Home > Journalism > Adapting to House Styles

Adapting to House Styles

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 6 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
House Style Spelling Grammar Tone Editor

If you are serious about writing for newspapers, magazines, or even anthologies, sooner or later you will need to start adapting your work to suit different house styles. This can sometimes be stressful and confusing, especially if you have to keep track of different house styles for different editors. If you can master it, however, being able to adapt quickly and write reliably in accordance with instructions will prove a strong selling point.

Why House Styles Matter

Every professional publication has its own house style. This is a set of rules covering spelling, punctuation and grammar. It can also apply to issues like capitalisation, use of italics and the style in which titles should be written. Despite what you may have been told in school, there is no one set of correct rules governing these matters. There are a number of conventions, each with its own social connotations.

Setting a house style enables a publication to maintain the consistency vital to making a professional impression. It also contributes to its social identity. For instance, a publication that favours semi-colons over dashes and avoids neologisms is likely to be seen as more highbrow than its competitors. A publication that makes extensive use of neologisms and popular acronyms may be seen as more youthful.

As well as communicating messages like these to readers, a house style helps to set the tone for writers. It can help you to identify with the character of the publication you are writing for.

Establishing House Style

Many publications will address issues relating to house style up front, in publicly available documents. Sometimes you will be able to find guidelines on its website, so you can take account of them even when sending query letters and pitches. If they are not available like this, you should read past issues to familiarise yourself with the general style, then ask for guidelines when you first make contact.

House style guidelines are not always complete. If you're writing about unusual or evolving subjects, you may encounter issues that publications haven't had to develop a policy on before. Sometimes, if you are on a short deadline, this means you will have to make a decision on your own. If you do so, always highlight it in a note when you submit your work, so the editor can decide whether to keep or change your approach.

Aspects of House Style

If you are writing for foreign English-language publications, say for the US or Indian markets, you will need to alter your spelling accordingly. Even within Britain, however, there are variant spellings of many commonly used words, such as 'inquiry' and 'enquiry' or 'collectable' and 'collectible'. These matters should be covered by house style.

One of the most common issues that arises in relation to house style is hyphenation. There are many instances in which words may be written separately, in hyphenated form or in conjoined form, such as 'right wing', 'right-wing' and 'rightwing'. This can be hard to keep track of and won't always be picked up by a spellchecker, so it's important to proofread your work.

Every writer has a style of their own which they lapse back into when they're not having to fit in with someone else's rules. A good way to adapt to house styles is to make a list, for each publication, of words that differ from your usual style. You can then search for them in your finished document and make sure you've got them right.

Adapting to house style can be frustrating and, if you are criticised for occasional mistakes, can feel like a thankless task. Get it right, however, and you will prove your seriousness and dedication, making editors much more likely to seek out your work in future.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • 4christ
    Re: Script Writing: The Concept
    Pls I used a image for my gig on fiverr hope that did not just offend? I found the image on google images and I used it, pls pardon…
    21 May 2020
  • CunardWhiteStar
    Re: How to Write News Articles
    Hello a new ship being launched in 2030 or 2033 so The ship is called the R.M.S. Lusitania II It Has More Balance for sink It will be…
    6 August 2019
  • Cunard Line
    Re: How to Write News Articles
    RMS Lusitania II is Being Launched on 3030 With More Balance and Lifeboats This Ship can Carry over 3,000 Passengers and 6,000 Crew…
    3 August 2019
  • Yellow Star Line
    Re: How to Write News Articles
    If TITANIC III Sinks TITANIC IIII Will Be Launched on 2043 Anouncement.
    3 August 2019
  • Yellow Star Line
    Re: How to Write News Articles
    TITANIC III Will Be Launched On April 12 2030 It has Over 900 1st class cabins 1,000 Crew members 800 2nd class cabins and 700 3rd…
    3 August 2019
  • Yellow Star Line
    Re: How to Write News Articles
    TITANIC III Will Be launched On 2030 With More Lifeboats Over 101 Boats carried and 1,000 Crew Member 900, 1st class Cabins 800 2nd…
    3 August 2019
  • Kaylie
    Re: Can An Editor Rewrite My Story?
    I saw an old black n white movie that was never made into a book. If I rewrote it with different additives, could I do this…
    10 June 2019
  • Gee
    Re: Script Writing: The Concept
    Am bless with this power of imagination words pops into my heads freely I think it is my own gift from nature but am faced with…
    20 March 2019
  • Adoko Vincent
    Re: Narrative Journalism
    I am not a journalist,but I am a Public relations officer for my campus cultural association. This site has given me some insights about…
    31 October 2018
  • fastassignmenthelp
    Re: What is a Synopsis and How to Write One
    In short "a brief summary or general survey of something" OR "an outline of the plot of a play, film, or…
    27 August 2018