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House Style Cheat Sheet

Last updated 8/21/2015

This is a cheat sheet for Chicago magazine style across all platforms—in print and on the Web.

In a larger sense, let’s remember the brand promise with our fast and furious Web stories:

Feel free to contact Luke or Terry if you have any questions about the following and to confer on style and tone going forward.

Thanks!

 

Abbreviations

In general, we do not use periods with most common abbreviations.
EXCEPTIONS: Ph.D., U.S., L.A., U. of C. (NOTE: Only use U.S. for “United States” as an adjective.)

Abbreviate street addresses in text only when in parentheses.
Like this: They stopped at the jewelry store at 900 North Michigan Avenue.
Not this: They stopped at the jewelry store at 900 N. Michigan Ave.
BUT The store (900 N. Michigan Ave.) is known for its fine gold jewelry.

Close up common abbreviations that use ampersands: R&B, B&B.

Do not abbreviate months (or days) in text.
Like this: Easter is on Sunday, March 31, this year.
Not this: Easter is on Sun., Mar. 31, this year.

Current style is to use “old” state abbreviations, not new PO abbreviations.
Like this: The clothing store (123 S. Second St., Terre Haute, Ind.) is open on Sundays.
Not this: The clothing store (123 S. Second St., Terre Haute, IN) is open on Sundays.
BUT The clothing store, which is located at 123 South Second Street in Terre Haute, Indiana, is open on Sundays.

Art/Architecture

Most styles are NOT capped.
Like this: She was a fan of the art deco style. He preferred the impressionists.
Not this: She was a fan of the Art Deco style. He preferred the Impressionists.
EXCEPTIONS: Prairie school; Arts and Crafts

Headlines

Cap first and last word and all other major words/parts of speech. Don’t forget to cap “is” as a verb. The word “to” is not capped even as part of a verb form. Prepositions of over four letters are capped.

Like this:

Not this:

House Styles

“a” is preferred to “per”
Like this: They paid $100 a night for the hotel room. The fees were $25 a bag.
Not this: They paid $100 per night for the hotel room. The fees were $25 per bag.

“data” is plural
Like this: The data show that he is correct.
Not this: The data shows that he is correct.

“email,” not “e-mail”

“half a” is preferred to “a half”
Like this: Only half a dozen people came to the play that night.
Not this: Only a half dozen people came to the play that night.

“High school” is hyphenated as an adjective; open as a noun.
Like this: She was a high-school student in the 1960s.
Not this: She was a high school student in the 1960s.

-size, not -sized (generally no hyphen; check American Heritage Dictionary)
Like this: She flinched at the oversize statue.
Not this: She flinched at the oversized statue.

so-called
A word or phrase after “so-called” does not need quotes.
Like this: He rode the so-called express train to the Loop and was still late for work.
Not this: He rode the so-called “express” train to the Loop and was still late for work.

“theater,” not “theatre”

Web, website (Web capped to avoid confusion with non-Internet webs)

American Heritage Dictionary has “ZIP Code” (originally a trademark)
Like this: “The food beats that of any other in this ZIP Code.”
Not this: “The food beats that of any other in this zip code.”

Numbers

As a general rule, spell out one through nine and use numerals for others.
EXCEPTIONS: Use numerals for districts, wards, precincts; “numbered expressions” such as TV seasons and episodes, book chapters, rankings on a list; sports scores.

Use “number one” for expressions like “the number one problem” but “No. 1” if referring to rankings of some kind.
Use “day one” for expressions like “He knew it was wrong from day one” but “Day 1, Day 2,” if referring to a process or series of days.

Some examples of when to use numerals rather than words:

BUT:

BUT:

Use numeral and spell out “percent.”
Like this: The prices are 6 percent higher than last year.
Not this: The prices are six percent higher than last year.
Not this: The prices are 6% higher than last year.
EXCEPTION: In tables or charts where space is at a premium “%” is acceptable.

When writing decades, do not use an apostrophe before the “s:” 1990s, not 1990’s.
When shortening the decade, DO use an apostrophe before the number: ’90s, not ‘90s.

Even if you put in an apostrophe, the software may change it to an straight single quote. You can copy and paste an apostrophe from elsewhere, or use the following:

For Mac, use Option + ] and Shift + Option + ] for the left (open) and right (closed) single quotes.

For Windows, use ALT + 0145 and ALT + 0146 for the left (open) and right (closed) single quotes.

Punctuation


Colons

If what follows a colon is a complete sentence, use initial cap.
Like this: The desserts are fabulous: We love the chocolate cake.
Not this: The desserts are fabulous: we love the chocolate cake.

EXCEPTION: titles where the text after the colon is considered a subhead:
Like this: Fabulous Buys: Where to Find Them This Weekend
Not this: Fabulous Buys: where to find them this weekend

Commas

Not needed after an introductory word.
Like this: But he never saw the pitch coming. Then they knew the game was lost.
Not this: But, he never saw the pitch coming. Then, they knew the game was lost.

Use serial commas.
Like this: They bought dresses, pants, and shoes for the trip.
Not this: They bought dresses, pants and shoes for the trip.

