Using The Chicago Manual of Style Online with your in-house style guide

stacks of paperYour company’s in-house style guide may be comprehensive—or nonexistent. Compliance may be strict or relaxed. And that’s OK—the guidelines in The Chicago Manual of Style are meant to be there when you need them and optional when you don’t.

Most companies have a defined image or culture that can’t always be forced into someone else’s style rules. We understand that.

If your company has an in-house style guide

When a company decides to follow The Chicago Manual of Style in addition to their own house guide, it means that Chicago becomes their reference for anything not covered by in-house guidelines.

If your company has no in-house style guide

If you’re just getting started thinking about establishing a company style, The Chicago Manual of Style can be your default reference. Your in-house style sheet can take root as a growing list of your company’s exceptions to Chicago style.

woman at computer smiling (2)Getting in style

Whatever your management style, here are some tips for introducing or adding Chicago style to your company’s editorial workflow.

1. Appoint one employee to serve as house editor. Even if style decisions are made by consensus, one person should be in charge of keeping track of them.

2. Choose a dictionary and a style guide for everyone to follow in the absence of a house ruling. The University of Chicago Press follows Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary in addition to CMOS.

3. If you don’t already have a house style sheet, start modestly. Consider hiring a freelance editor to set up a basic style sheet. Create a document that lists the kinds of consistencies your company values most. For instance,

  • Company name, nickname, and logo (spelling, capitalization, abbreviation)pencils2
  • Official names of departments, committees, and other units
  • Official staff titles
  • Naming protocols for electronic files
  • Use of Copyright©, Trademark™ or Registered® marks
  • Preferred formats for tables and spreadsheets
  • Default format for dates (January 1, 2018? 1/1/18? 01.01.18?)
  • Styling for headlines and subheads in documents (bold, caps, italics)
  • Graphic design choices (color palette, fonts)

4. Use The Chicago Manual of Style to set house styles for the issues you identify.

5. Establish procedures for adding to your house guide. E.g.:

  • How issues and decisions will be communicated
  • Whether the appointed editor will make style decisions or work with a committee
  • How and when the house guide will be updated
  • Whether to create templates for frequently used documents (web pages, financial reports, business letters, tables)

6. Train employees to use the dictionary, style guide, and in-house guide when writing and editing company materials.

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Photos: (top) iRuDiTaNNatura hila 1_Still life 1, (middle) MoDOT Photos, (bottom) Kristin Nador