The AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style illustrated as a rose bush

Recently my husband was neck deep in disagreements with his copyeditor over the proper use of commas in headlines. Over the course of the conversations it became clear that at least part of the problem was that his editor was using the AP Stylebook and my husband was working with the Chicago Manual of Style. Even though both books technically cover the same basic punctuation rules, they are optimized for two very different types of writing. I needed an easy way to illustrate to him the differences between the two. So I took my husband for a walk down the street. 
Rose bush with mostly dark pink flowers, but oddly one or two orange ones.
(Photo: Shala Howell)

My husband was neck deep in disagreements with his copyeditor over the proper use of commas in headlines. Naturally, he complained about this to me. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that at least part of the problem was the fact that his editor was using the AP Stylebook and my husband vastly prefers the Chicago Manual of Style.

The AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style were developed for two different types of writing.

You’ll find the same basic punctuation rules in each, for the most partBut since the AP Stylebook has been optimized for journalism and the Chicago Manual of Style is intended for use by writers of any stripe, the Chicago Manual of Style goes into much more detail about pretty much everything. 

The AP Stylebook tends to use a rougher set of punctuation rules optimized for life in the newspaper industry, which apparently feels the need to cut costs by forsaking things like the Oxford comma and the use of italics in titles.

My husband is a card-carrying member of #TeamOxfordComma. But as long as he and his editor continued to use two different style books, they would never get this book done.

I needed an easy way to illustrate the differences between the two style guides.

So I took my husband for a walk down the street and showed him our neighbor’s rose bush.

Most of the plant has lovely dark deep pink roses, but here and there you’ll see a rose with pink outer petals and an orange center.  If the rose bush represents the set of all writing rules, the pink roses would be the rules as described in the Chicago Manual of Style, and the orange & pink flowers the rules as described in the AP Stylebook. As the pink petals on the AP roses illustrate, the AP and Chicago style books have a great deal in common, but aren’t exactly the same.

So the next time you find yourself arguing with a copyeditor over the placement of commas, the punctuation of possessives, the use of capital letters, and the spacing around em dashes, do yourself a favor and make sure that the two of you are working from the same stylebook.

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