Most writers think that style refers to the way we write, the flair and artistry we bring to words on the page. But in the publishing world, editors and copy editors use the term to refer to the very particular way they treat certain words–putting book titles in italics, say, or using O.K. rather than okay. If you intend to write for publication, it may be useful to pick up one or more of the following books.
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. This is the standard in newsrooms all around the country. Journalists love it for its easy-to-use A to Z organization. Also included is a primer on libel and other legal issues. Many individual newspapers have their own style manuals, which add local place names or idioms to the A.P. list of terms.
The Chicago Manual of Style, Fifteenth Edition. This is the manual preferred by magazine and book publishers. The new addition has badly needed advice on handling how to deal with Web sites, URLs, and the like.
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing are the authorities in academia, when it comes to style. They are published by the Modern Language Association. MLA style focuses especially on documenting scholarly borrowings for writing on language and literature. It has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for over half a century, as well as more than 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and university and commercial presses throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries.
Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age. This slender volume broke ground in 1996 when its creators at Wired magazine called it “a beautiful object, a useful tool” for its florescent packaging and comprehensive list of Internet words. It was envisioned as a complement to AP and Chicago, which for a long time did not address the kinds of questions made burning by the Internet. A new version in 1999 included an essay on writing in the age of email. Both volumes are out of print by are available from Constance Hale, who edited them.