Publishing: Style Guides

One of the more exciting parts of setting up a publishing house has been drafting our Style Guide. This may not sound exciting, but its nuts and bolts like this that tell you what is important.

Most publishers are bound up in long publishing traditions. Conventions developed over many years are still followed. But they aren’t particularly useful anymore. They were designed for a non-digital age, where searches involved catalog cards and reference librarians. Now, searches involve Google.

I’m editing an upcoming book, and came across this footnote:

Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther’s Works, Vol. 51 : Sermons I. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1999, c1959 (Luther’s Works 51), S. 51:III-99

That’s a fine Chicago Style reference, worthy of a place in the finest of doctoral theses. But we aren’t publishing doctoral theses. We are publishing works for people to read. So I changed it to match our Style Guide. It’s now an inline reference and reads, (AE 51:99). All the same information is conveyed, but in a much more friendly format.

We’re trying to make books that are easier on the eyes, as well as the pocketbook. The intellectual rigor is still there. The theological acumen is not sacrificed. And we are fanatical about faithfulness. No Atonement-deniers need apply. But there’s no reason to keep going with outdated methods when we can easily and painlessly let you know where to find a quote.

And don’t worry, the copyright page will still note that AE means the American Edition of Luther’s Works. You’ll be able to find the information old school if you want. If computers ever die, our books will still be useful. Just not as pedantic.

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