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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A: New Questions and Answers

The Chicago Manual of Style isn't my first reference when checking on or confirming various matters of editorial style, from punctuation to capitalization, from use of numbers to use of abbreviations  As a former journalist, I favor the Associated Press Stylebook. It's less comprehensive than Chicago, but it covers most matters important to me. The two guides are in sync on most style questions. Plus, I like AP's easy-to-use alphabetical format.

But I'm highlighting Chicago in this blog because I do value its authoritative preferences, especially when I can't find the answers I need in the AP guide. And I like its monthly Q&AChicago editors respond to questions from readers and writers. I subscribe to the free Q&A feature and get email messages about new posts on the Chicago website.

Always useful or potentially useful, the Chicago responses run the gamut from simply providing a style rule from the book to commenting with friendly tongue-in-cheek about unusual, obvious or simplistic questions.

Here are some samples from the November 2012 Q&A:
Q. How do I punctuate around internal ands? E.g., “We invited John Smith, Bob Jones and his daughter Jill, William, Doris, and Mable Johnston, Pat and Tim Roberts and their new baby, Jack and Elaine Miller’s mother, Judy Finch, and Tod and Deirdre Cook.” Admittedly, it is never quite this bad.
A. Use semicolons to indicate that some of the names are grouped: We invited John Smith; Bob Jones and his daughter Jill; William, Doris, and Mable Johnston; Pat and Tim Roberts and their new baby; Jack and Elaine Miller’s mother, Judy Finch; and Tod and Deirdre Cook.
Q. I was taught that one cannot have a “first annual” of anything—that “inaugural” or “first-ever” were the appropriate terms. Lately, though, I have seen some college websites indicating that “first annual” is now acceptable. What is the CMOS ruling?
A. Your view is a popular one, but in referring to the first of many annual events, neither “inaugural” nor “first-ever” conveys clearly to the reader that it wasn’t the last. Surely “first annual” can refer to the first occurrence of what has since become an annual event. Although it doesn’t make much sense to use “first annual” to describe an event before the second annual one has taken place, banning the phrase altogether seems extreme.
Q. How do you spell out the sound of a scream? I’ve seen everything from “aaagh!” to “argh!” to “aahhh!” Please tell me there’s a limit to the number of times one can repeat letters!
A. There is a limit to the number of times one can repeat letters! Unfortunately, the limit is different in almost every case.
Besides reading the Q&A for free, you can subscribe for an annual fee to the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style. The AP Stylebook also has a fee-based online version.

Of course, my own online style guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, is free and (I think) easy to use.
An item on the Chicago manual is featured today, Nov. 1, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

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