It is important as a writer to show consistency in writing. Consistency is accepting a style guide fitting for your type of writing, for example, APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or Chicago. Or by adopting a style of your own and using it throughout the project.
Examples of using consistency in writing include adopting:
- one font style and only a few font sizes (body font and title font)
- set margins, paragraph style, tabs, and bullets
- similar numbering, lettering, and grammar for lists and bullet points
- spelling style (e.g., US versus UK)
It is tough for a reader to look at multiple types of fonts. This includes mixed uses of italics, bold, and underlined lettering. It is distracting, contributing to the view that the manuscript is disorganized and unclear. Headings, titles, and bullets or numbered lists should be consistent within the manuscript. The statements in these sections should be parallel, consistent in how they are presented regarding the use of a verb tense or descriptive phrase. As an example, the list above uses a noun in each statement. The list below uses an action verb.
What other steps should the writer include to ensure consistency?
- Use an appropriate verb tense throughout the project
- Incorporate one style for footnotes, citations, and references
- Develop spacing rules for sentences, paragraphs, and lines (single- versus double-spaced)
- Use one person style
- Include a ranked system for titles and headings (e.g., centered, flush left, capitalized, italic)
Consistency in Writing
Being consistent in your writing and editing professionalizes the project, whether it is a fiction or non-fiction manuscript. Two good references for font readability include The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst and The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web. Italicizing book titles and putting a hyperlink in blue and underlining it are examples of a style that you would incorporate every time you include similar references.
The best way to ensure consistency is in the editing of the project. For example, outline most of the rules if you are using a style manual. The primary task is to follow the guide. However, if the writing style is unique, the professional editor should keep a log as they review the project. As a result, this will keep track of the different styles incorporated. You can apply the techniques later on in the project. For example, note that your first use of a book title is italicized. Use this similar style each time you use a book title in the manuscript.
Style consistency is a characteristic of an excellent writer.
Originally posted 5/20/2009 and happily updated 11/14/2017. Thanks for reading!