Should You Use Chicago Style or AP Style for Book Manuscripts?

Friday, December 23, 2022
(Image by pikisuperstar)

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: I am writing a non-fiction book about basketball teams, and my editor and I are confused about the use of numbers in the book. I have been going by The Chicago Manual of Style, but he is a former sportswriter and thinks the AP Style should apply. 

The key Chicago rule is that numbers from zero to one hundred should be spelled out and 101 and above should be expressed in numerals. The AP Style says to spell out single digits and use numerals for double-digit numbers. The first question is which style manual applies to non-fiction books?

Here are some more specific questions: 

1. We both think that all game scores should be shown in numbers, e.g. 8-5, 34-21, 97-63. 112-86. I searched the Chicago style manual in vain for an exception. Are we correct on this point?

2. The next question applies to a single score in a sentence, e.g. “Smith was the Rams’ leading scorer with eighteen points.” My editor thinks it should be expressed as “18” points, since it would follow AP style. Another example would be “The Rams scored a record thirty-two points in the third period.”

3. Another question is about a player’s height: is he six-four, six-foot-four, 6-4, 6-foot-4, 6’-4” or some other variation? I saw one example that showed it as “five-foot-ten guard” (i.e. used as an adjective) but as “The` Rams’ star forward was six-feet-five inches tall,” I have looked in other sports books and seen all these variations.

4. The last question is about time. Is it, “the 7:00 game” or “the seven o-clock game”? Or is it “With “a minute and twenty-six seconds on the clock” or “With 1:26 remaining”? I tried emailing the Chicago people several weeks ago and got nothing. I tried calling and a very nice young man explained that the help desk handles only technical questions, not editorial inquiries.

A: First off, I’d like to mention that Chicago style spells the word nonfiction without a hyphen, rather than non-fiction.

Next, when The Chicago Manual of Style does not address a specific issue, it is left up to the publisher, and consistency becomes the guide. That said, Chicago style does address the questions you asked, and Chicago style is the style primarily used in books. AP style is more often used for newspapers and some magazines. I don’t recommend using a combination of the two.

As for the first question, when giving scores, use numerals; however, according to Chicago style, an en dash, not a hyphen, should separate the numbers, because the en dash will signify the word “to.” The en dash is slightly longer than a hyphen and can be found in Microsoft Word after you go to “insert” then “symbols” and then “special characters.” Example: The Scorpions won, and the game ended with a score of 2–6. 

Before I respond to question number two, note that Chicago style also differs from the style we see in newspapers and magazines when it comes to the use of possessive proper nouns. The general CMOS rule is to add and apostrophe s to create a possessive noun, even with proper nouns, and including most names of any length ending in sibilants (s or sh sounds). For that reason, the possessive of Rams in Chicago style is Rams’s.

When referring to single numbers in a sentence, as shown in your example, write out numbers that don’t exceed one hundred. Example: Smith was the Rams’s leading scorer, with eighteen points.

For question three, write out heights when they are part of a sentence, not in a list or a chart. The use of “foot” or “feet” depends on the use in a sentence and whether the word is an adjective or a noun. Example: A five-foot-ten-inch guard went up against a forward who was six feet, five inches tall.

As to question number four, times of day in even, half, and quarter hours are usually spelled out in text. More exact times are written as numerals. Examples: The game was supposed to start at seven o’clock. Because of rain, the game didn’t start until 8:22. Jordan Hufstedler scored the final touchdown with a minute and twenty-two seconds left on the clock.

Before you proceed any further, you’ll have to inform the former sportswriter that he was correct in using AP style when he wrote for newspapers and magazines, but you’re correct in adhering to Chicago style when writing books.


Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at


Anonymous said...

If you blog about your book, follow the AP Stylebook. AP is for journalism and website content.

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