Online Style Guides

By Maeve Maddox

Russell from Cape Town writes:

As a rank novice to the world of writing, and one purely for work purposes not for literature, I was wondering where you gain access to so many style guides. Can you suggest some free guides to download?

The two most frequently cited American style guides are the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law and the Chicago Manual of Style. Both have online editions, but they are not free. Individual annual subscription rates: AP Stylebook $25; CMOS $30.

The current Amazon price for the print edition of the 2009 AP Stylebook is $11.37. I paid $18.95 for my copy earlier this year. The AP book is very easy to navigate so I don’t see any advantage to subscribing online.

The usual price for the print edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is $55. Amazon has it for $33.65 at the moment. For me the search feature of the online edition is worth the $30 subscription fee.

For our readers who use British English, the BBC has a free downloadable PDF: The BBC News Styleguide.

Another British online freebie is the Guardian, Observer and Style Guide.

A free nonacademic online American style guide is the National Geographic Style Manual.

An old edition of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is available free at Be aware that changes have been made in more recent editions.

In addition to the AP Stylebook and the CMOS, I sometimes refer to the free Purdue writing lab known as OWL, but I don’t seem to be able to find things there as easily as I do in CMOS.

OWL is probably the most comprehensive university guide out there, but many other universities offer style guides based on AP and CMOS, Many of these are available as downloadable PDFs. Most rely heavily on the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style. Here are a few:

U of Alaska Style Guide: based on AP Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

University of Buffalo Marketing Toolbox: apparently oriented towards business writing

U of Colorado at Boulder Style Guide: intended as a general guide for print and electronic media, but not as a replacement for more specialized guides.

Gustavus Adolphus College:an eclectic guide based on the AP Stylebook, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Ithaca College Office of Marketing Communications: downloadable Editorial Standards

University of Kentucky Style Guide: downloadable PDF “conforms largely to the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, but it contains exceptions to both AP style manual and The Chicago Manual of Style.”

Lafayette College Style Guide: links in convenient outline form

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


4 Responses to “Online Style Guides”

  • Taku

    Thank you for giving the information about the PDFs.
    I downloaded The BBC News Styleguide by way of experiment.

  • Marija

    Thank you very much for the article. I had long been looking for a list of books that could polish my English and give answers to some questions.

    Keep up the amazing work with your blog. I’ve been reading it for months now, and it’s very useful and informative.

  • Maeve

    Graham Broadley points out that subscribing to the online AP Style Book carries the advantage of an Ask the Editor feature. The advantages of the ability to ask specific questions of a real live editor are obvious.

    Thanks, Graham

  • Colleen Newvine

    Thanks, Maeve, for pointing out Ask the Editor. It’s just one of many online-only features of the AP Stylebook Online.

    With Ask the Editor, you not only get to submit questions but you can search past answers — there are more listings in Ask the Editor than in the Stylebook itself.

    Plus you get regularly updated company listings from Capital IQ, audio pronouncers on names and terms in the news, and e-mail updates throughout the year whenever AP adds a new listing or changes its guidance on something, as we did going to website from Web site this spring.

    I still love my spiral-bound book, but Stylebook Online is a richer resource that can travel with you more easily.

    Colleen Newvine
    product manager, AP Stylebook

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