Since its first edition came out in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style has set the standard for formal, grammatical, American English writing. Published by the University of Chicago Press, the sixteenth edition—which is 104 years younger than the original—will soon yield place to the seventeenth, currently in the works.
We all know grammar rules have undergone major changes since 1906. What keeps such an old style guide relevant in today’s very different and rapidly evolving media world?
A book that covers the gamut of editorial practice from grammar and usage to document preparation and from novel writing to preparing a doctoral thesis must by its very nature be massive, as well as intimidating. Add to that the fact that it also includes full explanations of proper references, footnote/endnote citations, bibliography, and extensive information on formatting and you have a serious writing tool. Can you even imagine researching, preparing, editing, and proofing such a book as a full-time job? Keep in mind that the current edition exceeds 1000 pages!
According to Wikipedia, the sixteenth edition can be had in hardcover or online. (The fifteenth is also available online.) “The online edition includes the searchable text of both . . . 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,” but the Q&A can be accessed free. If you think you might find the CMOS useful, you can take advantage of the 30-day free trial subscription offered on the Chicago Manual of Style website. You can also tour the site, an excellent idea if you want to get a real understanding of the power offered by this comprehensive writing and editing tool.
Historically, the time lapse between editions has varied from one year to twenty years. The variations are based on the speed with which the publishing industry changes, and now ranges between five and ten years. The tremendous growth of the Internet and resultant resources that are now available to writers and all others has opened doors never before available to the masses, and the CMOS has kept up with the times and the needs of the writing public. Likely, those who worked on that first edition in 1906 never imagined where their fledgling publication would be today. But it has withstood the test of time by growing and changing with the times to meet the ever-evolving needs of the publishing industry.
Do you use The Chicago Manual of Style? Have you visited the website? Why not take the tour today and tell us what you think?
Linda Lane and her editing team want to help writers learn to write well. She will soon be opening an online bookstore of family-friendly books that promote literacy and encourage renewed interest in reading for pleasure. Visit her editing team at www.denvereditor.com