The Chicago Manual of Style is a much thicker tome than New Hart’s Rules, the guide I normally use as it refers to UK English. Chicago’s index is also far more comprehensive than the index in the UK book and it is relatively simple to use.
However, it is far easier to turn to the online version of Chicago to find specific answers to queries quickly, even if you cannot see the full text unless you subscribe ($39 per year). Although it is handy to have a print copy of the book, when the next edition is published I will probably opt for online access.
Explanations in Chicago are far clearer, easier to find and laid out in a far more accessible manner than in the rather dense text of New Hart’s Rules. Chicago always leaves me feeling that I have understood what to do and when, while New Hart’s Rules is sometimes quite unclear and could definitely do with explaining everything in more detail. Sometimes the only way you can glean a rule is from an example.
I’m also impressed by some sections in Chicago, such as 5.220 Glossary of Problematic Words and Phrases, which is often useful, and 7.85 which is a hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes in a table format. There’s certainly nothing like these sections in New Hart’s Rules, which is a pity as they make everything so much easier to understand.
Obviously, if you’re writing into UK English, you cannot follow all the rules in The Chicago Manual of Style, but it’s definitely a far better resource that its UK counterpart.
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