Style Guide

Before adapting an existing book or creating a new one, it’s important to establish a road map that will guide the style of the work. This Style Guide, originally developed by the B.C. Open Textbook project, will provide a framework from which to begin. In addition to this guide, you can create a Style Sheet that outlines the specific characteristics of your book.

Manuals and Dictionaries

  • Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd ed.
  • Editing Canadian English, 2nd ed.

For in-text citations and reference lists, consult the style manual particular to the discipline of the specific book (e.g., MLA Handbook, APA, Chicago Manual of Style). For further guidance, consult the U of S Library Citation Style Guides.

Citation Style

Select the citation style to be used for referencing material in your book and note this on your Style Sheet.

If you are writing for a specific discipline, select the citation style appropriate for your area.

If you are creating a table, chart or graph, see “Citation vs Attribution” on Images: Captions, Attributions and Citations for information on how to add in-text citations.

If you are adapting an existing book, use the citation style chosen by the original author.

Consider the following;

  • How in-text citations should appear
  • How a page number is used for the citation style you’ve chosen; be careful when inserting direct quotations
  • How to list multiple authors for an in-text or full reference entry
  • How and where the reference list will be placed
  • If you should use footnotes instead of a reference list.

Also ensure that;

  • All in-text citations are noted in full in the reference list
  • Only in-text citations are included in the reference list.

If you are adapting a work and remove an in-text citation, remove this reference from the Reference list at the end of the chapter.

If you want to indicate sources used for writing that have not been specifically cited in the text, add these items to a Bibliography at the end of the chapter.

Pay close attention to the punctuation.

Note: No periods should be used after URLs when they end a reference list entry.


See Images: Captions, Citations and Attributions


In general, Canadian spellings are used. Consult the Canadian Spellings list for first-choice spelling preferences. List exceptions in your Style Sheet.


Consider how punctuation will be handled in your book. Below is one standard. If you choose one or more different styles, enter these on your Style Sheet;

  • Standard usage for this Style Guide is a serial comma, i.e., a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunctive (and, or, nor)
    1. Serial comma: There were cows, horses, and pigs in the barn
    2. No serial comma: There were cows, horses and pigs in the barn
  • Use commas in numerals over 999 (e.g., 1,000; 45,000)
  • In displayed lists, always start items with a capital letter. Use end punctuation, such as a period, with full sentences only
  • Do NOT capitalize the first letter of the first word after a colon unless the colon introduces two or more sentences
  • With em dashes (inserted in Pressbooks by adding two hyphens side by side), insert a space on either side
  • Use the North American system for quotation marks; periods and commas always go inside quotation marks; semi-colons and colons go outside
  • Use double quotes for all quoted matters. Single quotation marks should be reserved to enclose quotes within quotes. (e.g., Mark exclaimed, “You have driven a stake into my heart! Now I truly understand Caesar’s words, ‘Et tu Brute?’ How could you treat me so?”)
    1. Some exceptions to this system may be appropriate in specific disciplines. Please check with your project manager or copy editor
  • Place footnote numbers outside punctuation (usually a comma or period)
  • Do not use periods in abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms, except as noted in spelling list (e.g., et al., etc., i.e. are the most common that retain the periods)
  • Do not hyphenate Latin phrases used adjectivally; ad hoc proposal, post hoc analysis
  • For hanging hyphen constructions (15- to 19-year-olds), do not hyphenate after “to”
  • Do not use quotes with so-called (e.g., Her so-called friend left her standing in the rain.)
  • Use italics for words used as words (e.g., The term vocal cords is often misspelled. What do you mean by nexus?).

Use of boldface

Boldface is reserved for key terms within the text body. It should not be used for emphasizing a word or phrase.

Use of italics

  • Use italics for words used as words (e.g., The term vocal cords is often misspelled. What do you mean by nexus?)
  • The titles of movies, TV shows, and radio programs are italicized (e.g., The Grey Fox, Definitely Not the Opera). The names of bands and music channels are regular font not italic (e.g., Bob’s Your Uncle, MuchMusic)
  • See Italics and Foreign Words


Em dashes ( — )

  • The em dash is the standard for breaking a sentence or setting off parenthetical statements
  • With em dashes, insert a space on either side
  • In Pressbooks, the em dash is created by using two hyphens. In the Book view, two hyphens will look like one long (em) dash.

En dashes (-)

  • Use an en dash when expressing a range of years such as birth to death (e.g. 1955-2001)
  • There should be no space on either side of the en dash
  • In Pressbooks, use one hyphen to indicate one short (en) dash.


Use only one space after a period (i.e. between sentences) and after a colon (:).

Italics and Foreign Words

Often foreign words are italicized in a textbook.  However, if you’re not sure whether to use them or not, consider the following;

  • If the word is not italicized in the dictionary, then italics shouldn’t be used
  • “Common” foreign words do not take italics (e.g., ad hoc, vis-a-vis)
  • In Canadian English, many French words are not italicized.

Emphasizing Words with Punctuation

Sometimes an author will want to stress or emphasize a word or phrase. While acceptable, this practice should be kept to a minimum. In most cases, the word(s) should be written in a way that the stress or importance of a word or term is clear in context. Follow these guidelines;

  • Do NOT use boldface or quotation marks for emphasis. Boldface is reserved for key terms within the text body
  • Use italics for words used as words (e.g., The term vocal cords is often misspelled. What do you mean by nexus?)
  • Words that are meant to alert the reader that a term or word is used in nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense should be marked off with quotation marks (e.g., “Child protection” sometimes fails to protect).
  • Words that are common expressions and figures of speech should NOT be set off in any way (and in this text, sometimes they are).


