Advertise with Writer's Hive Media

The Basics of Chicago Style

by | Jan 10, 2021 | Academic Writing

Information is taken from the 17th edition Chicago Manual of Style, latest version.

This quick guide will help you understand the basic formatting structure and rules if you’re new to using Chicago style. None of these rules are too complicated, and many of them are similar to the other common essay formatting styles you’ve undoubtedly used in the past. Follow these tips, and you should have no problem doing well in your essay.

Spacing, Font, and Margins for Chicago Style

  • Set your font at 1 inch all the way around. 
  • You should use size 12 font in Times New Roman. (Feel free to make this your default setting in Microsoft Word.
  • Your body text should be double spaced throughout, except for block quotations, which include quotes that span five or more prose lines or quotes containing two or more poetry lines. These more extended block quotes also need to drop down to their line and should be indented throughout the entire quote (more on this later).
  • Depending on the document you’re writing, you may need a cover page. Ask your professor if this is required.
  • Add your last name and page numbers at the top right of your document. You don’t need this on the cover page, however. 
basics of chicago style

Parts of a Chicago Style Paper

Most likely, you won’t need to add a title page to your essay; however, if required to include a title page, format it as follows: Center your title about one-third of the way down and place your name, class, and the date a few lines below that. If you don’t have a title page in your paper, your title should appear centered at the first page’s top.

Unless instructed otherwise, label your references page “Bibliography.” Make sure to center that title at the top of the page without bolding or italicizing it. Format your citations in alphabetical order and with a hanging indent, leaving one blank line between them.

basics of chicago style


For footnotes and endnotes, use Arabic numerals in ascending order throughout your essay. Arabic numerals are simply the normal 0-9 digitals you use every single day. Your notes will count up from 1 to infinity until your paper is complete. 

basics of chicago style

Research, References, and Plagiarism in Chicago Format

For academic essays, articles, and books, your research should be based almost entirely on scholarly sources and primary sources. You can access sources through university databases or choose from many online with a subscription. Many of these research tools offer students discounts, and your university should offer many free resources for you. Make sure to check with your local libraries before purchasing a database subscription, because they often provide many free research tools.

You must cite all sources that you use in your essay. If someone used your essay, article, or book in the future to provide information essential to their work, you’d want credit for it, right? Of course! So make sure that the researchers, writers, and historians that you borrow from receive credit. Additionally, your university and professors often scan student essays into a plagiarism checker, quickly determining if you’ve used research as your own words. Don’t let this mistake cost you a good grade!

basics of chicago style

When it comes to footnotes and endnotes, err on the side of caution. Some professors or publishers may not want a ton of footnotes and endnotes cluttering the page, but it’s always better to over-cite than to under-cite. Including too many citations only results in a slightly cluttered page, while not citing the sources means that you plagiarized. 

Here’s a rule to help you avoid plagiarism: If you didn’t know it when you started writing, you should cite it.


This guide should give you all the essential tips needed to research and write an outstanding Chicago style essay! Don’t get overwhelmed with footnotes and endnotes. If you’ve written an essay before that required citations, that’s half the battle! You’re still citing sources the same way as any other essay, except that you’re placing them at the bottom instead of inside the text. 

Good luck!

Emmi Conner
By Emmi Conner

Emmi holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She’s been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Atlantis Magazine. Emmi has written multiple articles for Writer’s Hive in the academic section with topics about MLA, APA, and Chicago Style essay writing.


Latest Articles

Ad - SiteGround Web Hosting - Crafted for easy site management. Amazing Speed; Powerful Tools; Top-rated support. Learn more.
Advertise with Writer's Hive Media

Subscribe for Updates, Writing Tips, and More!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This