Editing Tips and Rules

What Is Editorial Style?

Editorial style is commonly confused with writing style. While writing style may refer to a writer's unique voice or application of language, editorial style refers to a set of guidelines that editors use to help make your words as consistent and effective as possible. A good book editor will be sensitive to maintaining a balance between your unique writing style—your voice—and editorial style. Studies have shown that consistent editorial style not only lends credibility to your work but also makes it easier to read and understand.

Editing Tips

What Editorial Style Does iUniverse Follow?

iUniverse evaluators and editors follow the same industry-standard style guidelines as most major traditional book publishers. Below, we've listed the style reference and dictionary used by our evaluators and editors. Editors and evaluators may allow exceptions to the standard guidelines depending on the book's context or on an author's specific request.

Editorial References

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010--.
  • Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2003.

Here is a synopsis of some of the editorial guidelines followed by iUniverse editors and evaluators:

Dates and Numbers

These rules apply to the format and style of numbers as they appear in most manuscripts:

  • Use a comma before and after the year in running text (e.g., July 3, 1974).
  • Truncate numbers in year ranges (e.g., 1977–99).
  • Spell out whole numbers one through one hundred.
  • Spell out round numbers greater than one hundred (e.g., two hundred, fifty thousand, etc.).
  • Spell out any number beginning a sentence.
  • Centuries should be spelled out and lowercased (e.g., the twenty-first century).
  • Hyphenate the "tens" and "ones" places in combination numbers (e.g., the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary).
  • Use hyphens to separate the digits in a telephone number (e.g., 1-800-288-4677).
  • Always use numerals with percentages. In general copy, spell out percent (e.g., 89 percent). In scientific or technical contexts, use % without a space preceding the symbol (e.g., 89%).
  • When using numerals to express monetary amounts, use the symbols $ or ¢ (e.g., $45, 53¢). When monetary amounts are spelled out, also spell out dollars or cents (e.g., forty-five dollars, fifty-three cents).


  • Do not capitalize an entire word or phrase for emphasis; use italics instead.
  • Use lowercase letters for a.m. and p.m. (e.g., The train left at 6:00 p.m.).
  • Do not capitalize offices or titles unless used as part of a proper noun (e.g., Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States. Students often study the life of President Abraham Lincoln.).
  • Capitalize personifications (e.g., Mother Nature).
  • Bulleted or numbered list items should begin with a capital letter.
  • Do not capitalize him, his, or other pronouns referring to deities, such as Jesus. Most Bible translations follow this style.



Use a comma for the following reasons:

  • Between two independent clauses joined by a conjunction. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence (e.g., I took my shoes off, and I walked on the grass. I took my shoes off and walked on the grass. Because "walked on the grass" does not have a separate subject ["I"] in the second example, it is not an independent clause. Therefore, no comma is used.).
  • To separate elements in a series, iUniverse prefers its authors use a comma before the conjunction that precedes the final element in the series, called the series or serial comma (e.g., I learned about stars, comets, and planets.).
  • Before and after the name of a state that is preceded by the city in the middle of a sentence (e.g., One thing and one thing only put South Elgin, Illinois, on the map.).
  • With introductory phrases (e.g. Finally, they reached their destination.), in direct address (e.g., Thank you, Mom.), and after yes and no (e.g., Yes, that's what he said.), especially if a slight pause is intended.
  • To separate two adjectives that precede and modify a noun (e.g., He drove the old, rusted car.  He drove the light-green car.).

Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

The hyphen (-), the en dash (–), and the em dash (—) all have different purposes and should be used in different situations. All three marks run flush to the text on both sides (with no space on either side).


  • Use hyphens in compound words and to separate characters (in phone numbers, for example). Examples: That is some heavy-duty machinery! He started working a part-time job. I placed a toll-free call.
  • Hyphenate adverb + adjective compounds before, but not after the nouns they modify unless they appear hyphenated in Merriam-Webster (e.g., much-loved woman but the woman was much loved).
  • Compounds with most and least and adjectives ending in –ly are not hyphenated (e.g., the beautifully decorated house).
  • Hyphenated adjectival compounds that appear in Merriam-Webster's should be spelled with a hyphen when they follow a noun (e.g., Your point is well-taken.).

En Dashes and Em Dashes

  • The en dash is generally used with number ranges to signify "up to and including," "to," or "through." Do not use an en dash if the word "from" or the word "between" precedes the first element.
  • To enter an en dash in Microsoft Word, hold the Ctrl key and press the minus key on the number keypad or hold down the Alt key while typing 0150. Example: You'll find the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:7–13. The measure passed with a vote of 154–17.The war years, 1939–45, were difficult. The war lasted from 1939 to 1945. I lived in Vermont between 1984 and 1986.
  • The em dash (commonly called a dash) is used to set off a statement within a sentence. It is also used to indicate sudden breaks in dialogue. Do not use a space before or after the em dash.
  • To enter an em dash in Microsoft Word, hold the Ctrl and the Alt key and press the minus key on the number keypad, or hold down the Alt key while typing 0151. Examples: Eric—having just discovered the letter—ran down the street after his car. She read works by the beat authors—Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs—and it showed in her writing. "I think you should consid—" was all I heard before the phone went dead.

Colons and Semicolons

  • A colon is often used to introduce an element or series of elements. It can also be used between two independent clauses (similar to the semicolon) to emphasize sequence. Examples: There are four states of matter: liquid, solid, gas, and plasma. I didn't feel threatened by them: after all, I had seen them fight before.
  • A semicolon is often used to separate two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction. Examples: We reached a fork in the road; two of us went left, and the other three went right.


