I Know It’s There—But I Can’t Find It!

We know The Chicago Manual of Style is big. The new 17th edition weighs in at over three pounds and is 1,146 pages long. Something we hear in emails to our Q&A is “I know it’s in there, but I can’t find it!”

So here’s a valuable searching tip: use CMOS Online. Anyone—whether they have a subscription or not—can use all the search functions in the online edition to find what they need in the printed book. Subscribers can click through to the online content; others can note the paragraph number and then go to the same location in the printed book.

Here are three excellent ways to find what you need in the Manual.

Search Box

In the upper-right corner at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org, you can type a word or phrase into the Search box and get results in separate tabs from the The Chicago Manual of Style and the Chicago Style Q&A. If you are an individual or group subscriber with access to the My Manual features, you will also see results from your Notes and Style Sheets and from the Users Forum.

Tips on choosing good keywords and using refined searches are at the Search Tips page at CMOS Online.

Tables of Contents

Let’s say you want to use a colon in a sentence but don’t know for sure whether it would be correct. Go first to the main table of contents at CMOS Online, and scan down the chapter titles. Chapter 6, “Punctuation,” looks promising, so click on that for the detailed chapter 6 table of contents. There you can browse through the section on colons to find exactly what you need:


Many users are unaware of the searching power provided by the free online “back of the book” index identical to the one published in the print edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, with clickable links to all the locators. The index is invaluable when you aren’t sure which keywords to use in the Search box. In many cases, the index listing is even more detailed than the table of contents listing.

The “Go to Index” link at CMOS Online appears above the Search box.

Let’s say you have another question about using a colon but aren’t sure how to narrow your search with keywords. You can browse the index instead:

Once you’ve used the three search methods, you will begin to get a feel for which is the fastest way to find what you need.

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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.


Top photo courtesy the Digital Artist via Pixabay.


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