AP Style and Chicago Updates from #ACES2017

Mignon Fogarty
7-minute read
Episode #562

This was a big style-update year at the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) meeting. The Associated Press usually announces style book changes at the meeting every year, but this year the Chicago Manual of Style also announced updates, which only happens every once in a while. The last time Chicago made changes, for example, was when it released the 16th edition back in 2010. 

As we’ve talked about before, there are many style books and many different reasons to use them, but people tend to use the Chicago Manual of Style when they are writing books or doing some kinds of academic writing, and people tend to use the AP Stylebook when they are writing for newspapers and websites—although, of course, there are other reasons to use both.

Chicago Manual of Style Updates

Carol Fisher Saller, the editor of the Chicago Manual of Style's online Q&A and the author of The Subversive Copy Editor (@SubvCopyEd on Twitter), gave a presentation at the ACES conference on the major updates you’ll find in the 17th edition of Chicago that will come out in September, and she didn't waste any time getting to the good stuff, announcing that the word internet will now be lowercase in Chicago style and that the word email will lose the hyphen. 

Both these changes were popular in the room and on the internet, where most people were glad to have Chicago come into line with changes other style books have been making over the last few years.

‘Ibid.’ versus Short Citations

Another significant change is that the 17th edition will recommend using shortened citations instead of using ibid. when you have multiple references in a row from the same source.  

Ibid. is a Latin abbreviation that means “in the same place,” and in the past you used it to keep from having to write out identical or similar citation information over and over again. For example, if reference 20 was for page 56 of a book, and reference 21 was from page 68 of the same book, you could write out all the information for the book in reference 20, and then in reference 21, you could just write Ibid., 68. to let readers know all the information was the same as the previous reference, except for the page number. 

This saves a lot of typing, but the problem is that in electronic documents, citations are often active, which means you can sometimes click on reference 21 and go right to it without ever seeing reference 20. So if you see ibid., then you have to go searching for the reference before it to find the information you need. That’s a pain, and it’s an especially big pain if you have a bunch of ibid. references in a row, so you have to keep going back and back until you find the first reference for all the ibids.  

To solve these problems, Chicago now recommends using shortened citations instead of ibid., and it sounds like the format for shortened citations is the same as it was in the 16th edition.

Twitter and Facebook Citation Formats

In another citation-related update, the 17th edition will include citation styles for Facebook posts, tweets, and other types of social media posts, but Saller didn’t reveal what they are yet. I presume it will all become clear when the new Manual of Style will be released in September. One thing that seems funny now is that she said when the last edition of Chicago came out in 2010, they didn’t include a Twitter citation format because they thought Twitter might be just a flash in the pan.

And yet it was on Twitter, by following the #ACES2017 hashtag, that I was able to follow along and learn about all these updates even though I wasn’t able to attend the conference in person.

‘US’ versus ‘United States’

A small change that was nonetheless cheered by people on Twitter was that Chicago will now allow writers to use the abbreviation US for United States as a noun as well as an adjective. In the 16th edition, the entry on “US” versus United States said, “In running text, spell out United States as a noun.”

For example, you would have written In the United States, people tend to spell the word graywith an A, but now in Chicago style it’s also OK to write In the US, people tend to spell the word graywith an A.

Hyphens in Chicago Style

Moving on to punctuation, Saller says Chicago strengthened its general aversion to hyphens, but is going to make some hyphenation-related updates and keep the huge hyphenation table, which makes me happy because I refer to that table a lot. Despite the stated hyphenation aversion, she did mention two words that will now explicitly be hyphenated: decision-making (which was previously two words, also known as an open compound) and head-hunting (which wasn’t in the 16th edition).

Comma Changes and Clarifications

Finally, Saller reviewed changes and clarifications to a couple of comma entries. 

First, commas are typically used to introduce quotations after phrases such as Squiggly said and Jeffrey asked, but the new edition of Chicago will clarify an instance when a comma isn’t needed: “When a quotation forms a syntactical part of the sentence, no comma is needed to introduce it.”

Second, Chicago no longer calls for a comma after the abbreviation etc. unless the surrounding grammar calls for it. The current Chicago entry says that if you write something like She usually plays puzzle games such as Candy Crush, Triple Town, etc., when her kids are at soccer practice you’d put a comma after etc. But the new edition says to leave out the comma, which makes sense to me because if etc. were the name of another game, you wouldn’t put a comma there, and it doesn’t seem like an abbreviation for and other things should need one either.  

But if the sentence itself would call for a comma using something other than etc., use a comma where you normally would. For example, you’d use one in this sentence: She used to play puzzle games such as Candy Crush, Triple Town, etc., but lately she’s been listening to audiobooks instead. You use a comma after the etc. in that sentence because you’re joining two main clauses with a conjunction, and whether there’s an etc. there or some other word, the grammar of that sentence calls for a comma.

So those are the major Chicago Manual of Style updates, although I’m sure there will be many more small changes to discover once the new edition becomes available in September. And note that once the 17th edition is available on the Chicago website, Saller said they will no longer support the 15th edition. In other words, online subscribers will continue to have access to the two most recent editions like they do now. 

Keep reading for AP Stylebook updates.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.