Chicago Manual of Style: An Overview

10 12 2012

The Chicago Manual of Style (abbreviated in writing as CMS or CMOS (the version used on its website), or verbally as Chicago) is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its sixteen editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing. It is “one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States. The CMS deals with aspects of editorial practice, from American English grammar and usage to document preparation.

What is now known as The Chicago Manual of Style was first published in 1906 under the title Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press, to which are appended specimens of type in use (image right). From its first 203-page edition, the CMOS evolved into a comprehensive reference style guide of 1,026 pages in its 16th edition.[1] It was one of the first editorial style guides published in the United States, and it is largely responsible for research methodology standardization, notably citation style.

The most significant revision to the manual was made for the 12th edition, published in 1969. Its first printing of 20,000 copies sold out before it was printed.[2] In 1982, with the publication of the 13th edition, it was officially retitled The Chicago Manual of Style, adopting the informal name already in widespread use.

More recently, the publishers have released a new edition about every ten years. The 15th edition was revised to reflect the emergence of computer technology and the Internet in publishing, offering guidance for citing electronic works. Other changes included a chapter by Bryan A. Garner on American English grammar and usage and a revised treatment of mathematical copy.

In August 2010, the 16th edition was published simultaneously in the hardcover and online editions for the first time in the Manual’s history. In a departure from the trademark red-orange cover, the sixteenth edition featured a robin’s-egg blue dust jacket (image lower right). The latest edition features “music, foreign languages, and computer topics (such as Unicode characters and URLs)”. It also offers expanded recommendations for producing electronic publications, including web-based content and e-books. An updated appendix on production and digital technology demystifies the process of electronic workflow and offers a primer on the use of XML markup; it also included a revised glossary includes a host of terms associated with electronic and print publishing. The Chicago system of documentation is streamlined to achieve greater consistency between the author-date and notes-bibliography systems of citation, making both systems easier to use. In addition, updated and expanded examples address the many questions that arise when documenting online and digital sources, from the use of DOIs to citing social networking sites. Figures and tables are updated throughout the book, including a return to the Manual‘s popular hyphenation table and new, selective listings of Unicode numbers for special characters.

The Chicago Manual of Style is published in hardcover and online. The online edition includes the searchable text of both the 15th and 16th—its most recent—editions with features such as tools for editors, a citation guide summary, and searchable access to a Q&A, where University of Chicago Press editors answer readers’ style questions. An annual subscription is required for access to the content of the Manual. (Access to the Q&A, however, is free.)

The Chicago Manual of Style is used in some social science publications and most historical journals. It remains the basis for the Style Guide of the American Anthropological Association and the Style Sheet for the Organization of American Historians.

The Chicago Manual of Style includes chapters relevant to publishers of books and journals. It is used widely by academic and some trade publishers, as well as editors and authors who are required by those publishers to follow it.

Chicago style offers writers a choice of several different formats. It invites the mixing of formats, provided that the result is clear and consistent. For instance, the 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style permits the use of both in-text citation systems and/or footnotes or endnotes, including use of “content notes”; it gives information about in-text citation by page number (like MLA style) or by year of publication (like APA style); it even provides for variations in styles of footnotes and endnotes, depending on whether the paper includes a full bibliography at the end.

The Chicago Manual of Style also discusses the parts of a book and the editing process.

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is based on the Chicago Manual of Style.

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