Do Not Capitalize Internet and Do Not Hyphenate Email – Plus Other Updates from the 17th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual Style (CMOS) has long been considered editors’ and writers’ go-to guide on writing style.  Recently, the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) announced that the CMOS will be getting its first update in seven years, and this time it is addressing changing technology and social norms as part of its update. The new, 17th edition isn’t expected to be released until September, but some of the changes you can expect to see are outlined below.

Social Changes

Recognizing that the move to genderless terminology continues to grow, the CMOS will provide advice on the singular use of “they.” Many writers have been moving away from traditional use of “he/him,” and “she/her” for the sake of inclusion. This next edition will also add “cis-” to its list of prefixes for hyphenating compounds.

In an interview with ACES, the CMOS’ Style Online Q&A editor, Carol Fisher Saller, discussed the reasoning behind some of these changes.  She stated that in the last decade or so, the need for genderless grammar has grown. I can vouch for that. This is something we are seeing more and more of in our editing and reading practices. A Wall Street Journal article in 2015 tackled this topic, and in the same year, a Quartz article referenced Google Trends, stating that searches for “singular they” were up all through 2015. And, in 2016, singular “they” was named Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society. I know many people who have used “they” singularly for years—I guess now I won’t really be able to go all Grammar Police on them.  Saller states that the new CMOS will also provide bias-free language guidance.

Tech Updates

The debate on whether “internet” is a proper noun can now rest. In the next edition, the CMOS will direct writers to lowercase “internet.”  Another question that we receive frequently is whether email should be hyphenated. According to the new CMOS, email should NOT be hyphenated. These decisions are already making my job easier! My colleagues and I have gone back and forth on these two issues many times. I am happy to say that I have been on the correct side of the argument all along, although some maintain that email could still go either way.

Other Changes

Some other changes you can expect to see in September include advising against the use of “ibid,” providing recommendations for how to cite Twitter, and guidelines for retracting journal articles. The CMOS will also promote using alternative-text metadata to improve access for individuals with vision issues.

What I find interesting is that, according to Saller, when they were doing the last update in 2010, they believed that Twitter was not going to stick around, so they made the choice not to include any guidance on the subject. She said, “As Twitter grew into a powerful medium not just for socializing, but for business, journalism, and academe, it became clear that a citation style was needed.” She goes on to say that this new edition will include expanded information on citing maps, texts, apps, and live performances, among other things.

If you already have a subscription to the online edition of CMOS, you will automatically receive full access to this updated edition (17th!) in September, and will continue having full access to the new edition along with the 16th until your current subscription ends.