Why would anyone use the chicago manual of style?

Students, professionals, novelists, editors: there may come a day when an instructor, boss, or publisher hands you a very large book or emails you a website link and says, “We use Chicago style—here you go.”

So what is “style,” and what does it have to do with Chicago? And which book or website is the official source for someone required to use Chicago style in their work?


In writing, style involves everything from when to use italics and capitals and abbreviations to how to cite a newspaper article to whether it’s OK to write a sentence fragment. (It’s OK.)

Chicago Style

Chicago style is named for The Chicago Manual of Style, a reference book for writers and editors first published by the University of Chicago Press in 1906 and now in its 17th edition.

In the 1930s, the Press published Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, often called simply “Turabian,” and soon to be in its 9th edition.

Both books are official sources for Chicago style and are internationally recognized for their authority.  Take a look at the tables of contents of CMOS and Turabian to see at a glance the issues that each book covers.

CMOS or Turabian: Which One Should You Use?

A closer look at the two books can help you decide which one is the better fit for your work.

The Chicago Manual of Style
The University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff

—The Chicago Manual of Style is truly comprehensive, containing guidelines on the entire writing and publishing process for almost any document, from a student paper to a novel to an office memo to scholarly research. Its three sections cover (1) the publishing process of both books and journals, (2) grammar, style, and usage, and (3) source citations and indexes.

—The Chicago Manual is available both in a hardcover edition OR in a fully searchable online edition by annual subscription. The content is the same whether accessed online or in the book. CMOS is the only comprehensive style manual available online.

—Anyone familiar with The Chicago Manual of Style has an advantage in the publishing world. The Manual is used globally by corporations, governments, and academic institutions. Your college or company might already subscribe to CMOS Online. If you aren’t sure, ask your librarian.


—Weighing in at 3.65 pounds (1.66 kg), The Chicago Manual of Style is one hefty tome. While every one of its 1,146 pages may be useful to those who need complete publishing advice, most students can get by with less tonnage.  Turabian, which focuses purely on paper-writing, is both easier to master and easier to tote.

Why Would Anyone Use The Chicago Manual of Style?

Today's topics are style guides and how to deal with book titles.

Joe called in with this question:

With all of the style guides that are out there —“APA,” “MLA” —why would anyone use Chicago? I was finding it very hard to believe when I first looked at the Chicago style guide after the APA and MLA that the Chicago style guide that was something that was used by anything less than a commercial writer. Possibly on someone's doctoral thesis, but for an undergraduate to have to deal with that kind of detail just seems ridiculous. Just wanting to hear your opinion on this.

What Is the Chicago Manual of Style?

The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the oldest and most comprehensive style guides on the market.

The fact that it is so comprehensive can be both a strength and a weakness, and Joe points out the weaknesses: it can take a while to find what you are looking for, and the size of the book can be intimidating to students.

Nevertheless, I find it indispensable because it has so much information that I can't find anywhere else.

You Can Use Online or Print Versions

A huge, recent change that makes Chicago and many other style guides easier to use is the availability of online and digital versions of the books.

I used to use the print books, and I often had a hard time finding the information I needed.

A few years ago, I started subscribing to the online versions of The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook, and now I can search and find the answers I’m looking for in seconds.

It’s a little more expensive than buying the print books, but for me, and I imagine for many people who write for a living, it’s worth it for the convenience.

In the past, I used to start with a smaller stylebook such as AP and then go to Chicago if I couldn’t find the answer, but now it’s so easy to search both that I always check both right away.

See also:  How to use venn diagrams to solve problems

Benefits of the Chicago Manual of Style

Joe should appreciate Chicago’s completeness though; Chicago often has information that isn’t in other stylebooks. For example, in his question, Joe shortened the name of the book to Chicago instead of calling it The Chicago Manual of Style.

As I was writing this article, I needed to know how to format a shortened book title. That information wasn’t in the AP Stylebook, but it was in Chicago.

(I learned that you treat a shortened title just as you would a regular title—you italicize it, or in the case of Grammar Girl style, it is just captialized because that is how we treat the titles of reference works).

It turned out that the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers also had a section on shortened book titles, so in this case I could have looked there next and found the answer, but often I just jump to Chicago because it’s so complete I know the answer will always be there.

Another example of something I could find only in Chicago is how to handle punctuation in bulleted or numbered lists. I couldn't quickly find anything on this subject in MLA or AP, but it is covered in Chicago.

These types of questions might seem arcane, but for me they come up every day, and I imagine that they would come up at least occasionally for other writers, including undergraduates.

Next: Which Style Guide Should You Use?


