This is a long-term, personal project to create a simple style guide intended for K12.


  1. Focus on Information Literacy
  2. Simple
  3. Gradable
  4. Uses open tools
  5. Scalable from Kindergarten to Grade 12
  6. Free


The ALA and MLA style guides are needlessly complex for average users.  Even sophisticated users must rely on automated tools to get every detail correct.   The printed guides are intimidating and even “user friendly” web sites are many pages long.

While the current systems worked well with print sources, the explosion of on-line sources have made citations unwieldy and often very long.

A new system is needed that can be done without thick style books or automated web sites, allowing the student to focus on content.

Since it is for primary and high school students, it should be oriented towards information literacy, gradable and conforming to state and national education standards.

A new citation system should focus on:

  1. authoritative sources
  2. timely resources
  3. finding the cited source

A new system should emphasize clarity and consistency rather than conformity.

A new system should prefer open tools and be flexible enough to accommodate new writing tools to come.

A new system should facilitate digital cataloging of the document.

1. Focus on Information Literacy

The central focus on the Open Style Guide is the teaching and practice of information literacy rather than academic publishing.

It s assumed that the vast majority of K12 research projects will never be formally published so there is no need for one strict, uniform style.  Uniformity within the paper is promoted but this is for the sake of clarity.  The student’s paper just doesn’t need to be perfectly uniform with a set standard.

Instead of worrying about the form of her paper, the student focuses on authoritative resources, properly used and accurately cited.
This focus is progressive through the grades, with young children simply  providing a list of books they read then, through the grades, they increasingly add precision until they are conforming to college and business standards in their final years before graduation.

A high school may offer a writing unit on how to apply OSG information literacy principles to writing college papers, business reports, journalism or other “real world” scenarios.

The OSG teaches the student to:

  1. Have an authoritative, timely source for key factual claims.
  2. Document the author, title, publication and date of the source.
  3. Identify where the reader can find the source and, if needed, the factual claim within it.

2. Simple

The Open Style Guide is naturally simpler than other guides because it has very few format requirements. Indents, margins, line-spacing, page numbering and fonts are not specified.

A teacher may always make his own classroom specific requirements. For example, double-spacing to leave room for corrections, a wider left margin for binding or 12 point, Times New Roman for readability. This is an important “open” philosophy of the Open Style Guide. It recognizes that while the principles of information literacy are near-universal, a writer also must conform to localized requirements.

The OSG makes no specifications regarding grammar, as long as it is standard and appropriate to the type of writing. For example, first-person “I language” may be appropriate for a middle school persuasive essay while third-person language may be required for a high school research project.

In the OSG, formatting is modeled rather than required. Sample papers for various kinds of writing are available to the students to model after. However, reasonable and consistent deviations from these models are not penalized.

Citation within the body of the paper is done by whatever footnoting feature the software offers, typically a superscript number.  In the endnotes, sources are listed in order of use.  If a footnoting feature is not available, in-line, parenthetical citations may be used.  As usual, consistency and clarity are more important than form.

Perhaps the least-flexible aspect of the OSG is citing sources. However, it has been greatly simplified from previous standards and is very basic for younger grades.

The basic model follows this pattern

“Title of Article” by John Doe in Publication, page 123; date; [where to find it]

Notes:  This model is simplified for younger grades. Formatting and punctuation are graded but not heavily weighted.  Prepositions (“by” “in” “at” etc.) are natural grammar. Pages are only cited for longer sources. “Where to find it” is highly flexible.

High school standard:

 “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck; 1939; Bantam Books (1971 edition)

 “Bullying” by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at the MedlinePlus website; 2014;

 “How is Hearing Loss Identified?” by Marilyn Friend in Special Education, 2nd Edition, pages 320-321; 2008;

 Middle school standard:

 “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck; 1939

 “Bullying”; 2014;

 “Special Education” by Marilyn Friend, page 320; 2008

 Grade school standard:

 Life on the Oregon Trail by Sally Isaacs

 About Habitats: Forests by Cathryn Sill

 Abraham Lincoln at World Book Online

3. Gradable

(text to come)

4. Uses open tools

(text to come)

5. Scalable from Kindergarten to Grade 12

(text to come)

6. Free

(text to come)

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