Tactical Editor: Advice for Self-Editing

Editors use style sheets to assist them in keeping track of information in the work they are editing, but a style sheet in the hands of an author becomes a valuable tool--a filing cabinet of sorts, where all pertinent data is kept readily available. A variety of details can be noted on the style sheet and will help an author avoid the necessity of thumbing through page after page of a manuscript to check facts.


Pertinent facts such as unusual spelling for names, eye color, hair color, distinguishing marks, likes, dislikes, even specific speech patterns can be noted in a check list under information regarding each character.


When writing a character with a different dialect, certain phrases may be used by an author. A style sheet makes it simple for a writer to note specific wording or spelling which will be utilized throughout the novel.

Geographic information/setting:

Whether the setting of a novel is fictional or real, a style sheet is a great place to note particulars concerning geographic oddities or the description of a town. Detail can also be given to specific rooms, especially if the setting is important to the plot or if the setting is a plot device in itself.


On occasion, story timelines can become bothersome. A style sheet noting important dates and time frames puts the information at a writer's fingertips.

Back story information:

Not all back story ends up in a novel, but on occasion, it is important to have it written down in a style sheet in the event the information becomes necessary for the author to include.

Research notes:

A style sheet is a perfect place for an author to place research. Whether the notes are set a part on a separate area of the spreadsheet or placed under other topics such as geographic information, etc., they become readly accessible.

The uses for a style sheet are as varied as the authors who use them. If you'd like to share what you include in your style sheet, we'd love to hear from you.

Until next week,

Happy editing.


  1. I discovered style sheets when I became a freelance copy editor and proofreader several years ago, and began to use them when working on my own writing projects. Now I can't imagine working on one of my novellas or books without one! Style sheets are great for reference to character descriptions already given, vocabulary already looked up, and so on--as you said; as such, they're a great time saver for an author too!


  2. I use a notebook to jot down info. Would this be considered a style sheet?