Use commas between modifiers only if you can substitute the word “and.”
Like this: Her long brown hair was now in a sleek, short cut.
Not this: Her long, brown hair was now in a sleek short cut. (You wouldn’t say “long and brown hair” but you would say “a sleek and short cut.”)

Use commas after city/state, month/year in running text.
Like this: He was born in Elgin, Illinois, on March 28, 1960, to John and Jane Doe.
Not this: He was born in Elgin, Illinois on March 28, 1960 to John and Jane Doe.

Dashes/Hyphens

Try to avoid long hyphenated modifiers:
Not this: You know that rickety-barn-and-rolling-green-pasture life you imagined for yourself one day?
But this: You know that life of rickety barns and rolling green pastures you imagined for yourself one day?

Most common prefixes do not use hyphens, such as: co, mega, mid, non, over/under, pre/post, re, ultra, un

Examples: coauthor, coworker, cowriter, cofounder, BUT co-owner, co-op megamall, megavitamin, megastorm midcentury, midthirties, midrange, BUT mid-July, mid-1990s nonviolent, nonnegotiable overreach, overrun, overanxious underrated, underemployed, understate premodern, prewar, preempt postmodern, postwar, postdoctoral, reelect, reedit, reunify BUT re-cover, re-creation (distinct from recover, recreation) ultramodern, ultraorganized unfunded, unneeded, uninhabitable

Like this: The preshow snacks included ultrarich canapés. The oversalted popcorn had been reheated.
Not this: The pre-show snacks included ultra-rich canapés. The over-salted popcorn had been re-heated.
NOTE: House style is uber- not über (uber-stylish, not überstylish)

Em dashes, not en dashes, are for breaks in thought. Also, no space around em dashes.
Like this: This is a somewhat narrow measure of religious beliefs—more on that in a minute—but a reasonable one for traditionally devout religious ones.
Not this: This is a somewhat narrow measure of religious beliefs – more on that in a minute – but a reasonable one for traditionally devout religious ones.
NOTE: The sentence that is interrupted should be grammatically correct if the interrupter is removed.

Use en dash with compounds in modifiers.
Like this: New York City–based artist
Not this: New York City-based artist; New-York-City-based artist

In text, preferred style is to use “to” rather than en dash for ranges. (EXCEPTION: The Go listings use dashes to save space.)
Like this: pages 11 to 15; runs October 21 to 31; hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Not this: pages 11–15; runs October 21–31; hours are 9 a.m.–12 p.m.

Punctuation and quotes

If quoting people and they say something as an aside, use em dashes rather than parens. (People don’t speak in parens.) If you are adding something to the quote, use brackets.
Like this: “I love desserts—especially chocolate—but I avoid them while I’m training for the Chicago Marathon [October 12].”
Not this: “I love desserts (especially chocolate) but I avoid them while I’m training for the Chicago Marathon (October 12).”

Quotes within quotes take single quotation marks EXCEPT when the quote is not enclosed in double quotation marks (usually in a Q&A format).
Like this: “I never wanted to be the bad guy, but I had to say, ‘You’re grounded,’ after the second incident.”
Or this: I never wanted to be the bad guy, but I had to say, “You’re grounded,” after the second incident.
Not this: “I never wanted to be the bad guy, but I had to say, “You’re grounded,” after the second incident.”
Or this: I never wanted to be the bad guy, but I had to say, ‘You’re grounded,’ after the second incident.

Titles (personal, business, books, etc.)

In running text, lowercase “the” when preceding the name of a business, university, organization, or other institution, even when part of the official name. The “the” is also roman; no ital or bold or special treatment.
Like this: the Golden Triangle, the Empty Bottle, the Hideout, the University of Chicago, the Beach Boys, the Beatles
Not this: The Golden Triangle, The Empty Bottle, The Hideout, The University of Chicago, The Beach Boys, The Beatles

EXCEPTIONS: Titles of works—books, movies, TV shows, periodicals, radio programs, and newspapers but only when “The” is part of the official title.
Like this: the Chicago Tribune (not The Chicago Tribune); The Sun Also Rises, The Chicago Manual of Style, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times

False titles/real titles for people

In general, avoid capitalizing a civil/political title unless it is an official title and in front of a person’s name. Spell out titles in running text.
Like this: Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Pope John Paul; President Obama; Superintendent McCarthy
Not this: Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel; John Paul, the Pope; current President Barack Obama; Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy or Supt. McCarthy

Not this: It’s no surprise that Simon would want out of the Lt. Gov. position. She has political ambitions and a gold-plated lineage—daughter of the late, revered U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, who also served as Lt. Governor before trading up to Congress and then the U.S. Senate.
But this: It’s no surprise that Simon would want out of the lieutenant governor position. She has political ambitions and a gold-plated lineage—daughter of the late, revered U.S. senator Paul Simon, who also served as lieutenant governor before trading up to Congress and then the U.S. Senate.

These can be tricky. One hint is to think of how you would greet the person. Would you say “Good morning Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel”?

