The Elements of Style: Use Stylebooks to Strengthen Your Manuscript

Every writer can benefit from handy reference materials, and what’s more authoritative to the modern writer than The AP Stylebook for journalists and The Chicago Manual of Style for authors and publishers?

Writers who have used neither of these references are often confused about which to choose. Each has distinct advantages, depending on your writing genre. Here, we explore what makes these writers’ references special, and what advantages their online versions offer over traditional hardcopy editions.

AP StylebookAP Stylebook:
The AP Stylebook is the bible of all things written for the Associated Press and other journalists worldwide. The reference includes a comprehensive punctuation guide that’s indispensable for any writer, as well as entries that clear up commonly confused words, brand and business names, historical figures and events. AP’s advantage is that since it is rooted in the news tradition, the encyclopedic reference is regularly updated to account for world events, pivotal figures and an ever-changing American lexicon.

Online Edition: The AP Stylebook online offers distinct advantages to the hardcopy version. It’s search tool lets users access specific information instantly, while enabling virtual bookmarking and personalized note entries. Membership entitles you to submit questions directly to The AP Stylebook‘s panel of editors and interact with other users in online forums. Plus, members receive emailed AP style updates as they occur; no need to wait for next year’s edition to hit the shelves. An annual subscriptions for individuals is $26; mobile apps for Apple and BlackBerry are available.

ChicagoManualOfStyleChicago Manual of Style:
In addition to a thorough Style and Usage section that covers grammar, punctuation, common terms and other writing guidance that The AP Stylebook spells out for journalists, The Chicago Manual of Style offers help with how to document, reference and index information for book publication.

This CMoS is especially useful for authors because it includes a Books Division that provides authors with valuable writing and formatting guidelines. The online manual is especially helpful; it includes manuscript guidance geared toward writers using Microsoft Word and WordPerfect to prepare electronic manuscripts, and it’s accessible within a few scant mouse clicks. The section will also walk you through art submission requirements, proofreading marks, formatting citations, rights and permissions and more.

Online Edition: Organized, visually, like its hardcopy counterpart, The Chicago Manual of Style Online allows you to choose content by section or chapter and, like the online AP Stylebook, is searchable and has bookmarking and notation capabilities. Members may submit their own question, browse other Q&A entries and interact with others on the online forum. An annual subscriptions for individuals is $35.

The verdict: While The AP Stylebook has the edge on contemporary references and should be included in every nonfiction writer’s arsenal, The Chicago Manual of Style can’t be beat for author-centric information. At only $61 per year combined, subscriptions for both offer authors a cost-efficient way to stay informed and relevant.

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