Inching Toward Chicago Style

I’ve been thinking about style guides a lot lately, as an AP Style addict and former newspaper editor. My first piece on style is here, if you’re interested.

As a fiction writer, I really should convert to Chicago Style, which is the publishing industry standard, but I’m not ready to adopt the serial comma or erase all my AP training. Yet.

So for now, I’ve made one small step. Have you noticed it?

When I started this blog, I opted to use all caps for manuscript titles in my Seven Questions interview series. Most of the authors I featured at first had works-in-progress or works ready to query–not published books. So I went with the typical query style by making the manuscript titles pop with all caps. Then I realized, for the sake of consistency, I should make all book titles all caps, not just the ones in the interview series. So that became my house style.

Do you see where I’m going?

I’ve never been a fan of all caps, but it does make book titles super visible on the page for someone who’s skimming through. I stuck with that choice until late May, when I published Kristy Athens’ Seven Questions interview using italics for her book title. Books with subtitles, like Get Your Pitchfork On!: The Real Dirt on Country Living, are positively unwieldy when they’re done in all caps.

So from now on book titles will be italicized around here. It’s totally against my AP background, where italics are eschewed at all costs, but it’s a step toward Chicago.

What do you do with book titles on your blog?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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29 Responses to Inching Toward Chicago Style

  1. I’m an old fashioned gal and always italicise titles, a la Australian academic style. 🙂

  2. Emma says:

    I use italics for the names of books, TV shows and movies.

    • It’s such a no-no in newspapers, probably dating back to when they were actually typset. So I am still feeling a little nervous about committing to italics…. but I’m doing it anyway, and definitely that’ll include the other media types, too!

  3. I keep going back and forth on this issue. But I especially love how you share these kinds of things with us… It helps me be more intentional about my own style…

  4. Nowadays I use italics, but the older entries (from before I really got into the CMOS) are a bit of a hudgepodge. I think I was influenced by the NY Times for a while and used quotes. There are too many entries for me to go back and worry about it. But these days it’s italics.

    (I don’t italicize in blog comments because I can’t go back and edit the codes if I type them wrong. 🙂 )

    This posed a problem when I started Stevie One, since I didn’t know how long it was going to be. Would it be a novel, or a novella (don’t get me started on “novelette”)? I’ve been italicizing it, though I think it’s unlikely it will ever qualify as a novel. My theory is that it’s a standalone work, unlike my mystery stories, so it gets italics.

    • Ah yes, the quotes! I’d immediately think to put song titles and poems in quotes, but I guess I’ll have to look up Chicago Style and see how I should do it now, if I really am converting.

      I’m glad–with your strong sense of style–that you didn’t go back and fix your old entries. I don’t have the time to do that, but it makes me feel better that you haven’t done it either!

      • Song titles, short stories, and poems should all be in quotes.

        The question of whether to go back and “fix” my old entries is pretty much decided for me, since I’ve had the blog for over six and a half years and I have around 450 posts and pages. I would really worry about anybody who was obsessive enough to want to go back and edit all that. When I link back to an older post, I sometimes check it out to see if there’s anything really egregious — that’s about it.

        Oh, and I think BODY COPY ( 🙂 ) has to be in AP style. How can you have a book that’s based on AP but written in Chicago. Universes collide and all that. You bring that much AP and CMOS together, and Scotty’s going to be down in the engine room yelling, “I canna hold it together, Captain!”

        Seriously, 85% of your audience will never know the difference. The remaining 15% will appreciate it every time you use AP, and they’ll be annoyed if you don’t. Think of it like writing in a regional dialect.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Italics here, but my background is firmly CMS. The major journals in my field defer to it when their house rules don’t cover something. Thankfully it carries over to fiction. 🙂 I’m an Oxford comma girl, too.

    • You’re lucky that you defer to Chicago already! I know I should start using the Oxford comma… and I will, someday. I’m confused about my journalism novel, though, as I wrote it in AP Style, and my character even quotes the AP Stylebook. Changing it into Chicago would mean breaking AP rules!

      • jmmcdowell says:

        Oh, I’m curious what an agent or editor would say to that….! Go with the character’s story and leave it as AP? Or change all the “non-journalist” bits to CMS?

        • I wonder too! I spent so many years working on drafts I will have to change a few AP things, i.e. they finally got rid of the outdated dash in teen-ager, but my protagonist talks about how she hates using the dash.

  6. Maggie says:

    If they’re my own WiPs, I put them in all caps, but if they’re actually published books and not my own, I put them in italics.

    • I almost did that, too, Maggie, to differentiate between manuscripts and published works, but then I worried about seeming inconsistent. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen that route originally!

  7. Christi Craig says:

    Laura,
    I’ve always wondered why people put titles in all caps. I thought it had something to do with formatting, not style. Thanks for clearing me up on that.

    I typically italicizes titles, though on occasion I have used caps — for all the wrong reasons 🙂 However I’ve done it before, I’ve tried to stay consistent in a single post. After reading your post, I’ll stick to one style: italics.

    • Hi, Christi! Staying consistent in one post is a good goal! Most people won’t be paying attention to a blog’s overall style, anyway! I felt self-conscious changing my policy, hence this post, but probably nobody noticed until I said something…

  8. I’ve grappled with this same issue myself. Putting book and movie titles in italics seems best to me visually for blog writing, so that’s what I do. Great post!

  9. Laura, excuse the lateness of my response. I am taking a six week editing course and I have been “dotty” from all the details. Yes, the devil is in the details. Then I face the task of editing, revising and rewritings … drat !!

    I prefer italics for titles of books, songs and movies. It’s less jarrring. I don’t enjoy that we have to put titles or MC names in all caps for queries.

    BTW … editing is a major pain but once I began to “get” it … I felt someone had given me a new pair of wings 🙂

    • Ooh, an editing class. How fun, Florence! Caps are jarring–and perhaps that’s why they’re preferred in queries (to remind an agent what they’re reading). They do make a title stand out–and since that’s not a bad thing, that’s why I stuck with them for so long. I have heard advice to put all character names in caps for a synopsis, too, likely for the same reason.

  10. I am a big fan of the Oxford comma. I also italicize in my blog (when I remember to). I have never liked the ALL CAPS YELLING of book titles. It drives me a little nuts. But I will play along. Industry standard wins above all else!

    • And luckily for those of you who use the Oxford comma, that is the industry standard! I will have to keep reforming my ways. I think my next transition project will be using Chicago rules for numbers.

  11. Additionally, I apologize for putting an exclamation point in my title! What a pain in the keyster. But I wanted to make sure that I was demonstrating my upbeat attitude–the book is, at times, overwhelmingly cautionary …

    • I love the exclamation point! Otherwise it would be Get Your Pitchfork On, more of a comment than a rousing suggestion. (And yes somewhere on this blog I wrote a defense of the exclamation point…)

  12. 4amWriter says:

    I was taught to underline titles, and now because italics are preferred I am trying to retrain myself. It isn’t easy. The comma situation has me all backwards, too. Now, I think I use fewer commas than I used to as that seems to be the trend. I have never gotten used to all caps.

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