Lisa Thompson, editor
Some of my editing clients seem to think that it’s easy to edit a manuscript with lots of Bible verses in it because the editor doesn’t have to do any real “editing.”
I can’t begin to say how incorrect that thought is. There are many technicalities for correctly citing and formatting Scripture, and I certainly won’t cover them all in this post. But I want to go over just a few guidelines here. These are taken from “The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, the Fourth Edition,” which should be used when writing a Christian book. This style guide is a complement to “The Chicago Manual of Style.”
The following list is by no means exhaustive.
- Put Bible verses in roman (plain) font. Do not italicize or bold them.
- Some versions have italicized words in the text if you cut and paste the verses from an online source. Change these to the roman font.
- Use italics to add emphasis only. Example: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16, emphasis added).
- In the above, move the period to the end of the sentence, after the parentheses.
- Verses should usually run in the body of the manuscript. There are two exceptions: the Psalms and poetic citations, which should keep the identical formatting of the Bible version; and block quotes, which are longer than 100 words and indented from the left margin. (Indenting from the right margin is optional. I usually don’t do this.)
- Blockquotes do not need quotation marks at the beginning or end of the quote.
- Do not bold or italicize the references. Leave them in roman font.
- Per the publisher’s request, you cannot make global changes to the entire verse. In other words, you should not put the entire verse in bold or italics. If you want to do this, you need to ask permission from the publisher. The only exception would be for a version that is in the public domain.
- Use en dashes — not hyphens or commas — to show a range of numbers in verses. Example: Romans 8:28–29. Not Romans 8:28, 29. Not Romans 8:28-29.
This post is by no exhaustive. Please reach out to me if you have further questions about this or any other editing topic.
Lisa has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She has a degree in elementary education and a minor in English. After working in retail, law enforcement, and education for years, she transitioned to writing and editing full-time in 2009. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her sons and eat chips and salsa. When she can do both at the same time, she’s especially happy.