Who Shapes The Chicago Manual Of Style?
by Writing Workshops Org Admin
A year ago
The Chicago Manual of Style is accepted as the final authority on all things related to the written word. Questions about where to put a comma? What about those pesky hyphens and dashes? Citation headaches? Look it up and be enlightened!
But who exactly gets to decide the answers that are given in this hallowed text? And why should other editors and writers trust them? Of the countless editors in this country, only nine were asked to be on the Board of Directors for the most recent edition, released in 2017. Of course, other editorial staff also participate in the revisions. But that’s still a pretty small number considering the far-reaching influence of the Chicago Manual.
Its website provides a brief and interesting history of the CMOS. It began as a single sheet of guidelines in 1891 for the typesetters and related staff. It grew into a pamphlet and then into books that become increasingly longer with each edition. By the 1960s, it had firmly established itself as a cornerstone manual in the writing and publishing world.
For the first 100 years of its existence, CMOS editors didn’t call upon outside advisors for guidance during revisions. It was only in 2003, for the 15th edition, that they began this practice. Its editors found that, given the many changes occurring in written language with the advent of the internet, broader input was needed.
While its website doesn’t go into great detail about the nine members of the Board of Directors for the 17th edition, a simple search provides proof of their distinguished qualifications. Indeed, it’s easy to understand why they were asked to be advisors. Each brings a diversity of experience. The spectrum of publishing wisdom and knowledge provided by the members on the board is rich and varied. Of course, academic publishing is an important part, but popular publishing knowledge is not excluded. Medical publishing is also represented among its members, as are the needs of digital consumers.
Shaye Areheart had a long, successful career as an editor and publisher, including at Alfred Knopf and Penguin Random House, Inc. She now directs the Columbia Publishing Course. Richard Brown had a long tenure at Georgetown University Press and recently moved to the University of South Carolina Press. Marilyn Campbell worked for decades at Rutgers University Press. Samuel Fanous is part of the English faculty at Oxford. Barbara Flanagan is a senior editor at Bedford/St. Martin’s. William Germano is an English professor at The Cooper Union with a number of impressive accomplishments and titles to his credit. Medical editing is represented by John E. Meunning of the New England Journal of Medicine and by Peter Olson of Sheridan Journal Services. Joshua Tallent, of Firebrand Technologies, represents the growing needs of digital publishing.
Quite notably, on its website, CMOS editors repeatedly state that requests, questions, and feedback from the public—especially those who write into their Q&A column—are also taken into account when they are working on revised editions. And this, perhaps, is the secret to its power. While input from academia is highly valued, so is the input of those who are interacting with the written word outside of the ivory tower and on the street, so to speak. Its board of directors offers stellar advice, but they aren’t the only ones who are given a voice.