Publisher Style Guides

When we’re talking about style guides, there are some clear, global rules that all writers know (or should know) and adhere to.

For example:

  • Submissions are sent with a cover page.
  • Documents are formatted to be 1-inch margins, 12-point size, Times New Roman font, double-spaced.
  • Synopses should only introduce main characters, and they should do so by writing the names in all caps (but only the first time the name is seen).

You get the idea. Industry standards. Things we learn early and adopt as second nature.

But what about newer things, like incorporating specific types of technology or messages into our work?

The Chicago Manual of Style (a popular style guide for fiction writers) says:  “A message is a message, whether it comes from a book, an interview, lipstick on a mirror, or your phone. Use quotation marks to quote.”

This is one of the reasons AIW Press and other publishing houses have created their own style guides. It doesn’t seem logical that a sign or a text message—two forms of communication that are not spoken aloud—would be inside quotes. How would you differentiate a character speaking the words rather than reading them silently if both ways were to use quotes? At best, it would require a lot of unnecessary and laborious exposition to explain it. At worst, readers would never be certain whether the words were read or spoken.

Is this an important detail? In the grand scheme of things, perhaps not. But when it’s more than one rule—say five, ten, twenty or more—it can start adding a lot of extra words or could result in an unclear message.

Right now, the AIW Press style guide is an internal document only that our editors work with. Eventually, we will have the document prepared for our authors and potential authors and make it available online for anyone to access. The more proper rules and formatting you can adhere to before submitting your work to us, the more likely you are to make it through the first round in the acquisition process. You don’t want to be the person rejected for formatting rather than content. And believe me—that happens at most publishing houses. We don’t want that for you. We want you to be a success, and we want your work to shine.

So, what about you? Do you have formatting or submission questions that you’ve never solved? We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Drop us a line in the comments.

PS—If you’re curious, we handle text messages and signs in the following manners.


The fence held a distressed wooden placard, painted white with faded red letters.


Kind of made the bag of bread in her pocket useless. Unless, of course, she fed them anyway. No one was around to see. She wouldn’t get in trouble. And the birds did so love treats. What was the worst that could happen?


Cara’s phone dinged. She glanced at the screen.

Mom: When will you be home?

Cara: L8r

Mom: Later, when, exactly?

No wonder it took her mother so long to text. She wrote out every word like a professor would be grading her.

Staci Troilo bio

About Staci Troilo

Writer. Editor. Marketing consultant. Publisher.


  1. Pingback: Finishing Strong, New Release, and Autumn Equinox – Joan Hall

  2. There are So many things an author must do in addition to crafting a well written novel. Great post, Staci.

  3. I learned something new today. Didn’t know that character names should be in all caps when introducing them. Had to laugh about the texting. Spelling out the words? That would be me!

  4. Style guides are a definite help to authors. My pubbing house has one that I keep handy when working on my manuscripts. I think a style guide for AIW Press is an excellent idea.

    P.S…I never knew that about using all caps to introduce the main character in a synopsis. Thanks for the tip!

    • I’m pretty sure the all caps-thing is so at a glance, agents or editors can see when a new major player is introduced. If you didn’t/don’t follow that convention, I doubt that alone would land you in the rejection pile. But that combined with many other problems in a synopsis (and I’m sure you don’t suffer any of those) could get you tossed.

      I know for a fact that you’ve had synopses accepted (easily) at publishing houses, so I wouldn’t give it a second thought. But, I guess, moving forward, now you know. So, I’m glad I could help. 🙂

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