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7 Tips to Mastering a Style Manual Update

Stack of style guides

Stack of style guidesThe 2017 print edition of AP Stylebook will publish next week.* The 17th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) will publish in the fall.

Considering how much we editors depend on style manuals, major updates can leave us feeling a little anxious. How can we transition to the new styles?

1. Review the Changes and New Entries

Publishers love to tell the buying public what’s “new and improved.” Press releases and news stories are good sources for major rule changes. Review the list and read up on those rules you might need right away. Keep the list to refer to as you transition to the new style.

2. Read the Front Matter

The front matter is where you’ll learn more about how the reference was put together, how it’s organized, what all those abbreviations mean, and more. Changes to the philosophy that underlies the book will be found here, as well.

The preface to the 16th edition of CMS, for example, notes that “more attention has also been given to the role of software for manuscript editors” and that “an effort has been made to acknowledge organizations that publish their standards and guidelines online.” Here, too, you learn that organizational changes have been made to the 16th edition and that the style manual editors have sought to give one rule for stylistic matters rather than offer too many options.

3. Look Up Your Most-Used Rules

Compare the new edition with the old. Have your favorite rules changed at all? How will any changes affect how you apply them to your work?

4. Update Your Style Guides

Once you have an idea of what rule changes most affect you, be sure to update your in-house or client style guides and style sheets. Do this before you need to refer to these resources during an edit. Updating your resources as you work can derail the edit and cause you to miss some important changes.

5. Update Affected Editing Tools

Will your macros or software tools like Perfect-It be affected by these style changes? As with style guides, updating tools with new information before you need them during an edit will save time and increase consistency and accuracy.

6. Look Up More Items, More Often

As you edit, make an effort to look up more style items, even familiar items, more often. While it might slow down your editing at first, you’ll quickly internalize new and updated rules—and you’ll have a good refresher on old rules. Take notes on what’s changed so that you can update your style guides and editing tools later.

7. Share the Information

Are you the keeper of style at your company? Do you guide your clients on style decisions? Share the top-line information with team members. This can help others acclimate quicker to new style rules and will position you as someone in the know.

This article originally published on in 2017.


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