The Chicago Manual of Style
The granddaddy of all stylebooks, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) has been an authority on putting words into print for more than a century. Today it remains a go-to resource for publishing professionals for grammar, punctuation and style questions. Stumped on whether you should use farther or further? Forget if everybody is a singular or plural noun? Need to know when it's okay to omit a serial comma? You'll find all you need to know (and more) in CMS. While some argue the style has become somewhat stodgy, the manual has actually aged well. In an effort to stay relevant in the 21st century, the 16th edition of the CMS features expanded editorial insight for electronic publishing.
The AP Stylebook, shortened from AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, is known as 'the journalist's Bible.' Offering guidelines on punctuation, grammar, spelling and usage, AP style is followed by virtually every news organization in the United States. While not quite as old as The Chicago Manual of Style, this journo handbook has been published for more than 50 years. In addition to style questions, the AP Stylebook also covers media law, including acceptable sourcing methods and libel guidelines. The most recent update is available in print and online.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
If you've ever taken psych or another class in the social and behavioral sciences, you're probably familiar with APA style. Adopted by many academic disciplines, these guidelines are all about writing with simplicity and precision. APA style asserts that the best scientific writing spotlights ideas without decorative language. Underlying this philosophy is the belief that literary flourishes have the potential to overshadow - or at least get in the way of - substantive content. Developed 80 years ago, APA style has evolved with time and today offers contemporary recommendations for punctuation, abbreviations, headings, tables, reference citations and other matters.
MLA Handbook and MLA Style Manual
It's time for the humanities to step up and represent their style - and they do so in the form of MLA. First released in 1985, these style guidelines are now the accepted citation standard for academics in a wide range of studies, most notably for those who write about literature and language. MLA style is widely considered to be less complex than many other options. The Modern Language Association, the custodial organization of the style, publishes two different resources. The MLA Handbook is for undergraduates and provides general information on writing research papers, including documentation guidelines. The MLA Style Manual - for more accomplished writers - provides specific information for graduate students and academic scholars.
The Yahoo! Style Guide
The previous four style guides on this list have, combined, existed for more than 250 years. Yahoo! Style Guide was released only a few months ago. So what is it doing here? Brandishing the subtitle The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating for the Digital World this new player in the stylebook game is trying to make itself into the authority for online publishing. It's hard to gauge at this point whether the Yahoo! Style Guide has caught on among Web writers, editors, marketers, bloggers and programmers. Style between different websites can vary greatly, and the very nature of Internet publishing makes the medium ill-suited to one universal style. That said, it will be interesting to see whether Yahoo!'s guide is adopted by some of the major web media companies.