The New Chicago Manual of Style: More Than Just a Blue Cover

Have a love-hate relationship with the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)? I’m sure most of us do, and second-year MAWP student Trudie Gauerke talks about hers in this post about the most recent changes to the CMOS with the release of the sixteenth edition.

If you too have a love-hate relationship with The Chicago Manual of Style, then you likely had mixed feelings when the University of Chicago Press released the new sixteenth edition late last summer. Recently I attended the Chicago Women in Publishing presentation “Editing by the Book: An AP and Chicago Style Update” in order to get an overview of the major changes likely to affect copy editors. Fortunately, Carol Fisher Saller, senior manuscript editor at the press and author of The Subversive Copy Editor book and blog, quickly quashed my fear that all I learned in English 496: Editing concerning the previous edition had become obsolete.

At first glance, the most obvious difference to the manual is the cover-color change to a robin’s-egg-blue shade, a great improvement over its retina-burning blaze-orange predecessors. By far the most important broad change though is that the new manual strives to find a middle ground between the strictness of the fourteenth edition and the ambiguity of the fifteenth. Naturally this update also looks at the expansion of digital publishing technology since its last publication in 2003. For example, it suggests using italics for blog titles and roman for website titles. Similarly it has improved organization through additional labels and subheads specifically intended to help the online subscription-only edition of the manual meet today’s user-friendliness standards.

Since details are arguably the heart of an editor’s job, some of the smaller changes to the manual may have greater significance than the large-scale revisions. For example, the editors now recommend that web, website, and web page be lowercase while maintaining the capitalization of World Wide Web. Also noteworthy is the change of punctuation to the abbreviation US, now recommended without periods. In my writing, I find hyphenation to be one of the most challenging details. Thankfully, the sixteenth edition reinstates a comprehensive table covering the rules of compounds. Now if only they would get on board with removing the hyphen from “e-mail,” I would be one happy editor.

Both the Chicago Manual of Style’s website and Carol Fisher Saller’s blog provide further information about the new rules of Chicago style. If you’re looking for even more fun with your manual, you might want to follow @ChicagoManual on Twitter for their daily tips or check out their archival tweets for outtakes from their editorial meetings. Reading the outtakes, I get the impression that by the time the sixteenth edition was released, some of their own editors had a love-hate relationship with the book too, especially the editor who said, “You’re kidding. It’s blue?”


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