Whenever I undertake a copyedit, I prepare a style sheet to ensure consistency of spelling, punctuation and other stylistic conventions within a document. Having completed a number of these now, I’ve started to see a pattern in the general editorial changes I’m making to do with spelling and sentence punctuation so I thought it would be a good idea to share some of these. If, when you’re writing your text, you can adhere to these accepted conventions, it will make less work for your editor, which will lead to a faster (hence cheaper 🙂 ) edit.
- When writing for an Australian audience, use accepted Australian spellings
While we may speak similarly – albeit with a twang here and there – there are subtle spelling differences between American, British and Australian English so, if you’re writing for an Australian audience, it’s important to be aware of these differences. If you’re ever in doubt, check an Australian dictionary, such as The Macquarie Dictionary or The Australian Oxford Dictionary.
However, there are exceptions to this convention (aren’t there always?). For example, when referring to accepted organisation or journal names (eg World Health Organization, Journal of Aging Studies) it is important NOT to Australianise, but rather retain the original spelling. If ever in doubt, just check with your editor.
Here are a few examples of different spellings:
- Single space after full stop
Whereas in the past, two spaces after a full stop was the accepted convention, today the Style manual for authors, editors and printers recommends ‘one space only’ to follow a full stop (p 97).
- Single quote marks
Now this is an area in which the traditional double quote marks are still widely used. However, today the Style manual for authors, editors and printers recommends ‘in keeping with the trend towards minimal punctuation … single quotation marks [be used and] [d]ouble quotation marks [be] used for quotes within quotes’ (p 112).
So, when should single quote marks be used? The Style manual (pp 212-214) provides numerous examples, including:
- to enclose direct speech or direct quotations
- when referring to the title of an unpublished document, a chapter in a published work, an article in a periodical, an essay, a lecture, a short poem or a song
- for a technical term on its first mention in a non-technical document
- for ironic emphasis.
- Spaced ellipses
Ellipses points ‘are primarily used to show the omission of a word or words from quoted material’ (p 110). However, I regularly note confusion in the use of ellipses with variations including differences in the number of dots and spacing before and after. To clarify, ellipses points consist of three consecutive dots only with one space before and one space after.
If you, as an author, consistently adhere to the above conventions, you’ll make your editor very happy > it will take less time to edit > it will be cheaper! Win/Win! 🙂
Commonwealth of Australia 2002, Style manual: for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, rev. Snooks & Co., John Wiley, Brisbane.