Why Would Anyone Use The Chicago Manual of Style?
Today's topics are style guides and how to deal with book titles.
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Different Style Guides Have Different Uses
Style guides also have different uses. For example, the Associated Press Stylebook is primarily for writers who work at newspapers or news magazines; the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is obviously for writers of research papers, and it's used most commonly in the liberal arts and humanities. Writers of research papers in the sciences, on the other hand, may be more likely to use the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or American Medical Association Manual of Style. If I had to peg down The Chicago Manual of Style, I'd say that its primary audience is book authors, but as you might have gathered by now, I think Chicago is great for everyone.
Again, this may all seem arcane, but it is good to have the right style guide for the right purpose and to know what the other style guides advise. I often encounter people who have learned a style but mistakenly think it’s a rule. The most common example is the serial comma--the comma before the “and” in a series such as “red, white, and blue.” Chicago recommends you use the comma, and AP recommends using it only when it’s required for clarity. The recommendation varies from style to style, but many people think the style they learned is the only right way to do it.
Of course, there are other style guides that I haven’t mentioned yet. One that’s even thicker than Chicago and that I use multiple times each week is Garner’s Modern American Usage. Many people in business use The Gregg Reference Manual. There are others. I could go on and on, but the important points are that there are different style guides and you should find the right one for your needs, and know the difference between a style and a rule.
[Note, this is a significant rewrite of an article that originally appeared November 2, 2006.]