Any organization, such as a business or a school, which regularly requires writing follows a style manual of some kind. The benefits of using a style manual throughout an organization include consistency and continuity in matters such as grammar, punctuation, and usage, in addition to documenting sources in written work.
The most popular style manuals include the following:
- MLA (Modern Language Association) - used primarily in English and the arts
- APA (American Psychological Association) - used primarily in the social sciences, such as psychology
- CSE (Council of Science Editors) - used primarily in the science fields
- Chicago - used primarily in the field of history.
It would be impossible for me to tell you everything you need to know about writing according to the Chicago Style Manual, so I have linked the official Chicago Style Manual site below for you. It is easy to get intimidated by having to write according to a manual; however, the actual writing is nearly the same for all of them. It is only in the particulars they differ, and those specifics can be easily found and adhered to as long as you refer to the manual.
In general terms, the style manual will be most helpful when determining how a source should be cited (documented) in an essay or other research work. Most of these style manuals are similar in the basic writing issues, but in a few specific areas they can vary greatly. Be sure to check with the manual any time you have a question about anything from a comma to an outline to a bibliography. The site is very specific but also user-friendly and should answer any questions you might have.