Metric measurements are used, i.e., km not miles; mm, cm and metres, not inches, feet or yards; kg not lbs; Celsius (C) not Fahrenheit (F).

If an existing book is being revised, convert imperial measurements to metric and round off the result. For example, 10 inches equals 25.4 cm. Record this as 25 cm.


  • Spell out numbers from one to nine and use arabic numerals for numbers greater than nine, except as indicated in checklist below
  • For ordinals, spell out first through ninth unless they are part of an array that includes a higher ordinal. Ordinals greater than ninth are expressed as numerals unless they occur at the beginning of a sentence (… in the 12th century but Twelfth-century monks …). Acceptable suffixes are 21st, 32nd, 43rd, 54th
  • For fractions, spell out in running text with a hyphen (e.g., two-thirds)
  • Use commas in numbers greater than 999
  • For percentages, use arabic numerals and the % symbol, closed up. The symbol should be repeated with each number in a range or series (the incidence varied from 1% to 4%; 6% to 7% of cases). If a sentence begins with a percent value, spell out both number and percent
  • For temperatures, use arabic numerals and the degree symbol (37.8oC)
  • For times of day, use a colon only when a fraction of an hour is indicated (9:05 a.m.; otherwise 2 p.m.). With 12 o’clock, specify noon or midnight
  • For number ranges in text, use “to” (50 to 100 mg) except for years (1998–99, 1999–2013) and pages (213–223), which take en-dashes
  • For number ranges in tables and parentheses, use an en-dash (50–100 mg)
  • Always use numerals with school grades (e.g., Grade 6)
  • Use digits and abbreviations in measurements (e.g., puzzle boxes were 50 cm long, 38 cm wide, and 30 cm tall).

Use numerals rather than words

  • In addresses (Suite 2, 400 West Hastings)
  • For dates (17 May 1948)
  • As designators (day 8, chapter 10, page 9, protocol 5)
  • In figure and table designations (Figure 3, Table 6)
  • For money ($14, $9.97, 6 cents, US$200)
  • For temperatures (20°C)
  • For time of day (11 p.m., 2:45 a.m., 07:30–13:00 )
  • With units of measure (2 m, 7.2 kg)
  • With percent symbols (0.02%, 99%)
  • With “million” and “billion” ($1 million, 9.4 billion units)



When you first begin working with your instructional designer, you’ll be expected to create an outline of your book. This outline should include a list of all chapters and their topics, as well as any front matter (introduction, preface) and back matter (appendices, glossary) to be included. Determining the outline, or layout, of the book helps to organize the subject matter and create a project timeline so the book can be appropriately managed.

Chapters and boxes

Once you’ve created a book outline, consider the framework for each chapter and what is needed to address pedagogical concerns. The following items must be identified for your Style Sheet.

Use the boxes features only as labelled;
  • Learning Objectives
  • Key Takeaways (can be relabelled as Key Terms)
  • Exercises (or related items such as Answers, Questions).
For other items, such as References, Further Research, Case History, use;
  • Heading 2 title
  • You can also highlight this information with a Text box (shaded or plain), found under “Formats”.

Learning Objectives

The Learning Objectives function is found at the top of the editing page. Click on “LO” to insert this box.

Figure 25.1 Click on Learning Objectives (LO) button to insert the box

Learning Objectives

Type your learning objectives here.

  • First
  • Second

Key Takeaways

The Key Takeaways function is found at the top of the editing page. Click on the “KT” “box.

Figure 25.2 Click on the Key Takeaways (KT) button to insert the box

Key Takeaways

Type your key takeaways here.

  • First
  • Second

Key Terms (Glossary)

Typically, key terms are highlighted as bold or italicized in the text body and then added to the KT box. The term is set as bold in the KT box; the definition is in plain text.

The KT box function can be used to list Key Terms, just re-label the box as follows;

Key Terms

Type your key takeaways here.

  • First
  • Second


The Exercises function is found at the top of the editing page. Click on “EX” to insert this box. The Exercises label for this box can be renamed using other synonyms for exercises that are descriptive of the type of exercises included such as Short Answers, Exercises and Critical Thinking, and Essays.

Figure 25.3 Click the Exercise (EX) button to insert the box


Type your exercises here.

  • First
  • Second


Pressbooks provides a variety of heading levels beginning with Heading 1 (the most prominent and largest) down to Heading 6.

  • If you decide to use, as your highest heading, any level other than 1, note this in your Style Guide.
  • Decide how words in headings will be capitalized.

This is what the six different headings look.

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6

Style Sheet

Below is a template of a style sheet. Remember, list only exceptions and additions to the Style Guide. An area for pedagogical features has also been included.

Table 25.1 Template of a style sheet
Style Item Exception Notes
Citation style
Other style points
Pedagogical Features Placement Notes
Learning objectives
Key takeaways
Key terms/glossary
Reference list
Suggested readings



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USask Open Textbook Authoring Guide - Ver.1.0 Copyright © 2016 by Distance Education Unit, University of Saskatchewan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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