Practical Action Publishing
House Style Manual
This House Style Guide is intended to assist anyone writing, editing or keying in material
which may circulate outside Practical Action Publishing, and we ask that our authors,
editors, copyeditors and proofreaders work to these rules.
In general we follow 'Oxford style'. This document records those areas where, because of our
particular needs, we need either to build on or vary from the 'Oxford style', or where practice
varies so much that it is useful to record the preferred options.
Features of the text
Headings and sub-headings
Tables, boxes and lists
Glossary/List of acronyms
Spelling, grammar and punctuation
Abbreviations and acronyms
Quotation marks and quotes
Internet and digital terms
Preparing the typescript
Acceptable electronic media
Features of the text
Headings and sub-headings
Keep to two, or at most three, levels of heading below the chapter heading level. Please
choose a style for each level of heading and stick to it throughout the text. Make sure that the
hierarchy is clear but do not number the heading levels. The only numbered headings should be
the chapter headings and, if the book has them, the part headings.
Copy editors should indicate the headings in the following way:
Power for pumping
[A] Human power
[C]The rotary-drive handpump. [C] level headings are usually reserved for paragraph headings,
in which case they are shown as, e.g.
[C] The rotary-drive handpump. This type of handpump is appropriate where ….
Each chapter of edited collections should begin with a short abstract of 100–150 words,
describing the content and main findings of the chapter.
Tables, boxes and lists
Avoid more than four or five columns, especially if the book is to become an ebook i.e.
to be read on the small screen of an e-reader. Try breaking up large tables into smaller
tables, or boxes.
Make sure that the copy lends itself to tabulation. If column or row headings are a
problem, then think about putting the information back into the main text as copy or
putting it in a box.
Tables should be numbered independently of any other illustrations and consecutively
within each chapter, e.g. Table 1.1, Table 1.2, Table 2.1, etc. (use ‘0’ for tables in an
introduction and ‘A’ for any in an appendix).
Please make table titles short and to the point. Table titles should include the table
number, beginning with an upper-case initial and have no terminal punctuation: Table
1.1 This is a table title
Please keep the formatting of tables to a minimum, i.e. do not include shading of
different columns or rows or unnecessary use of bold and italics.
For column and row headings, use an initial upper-case letter; for descriptions of units
given under column or row headings, use lower-case letters throughout, e.g. Length of
stay (column or row heading); weeks per year (units). For table main body text, use
initial caps only; proper nouns as usual have initial capitals.
Source should be put at the bottom of the table. The word ‘Source’ will be in italic
followed by a colon.
Notes to tables should be superscript Arabic numbers.
Boxes can be useful devices, for example, to display a case study that highlights the core
message of the text, or to display material that is not essential to the understanding of the
main text. In these cases, the relationship to the main text should be made clear, by referring
to the box in the text. If overused, text boxes can make a publication difficult to follow.
Particular style points:
Don’t box quotations.
Don’t define tabulated material as a box. Define as a table.
Boxes must have a title and be numbered by chapter (e.g. Box 3.1)
As a general rule, don’t box numbered or bulleted lists.
To avoid boxes being broken over a page, try not to exceed 400 words.
As a general rule, lists of a few items should be incorporated into text sentences. Too great a
use of bulleted lists makes the document difficult to read; lists are not a suitable medium for
presenting the various stages of an argument because the ‘connecting tissue’ between the
elements is missing. If you do decide that you want to draw special attention to a list, separate
it from the main text and use numbers or bullets for each entry. Specific points of style for
Use a numbered list when the contents amount to a progression that needs to occur in
a specific order, and a bulleted list when the order is of no significance.
Separate items in run-in lists with semi-colons. If you want to label them, use the style
‘: 1) Mercury; 2) Venus; 3) Earth.’ (Don’t use full stops after the numbers in a run-in
Use full stops after numbers in displayed lists.
