Grammar Shrammer, It Matters More than Ever
Blogger: Mary Keeley
I’m taking a break this day after Thanksgiving to spend time with family, so here is an older post that bears repeating. Why? Because editorial departments at a number of publishing houses have been reduced and less time can be devoted to making your manuscript as perfect as possible.
Ruth Goring, editor at the University of Chicago Press, led a workshop at the EPA Convention (2011) on changes in The Chicago Manual of Style: 16th Edition (CMS). Why is this topic so important that an entire workshop was dedicated to it? It may take only a few grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors in the business portion of your proposal to render it dead on arrival, that is, before an editor or agent ever reaches the manuscript. Conversely, following the latest style guidelines communicates you are a professional, committed to your craft.
The guiding force in making changes in this new edition was consistency. And several additions were made that revolve around electronic issues. With this in mind, I’m going to highlight some of the more notable changes in the 16th Edition in a simple list by their numerical address. Disclaimer: This is not a complete list; you’ll have to purchase the book or subscribe to the online version for that. But you can save the following quick list for easy reference.
CMS 16 Edition Changes
6.119 Commas following other punctuation marks are now allowed.
7.16, 17, or 18 Possessives. To maintain consistency, it was decided that possessives of all names, including names like Jesus and Moses, will end in ‘s (Jesus’s, Moses’s).
7.76 Website is now one word (website), and worldwide web is capitalized (Worldwide Web).
8.159 Ordinals and compound numbers. When the first word needs to be capitalized (as in the beginning of a sentence), both words are capitalized (First Century, One-Fourth).
8.55 When referring to a specific mountain, river, street, etc., both/all words are capitalized (Chicago River, Illinois River, Blue Ridge Mountains).
8.153 Brand names don’t need to follow standard capitalization style (ebay, iPod).
8.157 Principles of headline style capitalization. Lower-case prepositions regardless of length or importance (A River Runs through It).
Chapter 5: the grammar chapter:
5.9 (and 5.220) Mass nouns followed by a prepositional phrase. The definite or indefinite article preceding a mass noun + prepositional phrase indicates if the mass noun or the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase controls the verb form. If a definite article (the) precedes, the mass noun controls, and usually a singular verb is used (the quantity of coins saved this year has increased.) If an indefinite article (a or an) precedes, then the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase controls (a small percentage of coins are added each month.)
14.7 Access dates. Access dates are now allowed if no publication date is available.
5.220 There is a great list of word combinations to watch out for. Example: close proximity. This is noted as redundant.
2.133 Checklist for proofing electronic publications. Also includes how to communicate those proofing changes on an electronic file.
11.2 Extended introduction to unicoding (for international characters across electronic platforms.)
15.2 Uniform treatment in author date references and notes and bibliography. CMS now recommends a uniform treatment for the main elements of citation. Use authors’ full names rather than initials. Headline style capitalization for titles or works are now identical in the author-date system.
Here are three references you might find helpful to have in your library:
- The Editorium. A company that sells macros. You can purchase “File Cleaner,” which cleans up punctuation and simple grammar errors. Purchase a yearly subscription for $30.
- Guidelines for Author Permissions and Fair Use, Chapter 4 in the print version of CMS, 16th Edition or the online edition.
- Go to www.press.uchicago.edu to get Manuscript Preparation Guidelines (also includes author permission guidelines).
The CMS editors aren’t rigid about following their style. Each publishing house has its own adapted style guide, which the editors won’t expect new authors to know. But that’s a reason to follow the CMS for proposals and manuscripts because it’s a universal starting point.
Which of these items was most helpful? Most surprising?