  • Use ellipses to indicate broken, stuttered or interrupted dialogue, and incomplete sentences.
  • If the omitted material appears immediately after a complete sentence, use a period followed by Microsoft Word's ellipsis character (created by holding the Ctrl + Alt + period keys).
  • When using the "four-dot method" (in which the ellipsis appears after a period) put a space after the ellipses, but not before (.… ). When only three dots are used, put a space before and after the ellipsis ( … ).


Only use "nor" with "neither."

Write parallel sentences. When a sentence contains two or more ideas that are parallel, try to construct each idea in the same way grammatically.


  • Unparallel: The manager was responsible for writing orders, counting inventory, and to organize the stock room.
  • Parallel: The manager was responsible for writing orders, counting inventory, and organizing the stock room.
  • Unparallel: It would be easier to take the train than changing your flight.
  • Parallel: It would be easier to take the train than to change your flight.

Avoid passive sentences. Use passive sentences sparingly, if at all. Because passive sentences usually only show who or what is receiving the action, they leave the reader wondering about who or what in the sentence is performing the action. Another tip-off that a sentence is passive is that it usually contains some form of the verb "to be" (e.g., is, are, was, were, had been).


  • Passive: The meeting was held last night. (Who held the meeting? The meeting is receiving the action.)
  • Active: The student council held the meeting last night. (The student council held the meeting and is giving the action.)
  • Passive: To accomplish this, the following had to be considered … (Who had to consider the following?)
  • Active: To accomplish this, she had to consider the following

Make nouns and pronouns agree.


  • Incorrect: A student must work hard if they want to be at the top of their class.
  • Correct: A student must work hard if she wants to be at the top of her class.
  • Correct: Students must work hard if they want to be at the top of their class.

Check your modifiers. The best way to check your modifiers is to find sentences that begin with the action rather than the actor. Once you figure out what the action is in the first portion of your sentence, just make sure that you clearly identify the actor in the second part of the sentence. If the actor is not identified, then you've probably got a dangling modifier.


  • Incorrect: Driving to New England in the early fall, the trees had begun to turn beautiful colors. (The trees were not driving.)
  • Correct: Driving to New England in the fall, we saw that the trees had begun to turn beautiful colors. (We were driving.)


  • US (United States)—Use this abbreviation only as an adjective. As a noun, spell out "United States."
  • For other abbreviations, use periods with lowercased abbreviations but use no period between the letters of an abbreviation in full or small caps (e.g., a.k.a., OPEC, NRA).
  • Use i.e. and e.g. only between parentheses, set in a normal type (not italic or boldface), and followed by a comma.

Word Choice and Consistency

  • Capitalize brand names (e.g., Popsicle, Kleenex, Kool-Aid).
  • Use American English (e.g., criticize not criticise) unless the context, setting or audience dictates otherwise.
  • When Merriam-Webster lists multiple spellings of a single word, use the topmost spelling (e.g., judgment, not judgement).

Commonly Misspelled and Mis-capitalized Words

  • Acknowledgments (no e after the g)
  • Foreword (not Forward, when referring to front matter in a book)
  • Internet (always with a capital I)
  • e-mail (with a hyphen after the e)

In-Text References

Do not use in-text references that refer the reader to a particular page or page number (e.g., on the previous page or on page 52). When your book is converted from an 8.5" x 11" page, the formatting and page numbers change, making all such references invalid. If you do make in-text references, either make them relative (e.g., later in this chapter, in chapter 5, in the following paragraph) or be sure to correct these after your book is formatted.

Citation, References, and Bibliographies

Authors have two main choices for dealing with sources:

  1. Use author-date parenthetical citations within the text, paired with a bibliography.
  2. Use endnotes and a bibliography.

Author-Date System

When you use something specific from a source, such as a quote or a paraphrase, one option is to use a parenthetical text citation in author-date style. (If you use this method, you will need a bibliography.) For example:

A dog can improve your life by giving you unconditional love, developing responsibility in your children, providing you with security against intruders, and perhaps even lowering your blood pressure (Wyant 1999, 29).


Another option is to create a footnote. Here is an example of how a small numeral is placed within the text to reference a footnote:

Many people have found that caring for these loving companions has actually resulted in lower blood pressure.1

The reader can then look to the corresponding footnote to find information on the book you quoted. In a book, endnotes appear at the end of a chapter or, more commonly (because they are easier to locate), at the back of the book. If you put your endnotes at the back of the book, strongly consider including a bibliography to expand on any publication information that does not appear in the endnotes. Endnotes are preferred over footnotes for books that appeal to scholarly and general audiences. Here is an example of a footnote that would be used in conjunction with a full bibliography:

1. Wyant, The Dog Lover's Guide to Life, 29.

The corresponding bibliographic entry would give more information:

Wyant, Wendy. The Dog Lover's Guide to Life: How Your Dog Can Make You a Better Person. New York: Star Spirit Press, 1999.

Bibliography Style

iUniverse follows the style below for referencing books and periodicals in bibliographies.

Referencing Books
Lastname, Firstname. Book Title. City, State of Publication: Publisher's Name, Year.

Referencing Periodicals
Lastname, Firstname. Year. Title of Journal Article. Journal Name Vol: Page–Range.


If you've borrowed material from other copyrighted sources, you may find yourself wondering whether you need to seek written permission to use another author's words or thoughts. While you must cite the source for every quotation or paraphrase you decide to use, some borrowed material requires further permission from the copyright owner before it can be used in your book.

If you're still unsure whether you need to seek permission, refer to chapter 4, "Rights and Permissions," in the Chicago Manual of Style. You can also look to the website of the National Copyright Office.

Once you've determined what permissions are necessary, you'll need to send a formal request to the copyright holder. Our sample permissions letter (PDF 61KB) provides a helpful template for preparing your requests.

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