Get In Style

Writing must be clean to attract an editor’s eye. By that I mean error-free, grammatically correct, tight, and in style.

What is in style?
Style refers to the rules a publication establishes to ensure consistency. Such rules are contained in two style guides widely used within publishing:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is primarily used by book publishers, though some periodicals also follow it. It’s a comprehensive guide for not only spelling, punctuation, citations, and other formatting, but also for overall manuscript structure and editing.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook is used primarily by newspapers, magazines, newsletters, broadcasters, and writers of press releases.

Submitting your writing in the proper style tells an editor you are a professional who understands publishing.

Not interchangeable
AP and CMOS have many differences, so be sure to ask which one your target market uses. Consistency is the key. If a book publisher uses CMOS, it wants a comma before the last item of a series. In AP style, no comma is called for.

CMOS calls for spelling out numbers 1-100. AP spells out 1-9 and uses numerals for all others (unless a number begins a sentence).

These two major style guides also differ on how they treat ordinals, titles, abbreviations, dashes, etc.

Want to be in style? Buy both guides and ask which one to use for the market you’re targeting. Then use it to scrub your manuscript clean before it lands in your editor’s inbox.

Christy Scannell is a freelance editor, writer, and college journalism teacher, and a Christian Writers Guild mentor. For 10 years she was editorial director at Rainbow Publishers/Legacy Press.

Comments

  1. Russ says

    Christy,

    I’m looking at the CMOS online and I wish I had some examples to compare to the instructions. Do you know of any sources where I could view some sample manuscripts?

    Also, I’m a little old school in that I’m old and when I learned typing in school, I had the mechanical Underwood typewriter while all the young ladies had dibs on the one and only IBM Selectric. Our instructor always told us to leave two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. The CMOS requires one space. I am constantly finding two spaces in my manuscripts from years of muscle memory. Is this really important?

    • Christy Scannell says

      Hi, Russ. You can type “Chicago Manual of Style examples” into your search engine and you will receive links to various types of examples. I also like this website: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/01/
      However, I recommend buying The Chicago Manual of Style itself, which is a terrific reference book and includes many examples. As for typing, it can be difficult for those of us who learned to type on typewriters to remember that the extra space is no longer needed. My recommendation is to just use MS Word’s Find and Replace feature to get rid of extra spaces prior to submitting your work. Hopefully over time you will learn to only hit that space bar once, but even if you don’t this allows you to submit a professionally-styled work. So yes, it is important to remove the extra space(s). Best wishes to you!

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