Capstone Editing Will Continue To Use The 6th Edition of The Style Manual

The seventh edition is inappropriate for academic writing

In 2020, the sixth edition of the Snooks & Co Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, which had been the official style manual of the Australian Government and adopted by Australian universities, was superseded by the seventh edition (freely available online).

The online edition of the Style Manual was created to provide guidance suitable for general and online writing and editing (with a strong emphasis on writing for the web). The resulting style advice is, in many places, inappropriate for formal and academic writing.

Therefore, although this update is long overdue—the sixth edition was published in 2002—Capstone Editing will continue to recommend and use the sixth edition (with a few deviations for academic writing as outlined below) for all documents in British/Australian English.

A few examples


The online edition recommends using numerals for numbers two and above (except in these specific instances). Clearly, the following sentence would look quite out of place in a journal article:

‘They were open to discussing 3 options.’

Conversely, the sixth edition recommends using words for numbers up to 100 in descriptive text and numerals for numbers over nine in statistically oriented text (p. 164). For academic writing, we recommend always using numerals for numbers over nine.

Em dashes

Controversially, the online edition advises against using unspaced (or spaced, for that matter) em dashes. Instead, the advice is to use a spaced en dash to set off non-essential information, including clarifications, interruptions, corrections, short lists or summaries. We feel quite strongly that em dashes are necessary to ensure the utmost clarity in formal and academic writing, so we will continue to use this perfectly lovely piece of punctuation to signify abrupt changes, amplifications and explanations, and parenthetic expressions, as per the sixth edition (pp. 106–107) guidelines—and those of just about every other style manual!

Colons and semicolons

The online edition advises to limit the use of colons (to avoid confusing readers) and to avoid using semicolons to link sentences (because short, simple sentences are easier to read). However, a full range of punctuation is required to convey a clear and accurate message, especially in formal and academic writing. Again, academia utilises complex sentence structures that necessitate the use of colons and semicolons. Therefore, we will be continuing to recommend and use both marks where appropriate according to the sixth edition (pp. 99–101).

En dashes in prefixes

The new Style Manual advises writers to avoid joining prefixes with an en dash (when they are required instead of a hyphen in some cases). This is once again because its focus is on accessibility and Plain English—the plainer, the better.

Following the recommendations (and example) of the online edition, ‘pre–Cold War policies’ would be changed to ‘policies from before the Cold War’—a clunky and inelegant phrase that obviously cannot be argued to be clearer or more concise. Thus, it seems the only explanation for this rule is the writers of the Style Manual believe readers will be confused by the usage of an en dash instead of a hyphen in those cases where one is required.

We will continue to use the sixth edition

Given that it was written primarily for government purposes—and that its focus was on Plain English—there are several instances in which the sixth edition’s rules or stylistic choices are not suitable for academic writing. Coupled with the fact that it was published in 2002, Capstone Editing needed to develop our own house style that is appropriate for formal academic writing and meets international publication standards.

One example is mentioned above regarding the use of numerals for all numbers over nine (rather than up to 100). We also do not follow the sixth edition’s preference of the first person nor the active voice. In academic writing, the third person and the passive voice are often more appropriate or even required (as explained in our blog articles on these issues). A future blog will outline further deviations and provide examples.

Largely, however, our editing—and academic writing in Australia in general—complies with the sixth edition of the Style Manual, and this will remain the case until a suitable up-to-date replacement is produced.

US English

For documents written in US English, Capstone Editing uses and recommends the seventh edition of the APA Manual for the sciences, and the seventeenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style for the humanities and social sciences.

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