Tip of the day: Writing with style

If you’re a freelance writer (or want to be one), you know it’s important to write the best article you can and turn it in on time. But wait — after you turn your article in, your job may be done, but your editor’s job has just started. In many cases, it’s her job (or the copy editor’s) to make sure your article conforms to the publication’s style sheet. The closer your article follows those rules, the less work for your editor, who will then think kindly upon you when making future assignments.

A magazine’s style sheet is its list of rules covering everything from what words are capitalized to what numbers are spelled out. Each publication has its own set of rules, although many style sheets have a lot in common. To make sure you aren’t breaking those rules, ask for a copy of the publication’s style sheet. If none is available, take a few minutes to study the publication and ask yourself: Are the titles of books put in quotation marks or italics? Are there certain words that are abbreviated? In headlines, what letters are uppercase? Or you can compare your submitted copy with the published version and note any differences. Understanding those style issues can go a long way toward getting that next assignment.

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