online grammar

Chicago Style Gets With the Online Grammar Times (Singular They, Lowercase Internet & More)

Grammar nerds, hold onto your hats.

On March 23 of this year, Carol Fisher Saller, editor of The Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A section, gave a presentation about some of the updates that would appear in the Chicago Manual’s 17th edition, due out in September of this year.

Among the big news?

It’s about time for these changes:

  • internet will now be lowercase
  • email will lose its hyphen.

Take that Kim Kardashian. Who broke the Internet internet now?

online grammar rules

What The Chicago Manual Is Changing For 2017 (A Win for Online Grammar)

If those two changes weren’t large enough for you, Saller also announced that the manual will begin accepting a singular “they” and that the 17th edition will include citation recommendations for social media posts, like Facebook and Twitter updates.

Each year, editors announce the changes to the Stylebook at the American Copy Editor’s Society annual meeting. This meeting is where the world heard, in 2011, that the Associated Press intended to stop using a hyphen in email.

Here’s a snapshot from that glorious moment:

In 2016, the Associated Press announced that it would remove the capitalization from the word internet. The Chicago Manual of Style has since announced its intention to adopt these styles.

Here are just a few of the notable changes from the recent meeting:

Gender Changes

Many of the recent changes revolve around what QuickAndDirtyTips.com calls “gender-related entries.” Here’s a breakdown:

  • Her, his. Before, AP style required writers to use he when a gender was unknown. Today, it’s acceptable to use they, them, or their.
  • Singular they. One of the largest changes, the AP Stylebook has recently begun to accept the use of they as a singular pronoun. This is especially useful in places where his or her would be overly clumsy or confusing. The only exception is when the phrasing would suggest there is more than one person.

Additional Changes

Additional, non-gender-related changes include the following:

  • Autonomous vehicles. Thanks to the rise of autonomous technology, the AP Stylebook has taken up a guide for how to refer to them. Instead of using the word driverless, however, the correct method is to use the term self-driving, unless the vehicle can only do some of the driving, in which case it should be called semi-autonomous.
  • Fact checks, fake news. “Fake news” may well be the term of 2017! Because there’s been such a sharp uptick in the use of these terms, the AP Stylebook now recommends using fake news in quotation marks to refer to deliberate falsehoods. The Stylebook also recommends not labeling individual news items as fake news that are disputed. Obvious enough, right?
  • Flyer, flier. Thanks to the new AP changes, you’re now a frequent flyer rather than a frequent flier. This change is due in large part to the fact that flyer is more common in both American and British spelling.
  • The Oxford comma. Today, clarity is more important than anything else, especially when viewed from the AP Stylebook’s standpoint. While the standard style has generally been to avoid the serial comma, the guideline now is to use it, but only where it’s needed for clarity.
  • Virtual reality. Like autonomous technology, augmented reality has become a major fixture in modern society. When you refer to it now, the AP Stylebook says it’s fine to use VR on the second reference, as long as you spell out virtual reality the first time. What’s more, you may use AR to refer to augmented reality, on the second pass only, though.

Why Updated Grammar Rules Matter to the Online Creator

If you don’t write, or read, or interact with content of any kind, this might not seem like a big deal!

To everyone in the content and online marketing communities, however, this is massive news. While online grammar has long since accepted these new realities, traditional grammar guidelines have seen them as “wrong” until very recently.

Now that the recognition is formal, though, it frees online writers up from being looked down upon by grammar professionals across the web and print media. It also helps standardize digital content and ensure that it matches up with print media.

Are the Stylebook and the Manual of Style Two Different Things?

If you’re flashing back to a time when you had to map sentences in high school grammar, it’s okay. Grammar can be a confusing and often overwhelming topic, and wondering what the heck the difference between the Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook is doesn’t help matters.

Here’s some clarity: they’re two separate entities.

Here’s what grammar.yourdictionary.com has to say about the separation:

“The Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style are very different guides for two very different groups of people who make their living with the written word. The Chicago Manual of Style is by far the larger reference work, with over 950 pages. The AP Stylebook has only 330 pages. The Chicago Manual of style is the guide for authors, editors and publishers of books, periodicals and journals. The AP Stylebook is the prime reference for those in the news and public relations fields.”

The fact that both entities agree on many of these changes means an enhanced sense of cohesion for writers everywhere!

A Good Day for Grammar 

The recent changes on the part of the Chicago Manual do one thing: help unify online and print writing for the sake of journalists and copywriters everywhere. By syncing grammar rules with digital grammar style, they help reduce confusion and make good writing easier for everyone.

The print version of the AP Stylebook will be available May 31, 2017.

While this guide is updated annually, the Chicago Manual of Style is updated less frequently, and the last update was in 2010.

Check back with both entities regularly to stay on top of future updates!

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6 replies
  1. Gwyn
    Gwyn says:

    “Flyer, flier. Thanks to the new AP changes, you’re now a frequent flyer rather than a frequent flier. This change is due in large part to the fact that industry websites use the latter spelling more commonly than the former.”
    This makes no sense. If industry websites use the latter spelling more commonly than the former, then it’s wilful and aggressive to go against the prevailing usage. What did you mean to say?

    Reply
    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Great question, Gwyn! I couldn’t find the source where I found this sentence (I’d originally read it somewhere). Upon some digging, including reviewing Grammar Girl articles, it seems more accurate to say this spelling has been adopted after “flyer” is more commonly used in both American and British styles today.

      Thanks for prompting the clarification!

      Reply
  2. vickikasabian
    vickikasabian says:

    If you’re going to use they as a singular pronoun, why not go whole hog and use a singular verb with it? That’s one way to avoid confusion!

    Reply
  3. Francine Cronshaw
    Francine Cronshaw says:

    The index for the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style was recently completed so the 17th edition should be released very soon!

    Reply

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