Nov 19 2009

Chicago Manual of Style

Published by at 10:40 am under Editor-head,Writing

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) is one of the most frequently recommended technical reference books for writers and editors.  My copy was given to me a while back by a dear friend, though I only skimmed it upon initial receipt.  Under professional recommendation I started reading it today, and have already had several insights which I will proceed to share with you in no particular order:

  1. Only the sort of disturbed individual that enjoys things like reading a dictionary would enjoy reading this book.
  2. I am that sort of disturbed individual.
  3. I really hope the indexers of this book get laid regularly, as they are obviously demi-deities among humankind.
  4. I find this book comforting:  all of the incredibly detailed, nit-picky “rules” for everything, combined with a nice little statement at the beginning by the publisher, that “users should break or bend rules that don’t fit their needs, as we often do ourselves.”
  5. Either this book isn’t meant to be funny, in which case I’m more disturbed than we thought as I’ve giggled in amusement or delight several times already only 40 pages in; OR, there are secret, dryly witty phrasings that I’m tuning into that most people not of that mindset wouldn’t get.  I’m enjoying it so far.
  6. My initial reaction upon seeing a word I’ve never encountered before isn’t intellectual bliss at getting to expand my vocabulary; it’s a surge of rampant irritation at not already knowing ALL THE WORDS EVARRRR.  I get over it quickly, but it’s funny all the same.

Also, I encountered again a resurgence of my old irritation at English as a language.  You’d think with over 300,000 discrete vocabulary words, we wouldn’t have such joy in using one word to mean five different things depending on context.  That would make sense in a language with a vocabulary a tenth the size of ours, but not with the plethora of terms actually available to us.  In case you didn’t know, “colophon” can mean not only the publisher’s symbol found on the external spine of the book, but also the last page of the book with an inscription detailing the facts of production of that volume.

Time for breakfast, then maybe the computer will let me get some writing in!

One response so far

One Response to “Chicago Manual of Style”

  1. Lynnon 19 Nov 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Ha! I was first exposed to this book in 7th grade by the same nerdish prof who spent the whole year breaking down English grammar and syntax.

    My personal irritation was wondering, all through high school and college, if every subsequent paper grade would be judged by CMoS. In the age before word processors/computers, this weighed heavily. At some point I realized that only the NY Times and Wall Street Journal seemed to write up to that level so I eventually relaxed my own standards. It’s good to know that the book made such an impression on someone else.