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Go From What You Know

Hello again, dearies! The ugly sweaters and paper party hats are packed away, and we’re all back at our desks and ready to buckle down and do some fine writing.

I must admit, I’m not entirely focused on my own task; there’s a chocolate apricot cheesecake in the oven, and it’s not at all easy to ignore such a thing.

With a new year comes a host of new resolutions, most of them related to fresh starts and big changes. I am generally underwhelmed by the process, and tend to adhere to old habits. I still enjoy far too much coffee, I have a favorite shawl for chilly nights, and (my apologies) I simply adore that pair of well-worn jeans in the dresser.

Writing can be much the same, and that’s where style comes from. A standard, be it personal or professional. There are basic rules which one must follow, such as never divide a single-syllable word, or never wear a floral shirt with plaid pants. Once we’ve got the foundation set in place, we can go from what we know to what we like.

House style may fall in line with the CMOS, or it may veer off on a tangent. Some places prefer all the things, rather than all of the things, for example. If you’ve ever worked with a publishing company with their own house style, you’ve no doubt had some interesting conversations.

The next time you are considering a publisher, do a bit of research. Look at some of the titles in their catalogue. How does the editing style compare to yours? Are they very similar, or are there glaring differences? Do they seem to prefer established rules, such as from the CMOS, or do they favor a more bohemian style?

Dear, me. The oven timer is beeping, and my coffee cup is empty. I’m off to the kitchen for now, but I’ll be back next month. In the meantime, try a little experiment. Write a bite-sized short story, perhaps one hundred words or so, and use a completely different style than you are familiar with. Write a second version using your typical style. What do you notice? Share your findings (and a line or two from your stories, if you like) in the comments section. It’s not quite warm enough to get out of the house, but it’s always fine enough to think outside the box.

Keep writing, keep reaching, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

The Style Maven, in an attempt to ward off the winter blues, has been in talks to choose the perfect kitchen paint color. She spends most of her day curled up on the floor, weeping over samples and threatening to cover the ceiling with polka-dots.You can read about her other adventures on The Procraftinator page.


  1. Are we entirely certain about the floral and the plaids? I believe I've recently seen a shirt with both. :)

  2. That's frightening, Diana.

    I watch a lot of HGTV, Style Maven, and I don't recall ever seeing a polka-dot ceiling. You might start a trend.

    Seriously, as a CMOS aficionada, I opted years ago to start my own publishing company. I've published more than a dozen writers over more than a decade, and most have been quite happy with the "rules."

  3. Oh dear Style Maven, how lonely your must feel with only two visitors to your lovely post. My apologies for being tied up elsewhere this week. Not literally of course. You do know that, right? But I do wonder how that phrase came into common use. Perhaps that is a post idea for you for another time. Good luck with the paint. I fear you would tire of polka dots quite quickly and then be back in the same conundrum all too soon.


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