11 Steps to Creating Your Own Style Sheet

Steps to Creating a Style Sheet

Note: You can create your style sheet before you begin writing, while you write, or during the editing phase.

If it were me, I would do steps 1–8 before I began writing and the rest while I was writing. But if you have already written your manuscript, you can still go back and create a style sheet.


1. Create a template with the topic headings you plan to include.


Read my blog titled “All About Style Sheets” to see the headings you can include.

Or you can use the downloadable templates found at the end of this blog post.


2. Indicate your preferred style guide and dictionary.


If you do not know what a style guide is (Chicago Manual of Style, New Hart’s Rules, Words into Type, etc.), do not worry. You do not have to study and follow a style book before writing a book; that is where your editor comes in.

However, if you are already familiar with one, then go ahead and indicate which one or combination of ones you plan to use.


3. Decide how you will format your part titles, chapter titles, headings, and any subheadings (include all levels of subheadings).


  • Will you use headline-style or sentence-case capitalization?
  • What font and size will you use?
  • Will there be any font decoration such as underlining or bold?


4. Determine your rules for numbers.


  • When will you spell out the numbers and when will you use numerals?
  • How will you format dates and times?
  • How will you handle units of measurements? Abbreviations or spelled out?


5. Determine your rules for capitalization.


While style guide books have guidelines for what to capitalize, sometimes you may choose to deviate. For example, I had an author who wanted all job titles capitalized even though Chicago Manual of Style only capitalizes titles when they immediately precede a name.


6. Determine how you will punctuate and format dialogue, quotations, and internal dialogue.


7. Indicate any style or grammar deviations from the style guide you are using.


If you aren’t using a style guide, just indicate any preferences that you know have different opinions. The ones in the table below are the most common deviations I see from Chicago Manual of Style.

Chapter numbers in numerals (CMS 9.26)
Spelled out chapter numbers 
Spell out all numbers one to a hundred  and whole numbers followed by hundred, thousand, and hundred thousand (CMS 9.2 and 9.4)
*Note: there are some exceptions such as numbers in a percent, or with a measurement, etc.
Spell out only numbers one–nine 
Always use the serial comma for consistency (CMS 6.19)
*Note: the serial comma is the final comma before the “and” or “or” in items in a list
No serial comma unless required for clarity
No spaces with en dashes or em dashes (CMS 2.14)

*Example: This is an unspaced dash—I like it.

Spaced dashes
*Example: This is a spaced dash — some people like it better.
Ellipses are spaced on either side with non-breaking spaces in between (CMS 13.50)—the non-breaking space ensures the ellipses won’t be divided over multiple lines.

*Example: Ask him . . . I guess. 
Spaced on either side, but no space between each dot 
*Example: Ask him … I guess
The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s. The possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals, like children, that do not end in s) is formed by adding an apostrophe only. (CMS 7.16)
*Note: this means that it would be James’s hat, not James’ hat (singular takes apostrophe and s). 
Omit the possessive s on all words ending in s whether singular or plural 

8. Create a word list.


Include all names and places to indicate the correct spelling, all words with more than one acceptable spelling, hyphenated words, and invented words.


9. For Fiction: Note characters and their key features.


  • What do they look like and how old are they?
  • What are their prominent personality traits?
  • What is their job?


10. For Fiction: Note each important setting and place, including the prominent details for each.


11. For Fiction: Create a timeline of major events, indicating when they happened.



Free Templates

I created these templates to create style sheets for my authors.

You will notice that some categories have drop-down menus. You can add your own options to these drop-down menus or delete them entirely.  (This article shows you how.)



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