By act of Congress the Director of the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is authorized to determine the form and style of Government printing. The Style Manual is the product of many years of public printing experience, and its rules are based on principles of good usage and custom in the printing trade.
Editors and writers whose disciplines have taught them aspects of style different from rules followed in this Manual will appreciate the difficulty of establishing a single standard. The Style Manual has served Federal printers since 1894, and with each new edition, the traditions of printing and graphic arts are carried forward into new technologies.
Essentially, the Style Manual is a standardization device designed to achieve uniform word and type treatment, and aiming for economy of word use. Such rules as are laid down for the submission of copy to the GPO point to the most economical manner for the preparation and typesetting of manuscript. Following such rules eliminates additional chargeable processing by the GPO.
It should be remembered that the Style Manual is primarily a GPO printer's stylebook. Easy rules of grammar cannot be prescribed, for it is assumed that editors are versed in correct expression. As a printer's book, it necessarily uses terms that are obvious to those skilled in the graphic arts. A glossary of such printing terms to be complete would unnecessarily burden the Manual.
Its rules cannot be regarded as rigid, for the printed word assumes many shapes and variations in type presentation. An effort has been made to provide complete coverage of those elements that enter into the translation of manuscript into type.
See pre-2000 editions of the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual