Appendix 2: Style Guide

Before writing a new textbook or revising an existing one, it is important to establish a road map that will guide the style of the work. That’s where a style guide comes in handy. In addition to the style guide, you should create a style sheet that outlines the specific characteristics of your book. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

Below is an alphabetical list of the topics covered in this style guide. Also see the BCcampus Writing Guidelines for Style and Tone [New Tab].

Boldface

Citation Style

Dashes

Dictionaries and Reference Books

Italics

Labels and Captions

Measurements

Numbers

Punctuation

Reference Lists

Spacing

Spelling

Boldface

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

Citation style

Like any academic work, it is important to cite new information. Refer to SFU’s Writing & Style Guides [New Tab] for citation style guides and tips on how to cite. (See also Citation vs. Attribution.)

Select the citation style to be used for referencing material in your book and note this on your style sheet. If you are writing about a subject within a specific discipline, select the citation style appropriate for that field.

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

With reference to the style guide you have chosen, determine:

  • Whether you should use footnotes or in-text citations and how to format them
  • How to reference direct quotations. Should a page number be used for the citation style you’ve chosen?
  • How to list multiple authors in an in-text or full-reference entry
  • Where will the reference list be placed

If you are adapting a work and remove an in-text citation, remove the reference from the reference list.

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 used for the citation style you’ve chose, such as:

  • Where periods are used
  • Use of italics
  • Use of brackets
  • Use of quotation marks
  • Use of spaces

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

See Reference Lists.

Dashes

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 (-)

  1. Use an en dash when expressing a range of numbers, such as the years of a person’s life, e.g., 1955-2001.
  2. There should be no space on either side of the en dash.
  3. In Pressbooks, use one hyphen to indicate one short (en) dash.

Dictionaries and reference books

For in-text citations and reference lists, consult the style manual particular to the discipline you work in (e.g., MLA Handbook, APA, Chicago Manual of Style).

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 books, 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 not italicized (e.g., Bob’s Your Uncle, MuchMusic).

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.

Labels and captions

For guidelines on how to label, number, and add captions to all resources non-text resources, see Resources: Captions and Attributions. This section also discusses best practices for attributing objects that are not original creations but have instead been borrowed from an external repository.

Measurements

Because this style guide was created for Canadian authors, metric measurements are used. As such, we use kilometres, not miles; millimetres, centimetres, and metres, not inches, feet, or yards; kilograms not pounds; and 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 centimetres. Record this as 25 centimetres.

Numbers

Spell out numbers from one to nine and use Arabic numerals for numbers greater than nine, except as indicated in the 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 numbers 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 (37.8°C).
  • 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., The puzzle boxes were 50 cm long, 38 cm wide, and 30 cm tall.)

When to use numerals rather than words

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

Punctuation

Consider how punctuation will be handled in your book. Below is the standard established for this style guide. If you choose one or more different styles, enter these on your style sheet. (See Create a 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). A serial comma is also known as an Oxford comma.
    • Serial comma: There were cows, horses, and pigs in the barn.
    • 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, 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 quotation marks 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?”)
    • Some exceptions to this system may be appropriate in specific disciplines. Please check with your project manager or copy editor.
  • Place footnote numbers outside end punctuation (usually a comma or period).
  • Do not use periods in abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms, except as noted in a spelling list (e.g., et al., etc., i.e. are the most common that retain the periods).
  • Do not hyphenate Latin phrases used adjectivally. (e.g., ad hoc proposal, post hoc analysis.)
  • For hanging hyphen constructions (15- to 19-year-olds), do not hyphenate after “to.”
  • Do not use quotation marks 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?)

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 in this style guide 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 a non-standard, 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.

Reference lists

Reference lists are typically laid out in alphabetical order by the last name of the primary or first-listed author. This, however, does depend on the citation style that your choose.

If the title of a publication is used instead (no author listed), then entries that begin with “The” should be alphabetically sorted by the word after “The.” (e.g., The Economist should be sorted in the E’s.)

See Citation Style.

Spacing

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

Spelling

In general, Canadian spellings are used for open textbooks managed by the BCcampus Open Education. (See Appendix 3: Canadian Spellings and Word List.) List all spelling exceptions on the style sheet for your textbook. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

For authors who are not writing in English, a standard spelling list can be created as part of the textbook’s style sheet.

License

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Appendix 2: Style Guide by Lauri Aesoph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.