The Chicago Manual of Style Turns Sweet 16

The New CMS Is Here!

Earlier this week, the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style was released. At the same time, The Chicago Manual of Style Online was updated with the text to the 16th edition.

Regular readers of this blog know of my affinity for The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). CMS is used most often by book publishers and those who work with them and is the official style guide of the University of Chicago Press (no surprise there, right?). Chicago urges publishers in other media to use the guide as well. The first chapter now includes sections on parts of a journal and considerations for web publishing in addition to the section on parts of a book.

CMS boasts other updates that keep in line with changing technology, including:

  • Checklists for editing and proofreading electronic documents are offered.
  • The word web is now lowercased, though Internet remains capped and e-mail keeps its hyphen.
  • Blog titles are put in italics: The Writing Resource, and blog posts are put in quotation marks: “The Chicago Manual of Style Turns Sweet 16.”
  • Proper nouns that begin with a lowercase letter and followed by a capital, such as iPhone, may now begin a sentence.
  • More electronic publishing terms are included in the glossary, such as CSS, JPEG, and wiki.

Other changes in CMS 16 include:

  • An ellipsis is now three dots (periods) with a space before and after. This eliminates the alternative three-or-four-dot method, which I never used if I could help it because it just complicated life.
  • When a title ends in a question mark, you can now add a comma after it if the grammar demands it.
  • The hyphen chart from the 14th edition has been reinstated (7.85). Rejoice!
  • When a generic term is part of a name, such as Illinois River, and is used for more than one proper name, the generic term is now capped: Illinois and Chicago Rivers.

Lists of the changes abound online. Here are two authoritative ones:

CMS Online

CMS has long been a tome of a book. The 15th edition was just under 1,000 pages, and the 16th edition clocks in at 1,026. Many users struggle to find things in it, even with the extensive index. Which is what makes The Chicago Manual of Style Online so valuable. As with Oxford Dictionaries Online, the website offers some information for free and the rest with a paid subscription.

In the free column, you can search both the 15th and the 16th editions’ indexes. Your search results page will list chapter and verse, so you can go immediately to the right page in your book. You also have complete access to the Q&A section. Browse the questions, search for information, or query the editors. It’s a good resource when the manual just doesn’t address your issues. The Tools section is free as well. Find out how to prepare a manuscript, look up proofreaders’ marks, and more.

Of course the real value is in subscribing. You get access to the entire manual—both the 16th and 15th editions—online. It sure beats caring around the manual and you may find answers more quickly with the search function than the traditional index. You also get access to the forum, where you can converse with others interested in CMS. Individual subscriptions are $35 a year, with discounts available for multiyear purchases. Groups and institutions can save with multimember subscriptions. The print edition is $38.02 on Amazon. Of course, subscriptions have to be renewed and print has to be bought just once. But there are benefits to both versions; go with the one that works better for you.

Conclusion

The Chicago Manual of Style is an in-depth, detailed style guide. AP has nothing on CMS for the number of rules and the amount of scholarship offered. CMS has entire chapters devoted to punctuation, grammar, abbreviations, mathematic style rules, and more. The 16th edition has been restructured for digital publishing, making it more relevant, and has stopped waffling on many rules, making it easier to use. If you already use CMS, I’d strongly urge you to update to the 16th edition. It’s not a small update, and it just may resolve many of the issues you’ve been dealing with.

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug...hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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