The Chicago Manual of Style

Tip for authors: I’ve reviewed several books and feel the need to give a little bit of honest feedback.

Are you using the Chicago Manual of Style? This is the bible of publishing standards and of the English language, and it’s a must-have for anyone involved in book publishing. I have reviewed a lot of books and I can tell you firsthand that many self-published authors are not adhereing to standards.  If you want your book to look professional and credible it is important that you check this out.  

Think of the CMoS as a giant template for book publishing. It’s the ultimate how-to manual. It answers questions like, do I use mayor of Tampa or Mayor of Tampa? Is it Tampa Mayor John Smith or Tampa mayor John Smith? Should a song title read Stairway to Heaven, Stairway to Heaven or Stairway to Heaven? According to the manual, the correct format is “Stairway to Heaven.”

What about abbreviations? When should you use ellipses? How do I use ellipses? What if I’m typing a url that breaks at the end of a line? Should a sentence that ends with a Web-site address end with a period that is not part of the address?

Have you encountered questions like these? Well, the Chicago Manual of Style has all the answers. I mean it. All the answers. If you can’t find what you need in the book, you can send a message to their website, where they post a great monthly Q&A.

It goes beyond simple grammar and mechanics. Want to know the proper place to insert your half-title?  Where to add your publisher’s address, your author’s website, or your dedication? How in the world do you format a book???!!?? Check out their very helpful page on the parts of a published work.

Editors know right away when a book has not been published using the CMoS. Now that I’ve been using it, I know right away if you haven’t looked at it either. When I’m reviewing books, I’m not only looking at the story and the characters and the prose and all that fun stuff, I’m also paying attention to your formatting, your style, and your adherence to standards. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Some of you looking to advance your work into a major publishing house should be aware of this because it can make the difference between your work landing in the elite and coveted “A” pile or the towering and quickly forgotten “B” pile.

I used it when prepping my new book The Cigar Maker and found I had made all kinds of formatting errors. I found it to be a very, very valuable tool that paid for itself almost immediately. I hope you’ll get some use out of it too!

You can buy the actual manual here or visit their website here.

2 Responses to The Chicago Manual of Style

  1. Hi Mark. The Chicago Manual of Style is certainly an important
    resource for publishers — I have one on my desk right now — but I
    think you slightly misinterpret its intent. It is not meant as _the_
    correct way to do things but as _a_ correct way.

    The main use of a style manual is to guarantee consistency in a
    publisher’s output. Instead of debating how something should be done,
    or risking doing it different but equally correct ways, they can just
    turn to the book. But even though the Chicago Manual of Style is the
    dominant style guide for U.S. publishers, it’s not the only one you can
    use. And it’s always open to a publisher to take exception and do
    something differently — as long as it’s within the bounds of
    accepted practice and, again, used consistently.

    In the same way, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the
    standard in U.S. book publishing — but it doesn’t matter which
    dictionary you use, as long as you use a good one and stick to it.
    It’s interesting that, while Microsoft Word’s spell checker seems to
    rely on Merriam-Webster, Adobe InDesign uses the American Heritage

  2. Just want to say your article is striking. The clarity in your post is simply striking and i can take for granted you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the ac complished work. Excuse my poor English. English is not my mother tongue.

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