are longer and stand as sentences.
Short quotations (1.5 lines or less) should be put within “quotes”, in the main text.
If you include case studies, examples or other illustrative material, differentiate them from the main text, no matter how short they are.
Put a title above every table and a caption below every figure (illustration). Ensure that every table (Table 1) and every figure (Figure 1) is cited in the main text.
A good table needs only two horizontal rules and no vertical rules. Additional short rules may be necessary if some column headings split. Use the table editor built into Word rather than constructing tables with tabs.
Table 1. Pets and their diseases