Style guides

Editing to fit the style guide

I can remember in primary school going through lists of different ways to say “said” in a piece of writing – said, asked, demanded, muttered, screamed, whispered, etc. We were told to mix it up a bit as it would make the writing more interesting.

Fast forward too many years to count and I start writing chapter books for children. The general advice is to use the word “said” most of the time instead of using a variety of tags, even if it’s a question.

One thing I’ve discovered lately, both as a writer and as a reader, is there is no right or wrong way here, although if you are writing for children, keep it simple. Different editors and publishers will have different style guides to how they want things written.

Some will mix it up, and others will stick with said.

It’s the same with other elements of style, including whether or not to call parents Mum and Dad or her/his mum or her/his dad.

After working with a particular publisher or editor for a while, you learn what they prefer and can write your manuscript with that in mind.

If you’re still unsure, don’t worry, your editor or publisher will edit your work to fit their style guide. This is one of the many reasons they will edit your work even after your manuscript has been accepted for publication.

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