Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Haunted by Style Book Decisions - writing tip

In the mood for a great Ghost Story???

Question: I didn't know there were different Style manuals. Which is the "right" one?

Answer: Depends on who and what and where you are. 

If you are an American Publisher, then the best style manual is the Chicago Manual of Style, the "Bible" for U.S. publishers. And then each publishing house will make changes according to what they personally choose to do.  For instance, CMS says O.K. is correct. Ditto A.M. and P.M., but we use okay, p.m. and a.m. because caps can have an embarrassing way of disappearing in e-book files. It also firmly states that possessives that end in S still get the following apostrophe S.  So if something belonged to James, it would be James's.

If you're a newspaper reporter, the AP Handbook will be the final word. It says that possessives that end in S only get the apostrophe, not the following S.  So if something belonged to James, it would be James'.  Almost all AP choices have to do with saving space and using fewer column inches -- saving all that room for ads to pay the bills.

If you are a college student and your English 101 instructor uses Strunk &White, as a style book,  you will be taught not to use the following S for possessives. Also quotation marks are ' single not " double and quotes within a quote are " double, not single '.  And if something belonged to James, it would be James'. Again, it varies from style book to style book.

Spelling also varies.That is the firm rule in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other British places and Strunk & White were British. In fact, E. B. White was the author of Stuart Little. But if your English 101 instructor uses Turabian as a style book, you will be taught to use the final S. Also in the UK it is  recognised that it's the advertisers who pay the bills. Boats dock in a harbour, color and check are both spelled with a U,  and people try to be kind to their neighbours.  This is why Americans shouldn't use the Oxford English Dictionary  for a spelling reference. Any Mirriam-Webster will do. There's a good one at: www.m-w.com

Who cares?????  Well if you are a writer, you do. Words are the tools of your trade. Using them correctly is almost as important as finding the right one. 

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