By Cheri Lasota 

When I started freelancing as a fiction editor, I searched for a definitive stylebook to help me navigate the often shark-infested waters of fiction. I grew up on AP, generally known as newspaper style. But the AP Stylebook is built for speed and narrow spaces. Fiction needs more breathing room, more elasticity, and—gosh darn it—more commas!

Enter the Chicago Manual of Style, my friend and closest adviser in all matters of writing and editing. This stylebook covers the usual topics of grammar, usage, and punctuation, but it also delves into publishing and book design, copyright problems, foreign languages, and formatting.

So why should you consult this orange monster of a stylebook? Because everybody else does! While Chicago was originally produced as a guide for scholary journals and books, fiction writers and editors use the Chicago Manual of Style as an all-purpose reference manual. The 15th edition boasts a host of new additions, focusing in particular on the industry’s current trend of using computer software to edit and write. With the explosion of the Web, writers and editors have sought a definitive source to help them prepare, edit, and cite electronic publications. This new edition has addressed these issues and more.

If you have been in the market for a stylebook, but have been unsure which is most appropriate for fiction, look no further than Chicago. It is one of the most comprehensive stylebooks, but also one of the most expensive. Your local library will have the Chicago Manual of Style available in the reference section or you can find a used copy on-line at Amazon.com or Powell’s Books. (Hardcover $55, CD-ROM $60; www.chicagomanualofstyle.com.)