What is the Chicago Manual of Style?

Written by Haley Boyce

chicago manual of style

The University of Chicago was founded in 1890, with the university’s own press opening a year later. From the start, staff at the University of Chicago press knew there needed to be an agreed upon standard to maintain consistency and professionalism in print media. Thus, The Chicago Manual of Style was born.

First published in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style was among the first style guides to be published as a book. While other style guides (AP, MLA, and APA) have traditionally been published by professional companies, The Chicago Manual of Style can boast that it is the only writing style guide to be published by a university press.

Now in its 17th edition – with the most recent edition published in 2017 – the style guide can be found both in print and online.

Like any other style guide, there are unique rules that make the writing style what it is, but Chicago style lends itself to flexibility where other styles do not.

Let’s get down to the brass tacks of Chicago style. 

Turabian Style – How a U of Chicago Secretary Helped Make the Guide a Go-to Standard in the Writing World

vintage phone secretaryRemember this: The secretary is the one who really runs the show.

In 1925, Chicago-born Kate Turabian was hired as a department secretary at the University of Chicago. Within five years, Turabian could be found working in the newly created position called the dissertation secretary.

It is in this role that Turabian worked as a sort of gatekeeper for every single dissertation submitted to the school. Thus, the groundwork was laid for Turabian to rock the world of academia with a slim pamphlet that she wrote to help graduate students format their papers to meet the standards of Chicago style.

This pamphlet would soon take on a life of its own, evolving into a book known as A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. The goal being to help students fully comprehend the precision of Chicago style. 

This publication is described by many as an introduction to The Chicago Manual of Style. Should you open a copy of A Manual for Writers, you would find a focus on source citation, style, and paper format as called for in The Chicago Manual of Style.

Today, the book is known by its shorter title, A Manual for Writers and has sold more than nine million copies and is in its ninth edition. Turabian went on to also publish The Student’s Guide for Writing College Papers. Not bad for a girl from the south side!

What are the Chicago Manual of Style Formatting Rules?

A history lesson about Chicago style’s origins is cool and all, but there’s a reason that brought you here that probably has everything to do with questions like:

Here’s what you need to know:

Page Layout

page layout
        • In academia especially, include your last name before the page number just in case they somehow become misplaced or out of order and the professor or publisher (or whoever else is reading your paper) needs to put it back in order.

Assemble your paper as such:

Cover Page

cover page

Instructor’s name
Course title and section
Date the paper is due

Names and Numbers

        • First mention: Federal Bureau of Investigation 
        • Second Mention: FBI
        • First mention: Taylor Swift
        • Second mention: Swift

Endnotes and Footnotes