Getting to Know Your Style Guide

If you’re a new editor tasked with using The Chicago Manual of Style, you might feel some degree of trepidation. After all, the learning curve when adjusting to a new editorial style manual can be steep. Even more daunting, the most current edition of The Chicago Manual of Style weighs in at almost four pounds and is nearly 1,200 pages long! Although the sheer amount of information to learn, rules to memorize, and conventions to adopt might seem overwhelming at first, it helps to remember that no one expects you to become an expert overnight. The best way to learn about any style manual is to use it conscientiously and repeatedly, but there are a few other ways you can begin to build your skill before busting out that red pen.

One of the first ways you can become familiar with the conventions of The Chicago Manual of Style is by checking out the “Chicago Style Q&A.” Once edited by the incomparable Carol Saller and now edited by CMOS expert Russell Harper, this Q&A section is a wealth of information about common quandaries and confusions experienced by editors everywhere. The benefit of scrolling through the Q&A is that you get to see the rationale behind the rules through concrete and timely examples. You never know what questions might come up, but you can rest assured that scrolling through the Q&A will be enlightening.

Once you’ve glanced through the Q&A, you might be interested in checking out The Chicago Manual of Style‘s blog, CMOS Shop Talk. This blog covers everything from current events at the University of Chicago Press to discussions of changing editorial best practices, and reading through the posts that interest you the most is a great way to become more familiar with Chicago style. It’s also a great way to stay up to date with the latest editing-related news and to learn more about editorial best practices without actually editing anything.

At this point, you’ve probably done enough reading and are ready to test out those editorial chops. Short of actually editing a document, these CMOS Online quizzes, a.k.a. “Chicago Style Workouts,” are the best way to test your familiarity with the CMOS. With nearly fifty different quizzes for you to take with topics ranging from punctuation to grammar and style, these CMOS workouts are sure to help you learn and remember even the most obscure rules.

Expertise in a style manual is something that takes years to develop and grows slowly over time with continued use and practice. In the meantime, try out these three resources and watch your skills develop. You’ll be a CMOS expert before you know it.

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