Review of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition

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The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition: jacket image
Since I started in publishing 30 years ago, the The Chicago Manual of Style has been the standard standard style reference for many book publishing companies, meaning that they use it to help them decide how to set up manuscripts from structure down to spelling. I reviewed the 15th edition, which brought in new topics, when it came out in 2003. I did not review the 16th edition, which built on the 15th, but the 17th deserves its own review. Overall, my impression is that it continues the path of the 15th, adds about 150 pages, moves things around, but does not add entire new chapters as the 15th did.

Contents of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition: The 17th edition has almost 1150 pages, including the bibliography and index. It opens with "The Parts of a Published Work," which covers magazines/journals as well as books. Then come chapters on manuscript preparation and editing, proofs, and rights and permissions (which includes a useful introduction to U.S. copyright law). After these are chapters on grammar and usage, followed by what has always seemed to me to be the meat of Chicago: detailed guidance on handling punctuation, spelling, names, numbers, abbreviations, foreign languages, quotations and dialogue, and illustrations. Sizable chapters on documentation of sources in notes and bibliographies and on creating indexes wrap up the body of the book. Then come a glossary, bibliography, and index.

The 17th compared to the 15th edition: This edition is not as radically changed as the 15th was. Grammar and usage was new to the 15th; in this edition, some new pages on sentence structure and syntax are added to that chapter. Similarly, there are updates throughout to keep it current as electronic publishing and the Internet continue to develop, with coverage of metadata and keywords added. For a good summary of what's new, I recommend reading the brief Preface, which provides details on changes.

I also noticed some re-organizing of material and changes in sequence, in both small ways and large. For example, "Proofs," which had had its own chapter, now appears as part of "Manuscript Preparation and Manuscript Editing," "Abbreviations" has been moved earlier to come after "Numbers," and a flowchart of the publishing process in an appendix has been removed. The most obvious change is an organizational one. The book's 16 chapters are now divided into three parts: The Publishing Process, Style and Usage, Source Citations and Indexes, accurately reflecting the three main subject areas.

Comments: Chicago still subtitles itself "The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers." I think that is a valid claim. In this substantial reference book, you will find answers to many questions, and a consistent approach to deciding how to style a manuscript and a book. You may not always agree with their particular answer, but it will give you a starting point in deciding on your own style. The new edition will go quickly into use by trade and academic publishers, and anyone with a copy of earlier editions will find that it is no longer of practical use, as items in it are sequentially numbered (and numbered differently from earlier editions) and the numbers are what copyeditors and others use when citing CMS for its guidelines on punctuation, capitalization, index style, and other thorny issues.

As I said in my review of the 15th edition, any revision of such an authoritative work as Chicago has become will not please everyone, but this is, to my mind, a necessary and highly useful update as the end of the second decade of the 21st century approaches.

Who Needs The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition: If you work in trade or academic publishing, you may have this on your desk already, because it has probably been adopted by your house as the style guide. Many writers will want to have it too, so that notes from editors and copyeditors will make sense, and to help you get a manuscript into shape before sending it off to a publisher. Teachers of writing will find it a useful and fairly easy-to-use reference.

More recommended books, magazines, and web sites (The complete Resources section from my Complete Idiot's Guide)

Where and How to Purchase The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (online):

You can, of course, also purchase CMS 17 at any bookstore. If they don't have it, they can order it for you.

This review is copyright © by Harold Underdown ( Google + Profile ). If you wish to reproduce it, please see the Terms of use. Last modified 1/10/2018.

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