In the next few weeks I will be posting the text for a "volume" that I have been distributing for the last fifteen years. Back in 1997, I handed out a two-page set of instructions that I called "Rob's Style Sheet." I quickly learned that it could be a useful teaching tool, allowing me to describe the practicalities and esoterica surrounding grammar and style in the higher education classroom (and beyond). It also became apparent that it could be a useful tool for writing comments on student papers. Instead of trying to explain in the margins of a paper that s/he was using "number" in problematic ways (we'll get to that), I could write "#19," and have her know exactly what I mean. The most impressive students learned the material very well, and some of them have already gone on to be successful writers—in and beyond academia and the corporate world.
|[a] Style RF|
Palatino/Text 12-point Palatino type, double-spaced
Palatino/Notes Footnote text; 10-point, single-spaced
Palatino/Quotation Double-spaced, 12-point
Palatino/Sub1 A bold-italic subheading
Palatino/Sub2 An italic secondary subheading
|[b] Style RF|
When I learned of these in 1993, my entire life changed. Yours will, too.
These styles are so powerful, so academic life-altering, that you will never, ever be able to return to moving around little column bars to make quotations, adjusting font-sizes for footnotes, or altering just about everything to create headings and subheadings. I wish I remember the book that first mentioned these styles. It surely was a book on writing success that I was reading while I procrastinated during the writing of my dissertation. That I cannot remember the title should be evidence enough that I spent a great deal of time and money avoiding work on the thesis, but that is another story for another time.
|[c] Style RF|
I have included a few links, but I would suggest going right into one of your existing documents. Make a copy of it, and then experiment with styles. If you can figure out how to play Angry Birds on your iPhone, this will not be difficult.
It is not difficult, and it will change the way that you write...forever. If you spend any significant amount of time writing and—like ninety percent of your fellow students, insurance agents, professors, and lawyers—you will remember this day as the one when you finally gained control of your documents. You will write to your friends and, weeping with gratitude, tell them how easy it is to create (instantly) a perfectly formatted title from the generic slop of fonts and page widths in a document draft.
Here's the rub. No one listens. I use "no one" somewhat loosely here, but I can say with confidence that I have told far more than a thousand students about styles in the last decade or so. I have shown how double-spaced text can be turned (instantly) to single-spaced, and back again. Several students have shrieked with surprise at the wonder of it all, and one clapped her palms against her cheeks in disbelief. Still, only a tiny number of students actually integrate styles into their writing repertoire. Semester-after-semester I ask how many people are using styles. The vast majority of times, no one is. I explain it all again.
But no one listens.
Be "the first." It will change your life.
Margins and Fonts
We will dive into the nitty-gritty for a few posts (this is a writing guide covering everything, don't forget), before re-entering the culture wars centered on grammar and usage.