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What is Chicago Style in Writing?

The cover for the latest version of the CMS.

The CMS has been updated for over a hundred years and is a standard in many fields.

Chicago Style is a documentation format that allows writers to cite work while providing an easy-to-read format. Developed by the University of Chicago Press in 1906, Chicago Style is the only formatting style created by an academic institution. Currently in its 17th edition, Chicago style has both print and online versions available to the public.

Chicago style is extremely popular with many publishers and writers because of its flexibility. Whereas a style like MLA might be primarily used in the humanities, and APA is normally used in the sciences, Chicago style can be easily used in various fields like English or history. It has specific rules for punctuation and citations.

Chicago Manual of Style Format

Chicago Style was created in 1906 and was originally known as Manual of Style: Being a Compilation of the Typographical Rules in Force at the University of Chicago Press, to Which are Appended Specimens of Type in Use. The 12th edition of the manual was the first to call itself the Chicago Manual of Style, also commonly referred to as CMS. Over the years, the manual has been updated to reflect the changes in society and technology. Recent editions have had to include how to cite websites, online videos, email, etc.

The Chicago Manual of Style is currently in its 17th edition, which was first published in 2017.

Chicago Style is different from MLA or APA, two other highly popular formats. It has a citation format that can change depending on the work being done. These formats are called Notes and Bibliography (NB) or Author-Date (AD) system.

NB is typically used in the humanities. Sources lack an in-text citation as is common in MLA and citations instead are written in numbered footnotes and endnotes. In the paper’s text, a citation would be denoted by a superscript number after the relevant information.

AD is more commonly uses in the sciences. Citations are placed in parentheses and include author last name and year of publication. The sciences are typically more concerned with having up-to-date information, so the year of publication is more prominent in this type of citation.

Whereas APA and MLA have a References or Works Cited page, the format of Chicago Style’s corresponding page varies depending on the field for which the paper is written.

Chicago Style Citation: Example

A citation is information in the paper’s text that provides a quick glance at where the information came from if the author of the paper did not create it.

In NB, the superscript number in the text would correspond to a number in the footer. No additional information would be shown in the paper’s body. An example of a citation might look like this:

“The show had the highest ratings for the core demographic that year.1”

This would correspond to the footnote labeled as 1 on that same page.

In AD, citations are similar to APA. In-text citations mention the author’s last name, year of publication, and page number. For example, it might look like this:

“(Smith, 2022, 12)”

This denotes that, when looking at the bibliography, the information is under the source by Smith, specifically page 12.

Chicago Style Title Page

A paper’s title page contains the title a third of the way down the page, and any subtitles must be on a separate line after a colon. The writer’s name, class information (department, number, section, and name of the class), and date (month, day, year) follow several lines down, roughly at the page’s midpoint. For example, the text might look like this:

The Road to an Energy Independent America:

Breakthroughs in Green Energy in 2022

John Doe

English 2311: Technical Writing

May 2, 2022

Chicago Style Bibliography

A bibliography is a collection of all the primary and secondary sources in a text. It’s used to give due credit to the works of others used in a text. Since ideas and contributions to academia are essentially currency for professionals, giving due credit is not just polite, but essential to avoid allegations of plagiarism. The bibliography is placed after the paper’s main body but before the index.

In Chicago Style, the work’s full citations are called a bibliography. This page is placed after the last page of the paper and has a centered title on the first line followed by a detailed list of every source in the paper. However, depending on whether the paper uses Notes and Bibliography (NB) style or Author-Date (AD) style, it will be labeled differently. NB style will have the first page of the bibliography labeled as “Bibliography” and AD style will be labeled “References.” Individual formatting for entries will also vary slightly depending on whether the writer is using NB or AD. A typical NB entry might look like this:

Dean, Jodi. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

In AD, however, which is more concerned with up-to-date information, it might look like this:

Dean, Jodi. 2009. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.

Information varies depending on the source used (website, academic journal, interview, etc), but each entry generally provides key information such as the author’s name. Names begin with last name first, then first name. Entries also include title of the work, date of publication, and, in the case of physically published books, the publisher and its location.

Chicago Style Footnotes: Example

Only NB uses footnotes to provide in-text-citations. The note numbers in the footnotes, unlike the ones in the body, are not superscripted and are instead full size. Each citation starts out indented like a normal paragraph, and then any subsequent lines are flush to the left. For example, a footnote might look like this:

3. William B. Hawthorne, How to Become a Rock Star and Other Lies (New York City, NY: Woodstock Press, 1998), 132.

A footnote serves the same purpose as the entry in the bibliography. It lists the author’s first and last name followed by a comma. The title of the cited work follows it italics. Next, in parentheses, comes the publication information including the publisher’s location followed by a colon, publisher’s name followed by a comma, and the year of publication for that particular work. The relevant page or pages are listed last, with a period at the end of the entry.

Lesson Summary

Chicago Style, a format codified in the Chicago Manual of Style, commonly referred to as the CMS, is an extremely popular style guide with both academics, professionals, and publishers. It is an extremely flexible formatting guide that provides many choices for people working in the humanities, sciences, and elsewhere. Instead of in-text citations, such as those found in MLA, Chicago uses superscript numbers to correspond to full citations in a footer. While the number is superscripted in the body of the essay, the number is full-size in the footnote. A footnote lists relevant information starting with the source’s author, the title of the work, then publication information in parentheses which lists the city, publisher name, and publication date. Finally, the footnote lists the relevant page or pages.

Chicago’s flexibility is also evident in the way it presents its sources. Its bibliography, set after the main body but before the index, is named and formatted differently depending on the specific field the writer is working on.

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