Style sheets

The most basic tool for editing, and one of the most practical, is a style sheet. Most of the time the editor creates this and shares it with others. A style sheet is a table or document used to track our spelling and terminology decisions, so it is an essential tool for consistency in spelling and style. A style sheet may also track decisions that are not covered by the house style or that conflict with the house style, perhaps due to a specific discipline’s style conventions or a writer’s preferences.

Creating a style sheet is not about asserting language rules; rather, it recognizes that consistency is helpful to readers.

Format your style sheet document in whatever style works for you. Some make it an online document (e.g., Google Docs) to share with others, but others might build a style sheet on paper or in a Word doc.

Benefits of a Style Sheet

Creating and using a style sheet offers several benefits:

Intentionality: Each change is made with purpose, and the style sheet documents these in the context of work as a whole.

Time: Since the choices are recorded in one place, we don’t have to look-up previous pages as we work on subsequent parts of the OER. This is more efficient than researching or querying decisions multiple times.

Mental effort: With a style sheet we don’t have to remember every detail to be consistent throughout the book.

Transparency: A style sheet is helpful as a reporting tool. Authors can consult the style sheet to quickly review changes without scanning through the entire book.

Formatting: The style sheet documents formatting preferences to ensure consistent layout and appearance.

Future use: Editors share the style sheet with others so these decisions are archived and can be used in the future.

You may want to share your style sheet with other collaborators by building it in a Google Doc or another type of sharable document. Every time you add or change something in your OER, remember to update your style sheet! When the OER is complete, be sure to save your style sheet and archive it for the next person who may adopt or adapt your work.

For more information see BCcampus’ Open Education Self-Publishing Guide, which offers the “Create a Style Sheet” resource and a template that you can adapt: BCcampus-Open-Ed-Self-Publishing-Guide-Style-Sheet.

What Should Appear in the Style Sheet?

Items to consider and to add to your are as follows:

  • Abbreviations – For geographical locations, proper names/titles, dates, and so on.
  • Attributions – When adding an image, you should use an attribution for photos or drawings.
  • Capitalization – Sentence case should be used for all titles and headings.
  • Citations – When citing a reference, be sure to pick a specific citation style (e.g., MLA, APA, CMS)
  • Measurement/Numbers – Metric measurements are used; refer to style guide for use of numbers.
  • Spelling – Canadian spelling is to be ensured; consistency is paramount.
  • Heading styles
  • Order of textbox styles in each section (e.g. Learning objectives, Exercises, Key Takeaways,  Section Summaries, etc.)

Here’s an abbreviated example from a healthcare OER:

Fig 1. Example of a style sheet  In Figure 1, the term “Fowler’s position” appeared in different parts of the book. A preferred spelling was chosen, and this decision was recorded in the style sheet. The editor and author use this entry to update the rest of the book, to ensure this term will be consistent.

In addition to clarifying the preferred spelling of words, the style sheet reminds us of the formatting decisions we made in earlier parts of the document. These decisions might include:

  • Italics or bold for key terms?
  • Heading levels for tables?
  • Citation and attribution style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago Turabian, CSE)?
  • Canadian or American spelling?
  • Numbers as numerals or words?

Note: It is good to be thorough, but not so thorough that the style sheet becomes its own editing project. An editor can help you develop your style sheet once you have a few sections or chapters completed.


For more information see BCcampus’ Open Education Self-Publishing Guide, which offers the “Create a Style Sheet” resource and a template that you can adapt.

We’ve adapted one for you that includes some resources: BCcampus-adapted Style-Sheet

You may also want to look at BCCampus’ OER by Discipline Directory (open creation)