Monday, September 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Developing a Personal Style Sheet

Because I thought I was close to the production stage with the Hardenbrooks of Seneca County monograph, I pulled from the bookshelf my copy of Producing a Quality Family History, by Patricia Law Hatcher, CG. 

I first learned that my title was inadequate.  Ms. Hatcher advises that family histories should include: who, when and where in the title. My title is missing dates. Reflecting on that, I realized my title is also misleading, since I track the Hardenbrook family through Seneca, Cayuga, Tompkins and Steuben Counties. Back to the drawing board on that one. 

Although I have my Chicago Manual of Style close at hand to guide me on the use of en dashes, etc. Ms. Hatcher points out there are genealogy related writing issues in which personal decisions have to be made.  Consequently, I should have developed a Personal Style Sheet much earlier since I write my family history as I research.  I now have to go back and make sure I am consistent with such things as: date format (June 1, 1830 or 1 June 1830), page formatting and layout, name spelling (sometimes your ancestor was called Mary, other times Polly), abbreviations (do you use “birth” or “b:”? does “prob” mean probably or probate?), and women’s names (how to refer to the women in your book – by maiden name or married name, or both? Should you put maiden names in parenthesis?).

The first decision a writer has to make:  Who is the audience?  This decision will help answer some of the questions for developing your style sheet.  Will your audience be professional genealogists or “cousins” and others interested in reading a good story?  Ms. Hatcher suggests you spell out as many terms as possible as it makes for much easier reading.

And before I "publish" I shall have to acquire a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 

I prefer to write up my research findings as I go because it helps me identify missing information.  Either way, it is a good idea to develop your own style sheet sooner rather than later.

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