A stylesheet helps writers to utilize one of the elements of a good manuscript: editing consistency.
Now, I am not advocating that you do your own final edit on your manuscript; as I have said 1,000 or more times, you need to hire a professional book editor to make sure your manuscript meets industry and reader standards.
You, as writer, should create a stylesheet in order to make sure you spell everything in your manuscript consistently from beginning to end.
As a book editor, I have seen name spellings evolve through a manuscript. Smith at the beginning turns into Smythe at the middle, and Smythe-Gibbons at the end. Johnson becomes Johnston. “Is this the same person?” I ask as editor. If I’m asking that question, so is your confused reader.
You also can use a stylesheet to make sure your descriptions, setting, time, and other details remain the same throughout the book. If Mary’s apartment has a roof terrace at the beginning, it had better have a roof terrace at the end, unless you have consciously destroyed that roof terrace somewhere within your storyline.
Time period? If you start out in 1950, keep your story there unless you segue into another time period gracefully.
It’s easy to create a simple stylesheet. You can take a blank word doc and just start listing the points you wish to keep consistent—such as names, places, phrases, etc.
Or, you can create a table in Word that keeps a clear list of your notes.
If you get to the end of your manuscript and are uncertain as to whether you have been consistent, all you have to do is click Find and check out every mention within your doc.
You will appreciate more detail rather than less on your stylesheet. It even helps to date when you make notations on it.
When you hire your editor, you can save time and money by handing over your original stylesheet. Your editor will immediately know your intentions within the book, and will actually have fewer questions for you during the edit.
If you are planning to format your manuscript into a printed book or an ebook, you need to keep a stylesheet for this work also.
This type of stylesheet will contain fonts, margins, how to handle your heads and illustrations, and so on. It deals with the “look” of your book.
Building and maintaining a stylesheet is extremely important when trying to maintain consistency within your manuscript. Granted, stopping to write down details takes a little more time, but the benefits will be obvious in your finished project.