When items in a displayed list are complete sentences, begin with an upper-case letter
and end with a full stop, e.g.:
1. Full sentence.
2. Full sentence.
3. Full sentence.
When items in a displayed list are just words or phrases, begin with a lower-case letter
and separate the items with semi-colons. Put a full-stop at the end of the last item in
the list, e.g.
Avoid mixing the two styles.
Text following a list. This should be indented as for a new paragraph.
Headings. Use italics rather than bold for a heading within a list (as in these last two
Authors should produce final artwork that is ready for incorporation into the text. This should
either be in a suitable electronic format or high-quality artwork which is ready to be
transferred straight to film.
Photographs should be submitted at a resolution of 300 dots per inch, at the size you
would like them published, or larger. They should be submitted as separate jpeg or tiff
files (tiffs are preferred for colour cover photos). They should be supplied in colour;
they will appear in colour in our electronic publications, but will normally be
reproduced in greyscale in our print publications. Sharp definition and good contrasts
of tone make photos work well in colour and greyscale.
Line images should be at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch at the size you
would like them published. They should be two-dimensional and NOT threedimensional. Figures may be reproduced in colour in our electronic publications, but
will normally be in greyscale in our print publications. If submitting in colour please use
a consistent colour set e.g. that supplied by Microsoft Word or Excel, and ensure that
the colours chosen will work with sufficient contrast when reproduced in greyscale.
Drawings in WordArt and similar packages tend to lack resolution once they are
converted. It is preferable to have such illustrations redrawn professionally before the
typesetting process begins, using a professional drawing package such as Adobe
Illustrator. Please do not hesitate to ask a member of the editorial team for advice.
If you cannot get your illustration redrawn in Illustrator, WordArt can sometimes be an
acceptable second best. Draw each figure at the size that you would like it to appear
(normally up to 11cm wide) on the page with the labels in 9pt (font: Arial), lines in
0.75pt and each figure saved as a separate numbered and named file (the filename
should include the figure number and caption). Use tints sparingly or not at all.
Graphs are best supplied in the spreadsheet package from which they were produced
(e.g. Microsoft Excel).
Illustrations, whether photographs, line drawings or electronic images, should be supplied
separately from the main text. Please number all illustrations (figures and photographs
numbered separately) consecutively within each chapter. Do not include the figure caption
within the image, but do include it in the file name, after the figure number (e.g. Figure
2.3 The market map of the cardamom value chain in Taplejung, Nepal). Put a marker
including the number, caption and any necessary source in the main text to show
placement of the figure (e.g. ‘Near here: Figure 2.3 The market map of the cardamom
value chain in Taplejung, Nepal).
Do not supply eps files as these cannot subsequently be edited.
Whatever the source of your illustrations, please do not embed the images or scans into a
Word document or other word processing file.
When referring to other sections of the same book, or other articles in the same journal issue,
avoid giving a page reference (which will be meaningless in the ebook version) or referring to
e.g. ‘Cook’s article in this issue’ (which will be meaningless if the article/chapter is offered
separately from the rest of the issue or edited collection). Instead refer to a section by its
heading (e.g. ‘see Chapter 3 section ‘Methodology of the study’’) for an authored book, or give
the full reference for a journal article or chapter in an edited collection (e.g. ‘see Cook, 2012’
followed by an entry in the reference list).
Footnotes should be avoided and replaced with endnotes to the main text. Endnotes
should be numbered by chapter and identified by superscripted numbers placed after
punctuation using the Word endnote function.
All references should be in the text (Harvard system) and not put in full in endnotes.
Endnotes should be used for further (minimal) clarification.
Note that Waterlines , Enterprise Development and Microfinance and Food Chain do not
use footnotes or endnotes.
Positioning: endnotes should be placed at the end of each chapter for edited
collections, followed by a reference list. For books where all chapters are written by
the same author(s), endnotes go at the end of the book, numbered by chapter,
followed by a consolidated reference list.