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Chicago Manual of Style: learning the other stylebook

Journalists are taught to use the AP Stylebook. It’s usually the only option, unless the publication has a house stylebook as well. But newspapers aren’t the only publications that need editors. Books, journals and magazines also need editors. And they don’t use AP Style – they use the Chicago Manual of Style.

Wait, what? There’s another stylebook out there other than AP? I thought something along the same lines when I was purchasing the 1,026-page 16th edition for my editing and publishing class. But I knew I had to tackle the stylebook and begin to learn it, especially since I want to work in the book industry some day.

So, what exactly is the Chicago Manual of Style? The manual has been around for more than 100 years. It began in 1891 when the University of Chicago Press opened its doors and began creating a style pamphlet. Almost 20 years later, the pamphlet turned into the book “Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press, to which are appended specimens in type of use.” What a title. CMS even has the facsimile of the first edition online – all 200 pages of it. It wasn’t known as the Chicago Manual of Style until 1982.

If you want to go into book publishing or work at a publishing company that uses Chicago style, don’t be intimidated. Granted, I’m still slightly intimidated by the size of it and I like big books.

Peter Cambridge isn’t intimidated – he’s tackling the entire book and blogging about it. So far, he’s made it through section 2.88, Capitalizing Opera. There are 16 sections.

But maybe you’re just curious to see what differences there are between CMS and AP. There’s a blog for that, too, cleverly titled “AP vs. Chicago.”

Whatever your motivation is when it comes to learning CMS, dive in headfirst. Follow this handy-dandy guide titled “How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days,” written by Colleen Barry from IDG Enterprise for the ACES National Conference in New Orleans.

Don’t be afraid to branch out from AP Style every once and a while, even if it means skimming through a 1,026-page Chicago Manual of Style.

– Frannie Sprouls

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  1. December 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I found this post to be quite interesting. I had always heard of Chicago style, but never really knew what the purpose of it was. I am also interesting in getting into the book publishing industry so this is very helpful information to have. I think it is good that that particular industry has a different style manner because it is considerably different from the journalism industry and its use of AP style.

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