Definition of “house style

May 10, 2015
A sidesplit style split-level

The specific usage and editing conventions followed by writers and editors to ensure stylistic consistency in a particular publication or series of publications (newspapers, magazines, journals, websites, books).

House-style guides (also known as style sheets or stylebooks) typically provide rules on such matters as abbreviations, capital letters, numbers, date formats, citations, spelling, and terms of address.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "house style is not a reference to the canard that an entire magazine can be made to sound as if it were written by one writer. House style is a mechanical application of things like spelling and italics."
    (John McPhee, "The Writing Life: Draft No. 4." . . ., we, like just about every media organisation in the world, have a house style guide.

    "Yes, part of it is about consistency, trying to maintain the standards of good English that our readers expect, and correcting former editors who write such things as 'This argument, says a middle-aged lady in a business suit called Marion . . ..' But, more than anything, the Guardian style guide is about using language that maintains and upholds our values . . .."
    (David Marsh, "Mind Your Language." The Guardian, Aug. 31, 2009)

  • The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage
    "We recently revised two longstanding rules in The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, the newsroom’s style guide.

    "They were very minor changes, involving simple matters of capitalization and spelling. But the old rules, in different ways, had long annoyed some Times readers. And the issues illustrate the competing arguments of preference, tradition and consistency behind many style rules. . . .

    "We continue to favor clarity and consistency over a hodgepodge of idiosyncratic preferences. We prefer established usage over change for change’s sake. And we put the needs of the general reader over the desires of any particular group.

    "Consistency is a virtue. But stubbornness isn’t, and we’re willing to consider revisions when a good case can be made."
    (Philip B. Corbett, "When Every Letter Counts." The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2009)

  • "For most magazines, house style is just an arbitrary set of local fetishes that matter to no one but those insiders petty enough to care."
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