The Five Stages of CMOS 16 Grief


The Five Stages of CMOS 16 Grief

The seventeenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style will soon be in the hands of editors everywhere. The sixteenth edition was released way back in 2010, so you can’t blame Ol’ Sixteen for thinking its reign would last forever.

Let’s check in on how it’s handling the transition (and you can click here for a history of the manual).


“I’m built to last, baby!”

As Constance Hale wrote in Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch, “Vocabulary is not all that changes in the linguistic melting pot. Punctuation changes. Spelling changes. Meaning changes. Even grammar changes.”

Over the coming weeks, editors will be poring over Seventeen to see just what these changes entail. We were given some early teases: internet is being lowercased, email is losing the hyphen, hyphenation guidance in general is supposedly being relaxed a tad. We’re all eager to see what else is in store!

[UPDATE: Click here for a more detailed look at the changes in the new edition.]


“Back off, man! I’m serious!”

We can hardly blame Sixteen for being a little miffed. No one likes to be replaced, especially when you were held in such esteem, and it’s entirely natural to have a little resentment toward the new kid on the block.

Editors also have to learn to deal with change, and this is helped tremendously by understanding that style is style, not an immutable set of laws, and all “rules” are subject to change.


“C’mon, I can change. I can lowercase internet!”

It’s a done deal, Sixteen. You served us all well, but Seventeen is happening.

I’m looking forward to the print copy. The online version of Chicago is really handy, but there’s nothing like having a big, thick, beautiful reference at your fingertips. That turning of pages, mixed with the anticipation of discovery, activates pleasure centers in the brain that no online search can replicate.

Or maybe I’m just getting old!


“E-mail, email, whatever. Nothing matters anyway.”

The fourteenth edition (1993) of the manual was my first, and somewhere along the way my copy’s book jacket went missing. I now look at the battered old thing with fondness and just a tinge of sadness. A lot has changed in my life since 1993. I’ve gained much and lost much as well. Life moves inexorably forward.


“It was bound to happen eventually. Good luck, Seventeen.”

Someday Seventeen too will be replaced, and what a glorious thing it is to watch the marvelous march of language.

Personally, professionally, I’m embracing change all over the place, and I’ll say this: it’s invigorating!




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