Always lowercase: chef, executive chef, sous chef

Titles of official offices/groups

“City Council” when referring to Chicago’s or a specific city’s council. BUT: “the council City Hall” when referring to Chicago’s or a specific city’s hall. (Not in the phrase “You can’t fight city hall.”)
Cap the official name of an office but lowercase if not using the full name.
Like this: “According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office…” or this: “According to the state’s attorney’s office…”
Not this: “According to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office…” or this: “According to the State’s Attorney’s Office…”

Names with unusual caps, space, spelling

We prefer to normalize unusual capitalizations, but there are a few exceptions. Readability is the main issue. Is it easy for a reader to understand at first read? Are the capital letters an acronym or simply to make the name stand out?
Like this: theWit, Hot Chocolate, Space519, WebMD, iPod, eBay, Ing
Not this: theWIT, HOTCHOCOLATE, space519, Web MD, IPod, EBay, iNG

Band names can be particularly odd.
Like this: Kesha, Questlove, the The, Fun
Not this: Ke$ha, ?uestlove, the the, fun.

Names of sections, rubrics, headlines in Chicago magazine

Cap and roman for sections and rubrics: 312, Culture, Vox, Art, Dance, The Urbanist, etc.
Like this: (see Vox, page 17), (see “The Gang That Wouldn’t Die, page 86)
Not this: (see “Vox,” page 17), (see The Gang That Wouldn’t Die, page 86)

Cap, rom, and quotes for story headlines.
Like this: “Blues Angels,” “Best New Restaurants,” “Ready, Set, NATO!”
Not this: Blues Angels, Best New Restaurants, Ready, set, NATO!

Italicize the name of the magazine only.
Like this: Chicago magazine
Not this: Chicago Magazine

Web references

Do not use “.com” except when directing people to a URL. Website and blog names do not get ital or quotes.
Like this: Mike Brockway, a Chicago blogger, runs The Expired Meter.
Or this: Mike Brockway, a Chicago blogger, runs a site called The Expired Meter.
Not this: Mike Brockway, a Chicago blogger, runs theexpiredmeter.com.
Or this: Mike Brockway, a Chicago blogger, runs TheExpiredMeter.com.

When referring to a URL, use lowercase. 
Like this: For a video tour, visit chicagomag.com/weberhouse.
Not this: For a video tour, visit Chicagomag.com/WeberHouse.

Omit the “www” in URLs—but the URL itself needs to be fact-checked because URLs that only work with the prefix do exist.

Names of blogs, news sites, etc., are in italics. This includes any site that is editorial in nature, whether professional or amateur.
Like this: Second City Cop, Eater, Grub Street, Huffington Post

Notes to Web editors

Please watch for “straight quotes” vs. “smart quotes” when uploading text from writers to web.

Also please set ellipses as “ . . . ” not “...”

Watch that apostrophes in terms like “the ’90s” and “rock ’n’ roll” have not changed to single quotes.

Information (address, phone, etc.) at end of stories

All elements of location and contact info are separated with commas. Use semicolons for additional, different info or for separating addresses for businesses with more than one location.
Like this: Luisa’s Café (13698 Red Arrow Hwy., Harbert, Mich., 269-469-9037, harbertsswedishbakery.com; entrees from $7.95)
Not this: Luisa’s Café (13698 Red Arrow Hwy., Harbert, Mich.; 269-469-9037; harbertsswedishbakery.com; entrees from $7.95)
Like this: 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-440-9550; 1915 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-327-9980; galtbaby.com
Not this: 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-440-9550, 1915 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-327-9980, galtbaby.com

EXCEPTIONS: Event info at the end of Chicago Guide. This is a slight variation on the style we use in the magazine’s Go guide.
Like this: 3/27–6/16. $25–$59. Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport. mercurytheaterchicago.com
Not this: Mar. 27 to June 16 at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., mercurytheaterchicago.com; $25 to $59

How to style a correction

Make the correction in the original story. Do not use strikethrough as a way to obscure the error. If the correction is noted in comments, you may delete the comment after you’ve made the fix.

Like this:

For multiple changes:

For more details on corrections, see this summary.

Photo credits

Photo credits need the “Photo: ” prefix manually added, whether it's the lead photo for a story or a photo in a photo gallery. This gives us the flexbility to have different language for non-photo visuals, such as illustrations. In photo galleries, credits should be added for each individual photo. Set off a photographer’s publication with a slash, with no spaces, and italicize it.

Always be sure you have rights to any given photo. Use “Courtesy of” only if you have permission of the copyright holder, or if it is clearly intended for publicity purposes. Do not use “Courtesy of” as a synonym for “Stolen from the following blog.” If you are using a Flickr photo, be sure it has a Creative Commons commercial link; include a link to the original source and a link to the Creative Commons license. (Never use “Flickr” itself as the attribution. Flickr is merely the medium, not the source. It makes as much sense as crediting a photo to “Kodak.”)

Like this: Photo: Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Not this: Photograph: Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune

If there are multiple photos, use this style under the first photo or at the top of the story if possible.
Like this: Photos: Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Not this: Photography: Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Or this: Photography by Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune

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