The 2021 CIEP conference: How to check text with The Chicago Manual of Style for PerfectIt

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Marieke Krijnen reviewed How to check text with The Chicago Manual of Style for PerfectIt, presented by Daniel Heuman.

In one of the most joyful announcements of the year, a perfect union was proclaimed: The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and PerfectIt (PI) had been working together to integrate the former into the latter! Like anyone who uses PI and CMOS religiously, I was thrilled.

I adore CMOS. A client has called me ‘the Yoda of Chicago style’. I cite passages from the manual as if they’re from a holy book (‘Changing a dash in a quotation is permissible; CMOS 17, 13.7’). I say ‘Chicago’ when referring to the style, not the city (leading to interesting misunderstandings with my husband, a UChicago alum). I was first introduced to CMOS when a publisher took a chance on me, a newbie editor, asking me to proofread a forthcoming book and check that CMOS 16 was followed. I completed the job within a week and spent long, very long hours scrolling through the manual’s digital version and typing search terms. I discovered that this magical book had something to say about pretty much everything one could possibly wonder about while editing non-fiction. I ordered a hard copy soon after that, and it has little bookmarks all over it. If I had the nerve to get a CMOS tattoo, I probably would.

I’d like to say that I have memorised most of CMOS by now. However, it’s more accurate to say that I am aware of the things CMOS says something about, without me necessarily always knowing what it says precisely about, for example, headline capitalisation, when not to use an ellipsis, how to style the original titles of translated works, and so on. A good editor knows how to look things up, right?

PI’s union with CMOS is so great because it saves you hours of research. I was delighted that Daniel Heuman, PI’s CEO, was coming to talk about this happy union at the CIEP conference. He was joined by Russell Harper, the principal reviser of the 16th and 17th editions of CMOS. And so off we went into a session jam-packed with useful info.

The CMOS plugin for PI checks your manuscript and flags anything that does not seem to conform to Chicago style. It also displays the actual CMOS entry so you can judge for yourself whether the suggested change should be applied. No more opening up the digital edition or your book and looking for the precise entry; it’s right there on your screen! In the actual CMOS online font and style, people. And if you want to see the full entry, just click on its red number and it will take you straight to the digital style guide!

Daniel explained that PI’s philosophy is that ‘people make the best editing decisions’ and that PI seeks to provide the ‘technology to help people edit faster and better’. Therefore, the integration of CMOS into the software does not mean that decisions will be made for you. Instead, the plugin searches the text for you and teaches you the principles of Chicago style.

Not everything in CMOS is included in the check, but the plugin will check for hyphenation, abbreviations, numbers, centuries and decades, punctuation, and possessives, with ‘a focus on style and usage that form the basis of house styles’. Checks are thus not exhaustive, false positives may come up, and context needs to be considered. PI can’t think of every possible exception. For example: ‘daughter-in-law’ is usually hyphenated, but when a sentence such as ‘a daughter in law school’ is flagged, PI relies on you, the editor, to see this and not apply the suggested hyphenation. The takeaway: context is everything, so always carefully check PI’s suggestions!

After a live demo, we learned that the new CMOS style in PI can be combined with any other style in the Windows version. Combining the CMOS style with the UK spelling style is not yet recommended, however. Instead, switch off ‘spelling variations’ when running the CMOS check and then run the UK-style check with all options off except for ‘spelling variations’. Daniel is planning to eventually provide a solution to combine CMOS with other spelling and dictionaries, and he is open to cooperating with other style guides to develop similar plugins. Hence, this wonderful thing can only get better!

Marieke Krijnen is an academic copyeditor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She obtained a PhD in Political Science and has a background in Arabic and Middle East studies and urban studies.

In her free time, she enjoys trains, birds, and playing violin. She’s on Twitter as @MariekeGent.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

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