Is “The Chicago Manual of Style” Relevant to Contract Drafters?

I was surprised to have my publisher point out to me that although in the manuscript for the third edition of MSCD I had cited the fifteenth edition, the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has been with us since 2010. So I immediately bought a copy and updated my CMoS references.

It’s no mystery why I should find CMoS useful. CMoS is generally accepted as the most authoritative guide to conventions relevant to those who work with the written word. In preparing manuscripts, I consult CMoS for guidance on matters such what conventions to follow when preparing an index.

But CMoS has broader relevance for contract drafters. Although it’s limited and stylized, the language of contracts is nevertheless a kind of writing. I’m not shy about coming up with new guidelines, but with respect to some usage issues, the analysis is the same whether you’re a contract drafter or are dealing with some other kind of prose.

In particular, the third edition of MSCD will cite CMoS recommendations regarding capitalization, use of the serial comma, spacing between sentences, and conventions to follow when stating amounts of money.

If you’re involved in producing a lot of writing for public consumption, you’ll want to have a copy of CMoS close by. If you’re a contract drafter, CMoS is still relevant, but you’ll be able to get the benefit of it indirectly, through the third edition of MSCD.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

1 thought on “Is “The Chicago Manual of Style” Relevant to Contract Drafters?”

  1. I once heard the Uniform Commercial Code described as “one of the greatest achievements of the human mind.”

    It sounded crazy at first, but has grown on me.

    I doubt that CMoS deserves such high praise, but it may deserve higher praise than you give it, Ken, and MSCD3 will shine all the brighter for reflecting it.


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