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HOUSE STYLE A term for rules adopted to bring uniformity and consistency to printed material coming from one source, such as a government department, publishing house, newspaper, professional association, or commercial company. Such organizations usually find it necessary to have a policy for points of STYLE and USAGE that arise in WRITING and PRINTING, and occasionally in SPEAKING. These include often delicate choices relating to: (1) SPELLING variants: inquire or enquire, judgement or judgment, matins or mattins, publicize or publicise. (2) The spelling and PRONUNCIATION of foreign names: Beijing or Peking, Marseilles or Marseille, Moslem or Muslim. (3) Style in ABBREVIATIONS, capitalization, etc.: B.B.C. or BBC; the Company or the company. (4) Contentious general usages: the Arabian Gulf, the Persian Gulf, or the Gulf; Holland or The Netherlands; chair, chairman, chairperson. (5) Contentious grammatical issues: the management is/are; anyonehe or anyonethey. (6) Use of double and single quotation marks: He said, ‘Tell us about it’ or He said, “Tell us about it.” (7) Hyphenation or non-hyphenation: dining room or dining-room; make-up or makeup. (8) Compounding: news letter or news-letter or newsletter. (9) Inclusive language: businessman or businesswoman, or businessperson; generic he or she or (s)he or he or she or she or he or singular they.

In such matters, independent writers may find individual solutions on a longer or shorter-term basis. Few such writers, however, are fully consistent in what they do and are often willing to alter their usages in relation to the expectations of publishers and tors. This means that the evidence of usage in printed material is not necessarily that of the authors, especially in such areas as spelling and pronunciation. Published material associated with an organization, especially in the media, almost always becomes subject to standardization, so as to create a consistent and even authoritative image. Rules are formulated so that people know where they are, creating in effect ‘localized’ versions of a standard language (established, as it were, by small-scale ‘academies’). If writers do not for any reason follow the rules, editors, sub-editors/copy-editors, printers, and proof-readers usually make the necessary changes (but even so some writers succeed in going their own way). Such rules make up a house style, often organized in a style sheet, style guide, or style manual for distribution and easy consultation. Such sheets, guides, and manuals usually become more consistent and detailed as time passes. They are usually available only within an organization, but may sometimes be more widely distributed or even published as commercial titles. This was the case with Ernest Gowers's The Complete Plain Words (1954), compiled for the benefit of British civil servants, and Keith Waterhouse's Waterhouse on Newspaper Style (1989), based on the house handbook for Daily Mirror journalists.

Great Britain

One of the most influential house styles in the UK is that of OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, made publicly available in 1904 in the first published edition of Hart's Rules (see below), and in 1905 in the Authors' and Printers' Dictionary, ed. F. Howard Collins. Collins relied to a great extent on the OED, but often broke new ground where no previous guidance existed: for example, as to when to use initial capitals for words such as Bible, Act of Parliament, New Year's Day, Squire. Many of the rules that he formulated have since become widely accepted in BrE. ‘Collins’, as the handbook became known, influenced the house style of The Times and other newspapers, as well as publishing houses and learned societies. The 11th edition of the dictionary (1973) was extensively revised and rewritten, and published in 1981 as The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (ODWE, 448 pp.), ed. R. E. Allen, D. J. Edmonds, and J. B. Sykes. As a guide to usage, it is offered in conjunction with Hart's Rules, a work first compiled by Horace Hart in 1893, primarily for printers. The Press made the 15th edition available to the public in 1904, and the 39th was published in 1983 (182 pp.), revised and extended so as to complement ODWE. In 1986, the Press published a third work, The Oxford Spelling Dictionary (229 pp.), compiled by R. E. Allen, which also gives word divisions. Whereas the dictionaries provide information on individual items (focused not focussed, tumour not tumor), Hart's Rules has three sections: Rules for Setting English, Spellings, and Rules for Setting Foreign Languages.

The United States

American style manuals tend to be more detailed and to cover more topics than their British counterparts. The most influential is The Chicago Manual of Style (U. of Chicago Press, 13th edition, 1982, 738 pp.). It covers book formats, manuscript preparation and copy-editing, proofs, rights and permissions, design and typography, composition, printing, binding, general points of style, punctuation, numbers, illustrations and captions, tables, documentation styles, bibliographic forms, note forms, and indexes. Many publishing houses and university presses use it as their principal reference. Based on the Chicago Manual, Kate L. Turabian's Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (U. of Chicago Press, 5th edition, ed. Bonnie Birtwhistle Honigsblum, 1987) is a shortened, specialized 300-page version. Academic associations publish manuals geared to various disciplines, whose style (especially for documentation and citation) may vary greatly. In the humanities, The MLA Style Manual by Walter S. Achtert and Joseph Gibaldi (Modern Language Association of America, 1985, 271 pp.) is comprehensive and influential. It gives guidance in all matters of manuscript preparation and publication. The citation and documentation style it recommends (parenthetical documentation in the text keyed to a final list of references) has become the norm, replacing footnotes. A version for students is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (MLA, 2nd edition, 1984, 221 pp.).

Comparable works for other disciplines are the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 3rd edition, 1983, 208 pp.) and the CBE Style Manual (by the Committee on Form and Style of the Council of Biology Editors, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 3rd edition, 1972, 297 pp.). Most major newspapers have house styles, some of which are generally available and influential. The New York Times Style Book for Writers and Editors (ed. Lewis Jordan, McGraw-Hill, 1962, 124 pp.) and The Washington Post Deskbook on Style (ed. Thomas W. Lippman, McGraw-Hill, 2nd edition, 1989, 249 pp.) are typical. Similar are works of news services, such as The UPI Stylebook (ed. Bobby Ray Miller, United Press International, 1977, 200 pp.) and The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (ed. Christopher W. French, Addison-Wesley, 1987, 341 pp.). These works are primarily alphabetical lists of problems with recommendations (comparable to ODWE, above), but may include general information on matters of special concern in reportage. A guide for US government publications, the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual (US GPO, 1984, 479 pp.), began in 1894 and is now in its 28th version. In addition to matters of general style, it gives attention to legal records, the Congressional Record, and other specialized government publications. It also includes information on the printed form of major foreign languages. A small supplement is devoted to Word Division (US GPO, 1987, 142 pp.).