The writer’s bookshelf (part 3)

This is the third in an ongoing series of posts about the references writers and editors should have on their physical or virtual bookshelf.

Style Manuals

Style manuals are all about consistency in writing, editing, and publishing. Style includes rules for when to spell out numbers, how to deal with abbreviations and acronyms, which words should be capitalized, and punctuation issues (whether to use a serial comma, when to hyphenate compound words), to list only a few examples.

Anyone who writes or edits books in the U.S. needs The Chicago Manual of Style, the 15th edition (the current edition, extensively revised in 2003). The Chicago Manual of Style calls itself “the essential reference for authors, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers in any field,” and that’s not an exaggeration. Though the main focus is on the needs of writers and editors of books and journals, the new edition was revised to assist “the increasing proportion of our users who work with magazines, newsletters, corporate reports, proposals, electronic publications, Web sites and other nonbook or nonprint documents. Computer technology and the increasing use of the Internet mark almost every chapter.” If you are still using an older edition, you should upgrade to the 15th edition, as style preferences have changed over time.

The Chicago Manual of Style includes chapters on the parts of a published work, manuscript preparation and editing, proofs, rights and permissions, grammar and usage, punctuation, spelling and compounds, names and terms, numbers, foreign languages, quotations and dialogue, illustrations and captions, tables, mathematics in type, abbreviations, documentation, and indexes. It also includes appendixes on design and production (basic procedures and key terms) and the publishing process for books and journals.  A more detailed table of contents can be found on the CMS website (

The Chicago Manual of Style is available in multiple formats: hardcover book (priced at $55, but available at a discount online), CD-ROM for Windows ($60), and web subscription ($30 per year at The web version is fully searchable and has extra features, such as the ability to add notes, bookmark paragraphs, and create personalized style sheets.

There are also many specialized style manuals for particular types of publications:

Publishers and companies will specify which style manual they use, and many also have in-house style guides or style sheets to reflect individual company preferences and create consistency throughout all of their written material.

4 responses to “The writer’s bookshelf (part 3)

  1. “The web version is fully searchable and has extra features, such as the ability to add notes, bookmark paragraphs, and create personalized style sheets.”

    Technically, I’m pretty sure I can do those first two in the paper version too using a highlighter and a pen =)

  2. lisagoldresearch

    Yes, that’s true, and I have the paper version myself. But the Chicago Manual of Style is a rather large work, and using the index can be frustrating at times, so the ability to do global searches in the web version is a useful feature.

  3. =) I’ll give you the searches being better in e format.

  4. Lisa,

    I love your blog. As soon as the second edition comes out, I’m buying an Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus–and I’ll use your link, too.

    Two notes, though. The subtitle of the Bluebook is “A Uniform System of Citation”–I’m looking at my copy as I type this. And the AP Stylebook no longer includes the “Briefing on Media Law” subtitle, at least not on its cover (my wife has the new edition).

    Any chance you’d teach a research workshop online? I’d be interested–I’m just finishing my master’s in information studies (what used to be called library and information science), but I think I could learn a lot from you.