Research Guides: Citing Sources: Citing Nontraditional Sources in Chicago

Esoteric and nontraditional sources are cited in very specific formats in the Chicago style. These sources are most often cited in the notes and bibliography style, as it can be difficult to create a concise in-text citation for nontraditional source information.

The following show entries as they would be presented in the bibliography (B) and in footnotes or endnotes (F).

Images, Maps, Charts, Diagrams, Graphs, and Illustrations

See Chicago Manual of Style 14.158, 8.198

Cite the image following the style for the source where the image was found, such as book, article, website, etc. You can use the citation for the book, article or website where the visual information is found and make the following changes.

If there is a photographer or illustrator use his or her name in place of the author. If there is a caption, use the caption in place of the title of an article, or add the caption title in quotation marks with proper capitalization. Add a page number where the image is found.

If a numbered figure is given, add it after the page number.

  • Our Images & Visual Literacy guide may also be useful to you.
  • See specific examples below for images found in articles and on the web.
  • Image from an Article:
  • Bibliography: 

Talbot, David. “Saving Holland.” Technology Review 110, no. 4 (2007): 52, figure 3


Vermeer, Dura. “High and Dry Concept.” Technology Review 110, no. 4 (2007): 56


Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. “An Arrowhead, Made from a Copper Nugget, Found at a Melting Alaskan Glacier.” Miller-McCune 3, iss. 6 (2010): 23, figure 4


    1. David Talbot, “Saving Holland,” Technology Review 110, no. 4 (2007): 52, figure 3.

  1. Online Image:

Guides: Citation & Style Guide: Chicago/Turabian

The Chicago & Turabian Manuals include primary sources as well by type of source (newspaper, letters, documents, etc.) but sometimes you will need to find the closest match and adapt your citation.

  • In particular:
  • 14.229: Examples of note forms for manuscript collections
  • 14.230: Examples of bibliography entries for manuscript collections

General principles:

  • The form for citing unpublished, archival materials is less standardized than for published sources.
  • Adopt a consistent form in your work.
  • Describe the item in the Notes, but describe only the collection or archive in the bibliography (unless you cite only one item from a given collection).


1. Name of author, “Name of item,” date (date-mo-year), Name of collection, Item locator, Repository.

Name of collection, Name of repository.

Middlebury Examples:


See Chicago 14.228 re: Collections of letters

1. Joseph Battell to President Ezra Brainerd, 2 February 1893, A2 President Brainerd, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives (hereafter cited as MC Archives). http://middarchive.middlebury.edu/cdm/ref/collection/archadmin/id/2136

A2 President Brainerd, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.


1. Ruth Hesselgrave, Scrapbook of Ruth Hesselgrave, class 1918, circa 1915-1919, College Archives, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.

College Archives, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.


1. Photograph of Ezra Brainerd, Middlebury College President, 1864, College Archives A2 PF, Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives.

See also:  Can turmeric prevent or cure disease?

No bibliographic entry is required for photographs. Put all required information in the footnote or text.

More help:

Book Review: The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. https://doi.org/10.7208/cmos17

The Chicago Manual of Style provides detailed guidance on the popular formatting and citation style known as Chicago style. The first edition, released in 1906, conveyed the typographical rules of its publisher, the University of Chicago Press.

[1] Many iterations later, the 17th edition, measuring approximately 1,150 pages, just over 100 more than its predecessor, is a hefty reference on formatting, grammar, usage, and citation styles for publishers, editors, and writers.

It is divided into three general sections—Part I: The Publishing Process; Part II: Style and Usage; and Part III: Source Citations and Indexes—each divided into chapters and, further still, sub-sections numbered for easy reference and referred to as paragraphs.

I have long been a follower of this style guide. When I first began working in publishing, I was gifted a copy of the 16th edition, and, throughout my tenure at the press, the volume was always within easy reach. Many pages in the publishing process section became tabbed and well worn from repeated reference.

When I decided to return to school, I took my style bible with me, often utilizing the sections on style and citations.

I also discovered the online “Citation Quick Guide,” which presents a list of sample citations with limited commentary—a perfect resource for the busy student wishing to have an overview of citation styles without delving into the detailed guidelines and underlying explanations of the original volume.

This “Quick Citation Guide” is just one of the many resources which comprise The Chicago Manual of Style’s electronic counterpart.

Rather than as an eBook—translating the discrete print volume into a discrete electronic file—the University of Chicago Press has chosen to present the electronic version of the manual as a website, of which the text of the current edition is only one section.

A number of the website’s components are openly accessible, including the citation guide and a “Style Q&A,” in which the guide’s editors answer users’ questions.

Moving inside a paywall, users can access the current edition as well as the previous edition and a community forum, where users of the guide can discuss questions. Thus, the website not only relays the reference’s content but also increases the accessibility of a potentially convoluted and dense manual by creating a community through these additional resources.

Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition // Purdue Writing Lab


This section contains information on The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) method of document formatting and citation. These resources follow the seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition), which was issued in 2017.

Please note that although these resources reflect the most recent updates in the The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) concerning documentation practices, you can review a full list of updates concerning usage, technology, professional practice, etc. at The Chicago Manual of Style Online.

To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all CMOS citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.


The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) covers a variety of topics from manuscript preparation and publication to grammar, usage, and documentation, and as such, it has been lovingly dubbed the “editor's bible.”

The material on this page focuses primarily on one of the two CMOS documentation styles: the Notes-Bibliography System (NB), which is used by those working in literature, history, and the arts. The other documentation style, the Author-Date System, is nearly identical in content but slightly different in form and is preferred by those working in the social sciences.

Though the two systems both convey all of the important information about each source, they differ not only in terms of the way they direct readers to these sources, but also in terms of their formatting (e.g., the position of dates in citation entries). For examples of how these citation styles work in research papers, consult our sample papers: 

Author-Date Sample Paper

NB Sample Paper

In addition to consulting The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) for more information, students may also find it useful to consult Kate L.

Turabian's Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th edition).

This manual, which presents what is commonly known as the “Turabian” citation style, follows the two CMOS patterns of documentation but offers slight modifications suited to student texts.

See also:  How tall is the tallest tree on earth?

Notes and Bibliography (NB) in Chicago style

The Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) system is often used in the humanities to provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through the use of footnotes, endnotes, and through the use of a bibliography.

This offers writers a flexible option for citation and provides  an outlet for commenting on those sources, if needed. Proper use of the Notes and Bibliography system builds a writer’s credibility by demonstrating their accountability to source material.

In addition, it can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the intentional or accidental uncredited use of source material created by others.

Introduction to Notes

In the Notes and Bibliography system, you should include a note (endnote or footnote) each time you use a source, whether through a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary. Footnotes are added at the end of the page on which the source is referenced, while endnotes are compiled at the end of each chapter or at the end of the entire document.

In either case, a superscript number corresponding to a note, along with the bibliographic information for that source, should be placed in the text following the end of the sentence or clause in which the source is referenced.

If a work includes a bibliography, which is typically preferred, then it is not necessary to provide full publication details in notes. However, if a bibliography is not included with a work, the first note for each source should include all relevant information about the source: author’s full name, source title, and facts of publication.

If you cite the same source again, or if a bibliography is included in the work, the note only needs to include the surname of the author, a shortened form of the title (if more than four words), and the page number(s).

However, in a work that does not include a bibliography, it is recommended that the full citation be repeated when it is first used in a new chapter.

In contrast to earlier editions of CMOS, if you cite the same source two or more times consecutively, CMOS recommends using shortened citations.

In a work with a bibliography, the first reference should use a shortened citation which includes the author’s name, the source title, and the page number(s), and consecutive references to the same work may omit the source title and simply include the author and page number.

Although discouraged by CMOS, if you cite the same source and page number(s) from a single source two or more times consecutively, it is also possible to utilize the word “Ibid.,” ( from the Latin ibidem, which means “in the same place,”) as the corresponding note.

If you use the same source but a draw from different new page, the corresponding note should use “Ibid.” followed by a comma and the new page number(s).

In the NB system, the footnote or endnote itself begins with the appropriate full-sized number, followed by a period and then a space.

Introduction to Bibliographies

In the NB system, the bibliography provides an alphabetical list of all sources used in a given work. This page, most often titled Bibliography, is usually placed at the end of the work preceding the index. It should include all sources cited within the work and may sometimes include other relevant sources that were not cited but provide further reading.

Although bibliographic entries for various sources may be formatted differently, all included sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. If no author or editor is listed, the title or, as a last resort, a descriptive phrase may be used.

  • Though useful, a bibliography is not required in works that provide full bibliographic information in the notes.
  • Common Elements
  • All entries in the bibliography will include the author (or editor, compiler, translator), title, and publication information.
  • Author Names
  • The author’s name is inverted in the bibliography, placing the last name first and separating the last name and first name with a comma; for example, John Smith becomes Smith, John.
  • Titles

Titles of books and journals are italicized. Titles of articles, chapters, poems, etc. are placed in quotation marks.

  1. Publication Information
  2. The year of publication is listed after the publisher or journal name.
  3. Punctuation
  4. In a bibliography, all major elements are separated by periods.
  5. For more information and specific examples, see the sections on Books and Periodicals.

Please note that this OWL resource provides basic information regarding the formatting of entries used in the bibliography. For more information about Selected Bibliographies, Annotated Bibliographies, and Bibliographic Essays, please consult Chapter 14.61 of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition).

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.