Style Sheets

A style sheet is a record of the styling and formatting expectations for your text, such as spelling choices, selection and placement of learning objects, and differences in punctuation, layout. Frequently used style elements can also be noted on the style sheet for easy reference, especially during the copy editing and proofreading stages. Style sheets are useful when collaborating with others on a textbook, or when solo to maintain consistency. During the editing phase, a style sheet can be given to an editor who can use it as a guide for what to look for.

A style guide is a set of prescribed standards for the writing, formatting and design of documents. The standards can be applied either for general use, or be required usage for an individual publication, a particular organization, or a specific field. For example, APA, MLA, and Chicago are all style guides used within specific disciplines.

Selecting a Style Guide

Because style guides offer standards for formatting and designing documents, it is helpful to consider which style guide you will use before filling out your style sheet.  Style guides are usually discipline-specific. Commonly used style guides include,

  • APA Style. APA (American Psychological Association) style is typically used to cite and style works in the social sciences and education.
  • Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago style is most often used to cite and style works in the humanities. This style was developed by the Chicago University Press in 1906.
  • MLA Style. MLA (Modern Language Association of America) style is most frequently used to cite and style works in the literary and humanities fields.
  • Canadian Press Stylebook. The Canadian Press style is the standard for style guide for those working in the media and communications.

Many of the sections in the style sheet are influenced by the style guide that you chose like citations, references, and front and back matter. Style guides can also prescribe a specific date system, figure numbering, and sometimes spelling. Any deviations from the style guide should be noted on the style sheet.

Filling Out the Style Sheet

In addition to the prescribed standards set by your style guide, it’s important to understand some of the other decisions you need to make when designing your text.

A style sheet can get very complicated very quickly, so this section will offer some clarifications of the various sections within the style sheet. They are presented in the same order that they appear in the style sheet template found below.

Style Sheet Downloadable Template

Here is a Pressbooks Style Sheet Template [Word file] that you can use to create your own Style Sheet, as well as an example of what a filled-out style sheet [Word file] looks like. Keep in mind what export formats you will be using as they may alter or restrict your design options.

This style sheet was adapted from the BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide Appendix 2: Style Guide.

To get started on your style sheet, download the above template and fill out project team information such as title, author, copy editor, and proofreader.  Review the different items on the sheet that require styling decisions (e.g., media attributions, figures and tables, etc.).  The Pressbooks Style Sheet Template was created to used with the basic Pressbooks design elements, which are recommended for most textbooks.  However, some items on the style sheet will not pertain to your project.  Feel free to remove these from the style sheet.  Alternatively, you can add items to the style sheet that are specific to your project and require consistent styling guidelines.  Once you have solidified what items require styling decisions, you can begin noting your decisions on your style sheet. 

Any time you make a styling decision for your project be sure to update the style sheet, edit the “Last revised” date at the top of the document, and share the changes with your team.  This is essential to ensuring consistent styling throughout the text.  When the book is finished, date the style sheet and mark it as the “final copy.” This reference document can be shared as part of your textbook when it’s published.


The organization section of the style sheet refers to the basic structure of your project.  Here, you will make decisions on the following:

  • Sections to include in the Front and Back Matter of your book
  • Structuring of your text’s body content (i.e. list out all chapters are their accompanying sections)
  • Location of chapter notes (if applicable)
  • Location of references
  • Location and type (e.g. TASL) of media attributions

It is essential that you have a clear and consistent structure for your text, otherwise, users will have a difficult time following the flow of your finished project.

Textual Style

The textual style section refers to how you will format text within your project.  The following are the most common textual style decisions that need to be standardized across your textbook:

  • Capitalization
  • Italics
  • Numbers, Dates, and Times
  • Punctuation
  • Quotes
  • Verb Tense

Be sure to consult your chosen style guide as it will determine much of the content in this section.  For example, APA dictates when and how capitalization is used in a text.

Visual Style

The visual style section refers to any visual elements you use in your text.  Decisions for visual style should be made to ensure consistency across all chapters and to follow best practices from the Textbook Design Rules.

Headings and Labels

Headings and labels are useful in breaking up the content so that it is easier to digest by the reader. Most online visual text editors have default Heading styles which can be chosen from a drop-down list, but it is usually possible to alter these.

Consider things like what capitalization style Headings, Sections, and Labels will be in (title-case, upper-case, sentence-case, etc.), and what style will be used for each type of heading.

Images, Figures, and Tables

Images, figures, and tables often complement text and convey information to the reader.  In the case of images, they may either convey information or serve as decoration.  Styling decisions for these elements could include where they will appear in relation to the text, numbering and titling systems, limits for how many appear per page, etc.

Pull Quotes

Pull quotes refer to when a quote appears on its own as special text within the paragraph in a white box, appearing on a particular side, usually larger than the paragraph text and in a different font. These are usually used to make the quote stand out from its surroundings and be a more visual element.

Determine how many pull quotes will be used within a chapter, what side they will pull to, etc.


Textbooks are supplementary pieces of information that appear next to the text but are not considered a part of the text itself. For example, boxes containing activities or exercises, key takeaways, or examples. We recommend keeping the number of different types of boxes limited and consistent.

One common use for textboxes is for Learning Objectives. Learning Objectives appear at the beginning of each chapter (or chapter section) and outline what the reader should expect to learn in this section.

Make rules for each type of box separately. Some potential rules could be about how the box will look, where they will appear in relation to the text, how much content there will be or what wording will be used.

Pressbooks Style

The Pressbooks Style section refers to the number of styling options that are built into the Pressbooks platform.  These styling options are applied by editing the settings of your Pressbook.

Pressbook Theme

There are a number of preset theme options available in Pressbooks.  The standard theme for open textbooks is McLuhan, but you can choose whichever theme best serves your project.  Additionally, if there is something about a preset theme that you would like changed, you can customize the design further by editing the CSS code for whichever theme you are using.

Part & Chapter Numbers

By default, Pressbooks automatically generates part and chapter numbers for your book. These are visible in all book formats. These numbers display on part and chapter title pages as well as on the table of contents (“Automatic Pages and Content”, Pressbooks User Guide). You can choose whether or not to have Part and Chapter numbers automatically appear in the list of contents and index.

Collapse Sections

In order to navigate content more easily, Pressbooks gives you the option of collapsing content by using the H1 Heading. Whenever a H1 heading is used, all content underneath it (until the next H1 heading is found) will be hidden.

Appendices: Abbreviation and Glossary Lists

If your text includes abbreviations and/or glossary terms, it is recommended that you fill out these sections of the style sheet.

A specific list of abbreviations that will be used throughout the textbook will help keep the writing consistent through the writing process and collaboration.  Create a chart listing all of the words that you will be abbreviating and what their abbreviations are. You may want to consider including this abbreviation list as a part of your front matter.

Similarly, a specific list of glossary terms will help streamline the process of applying the Glossary function throughout your textbook. Create a list of all the terms that will appear in your book’s glossary and what their definitions are.  You will also need to determine how often glossary terms will be highlighted in your text (e.g., only the first instance of a term or every time the term appears).




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UBC Open Text Publishing Guide Copyright © 2022 by Erin Fields; Amanda Grey; Donna Langille; and Clair Swanson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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