Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

The 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is coming out in August—I'm going to have to upgrade from my trusty, well-loved copy of the 14th edition (which I've installed on many desks since I bought it in 1998, when I began working on Macworld magazine's copy desk).

I didn't bother with the 15th because there wasn't a whole lot new in it, really (at least, not much that was applicable to the work I did). When it was released, I was Macworld's managing editor, and after reading the 15th I decided that we, as a magazine, would skip it.

(I did make a few necessary notes in my 14th edition.)

I refer to Chicago less often than I once did. In part that's because I've memorized even the sections that I once referred to at least weekly (the hyphenation table and the "Titles of Works" section, for instance), if only for gentle reassurance.

Also, Yahoo! has its own style guide and prefers AP rules, aside from favoring serial commas (which I favor, too).

It looks as though the 16th edition has some substantial changes in store for us, though! I know this because I've been following University of Chicago Press senior manuscript editor Carol Saller's excellent blog, The Subversive Copy Editor.

She has been posting "sneak peeks" from the 16th edition, and I've just employed one of them: titles of blogs will now be set in italics, like titles of books and magazines; titles of blog entries will be set in quotation marks (like magazine articles).

This makes good sense.

Also, in titles, the second term in a hyphenated compound no longer needs to be lowercased; it's capped (For instance, "Medium-Size" and "Twenty-First").

Hoorah! I think this looks a lot nicer.

Other sneakily peeked-at changes make less sense to me:

Possessives of classical proper names ending in an eez sound add apostrophe-s (Xerxes’s armies). The rule used to be that these names took only an apostrophe, like the names Jesus and Moses. This rule made sense to me because it aligns with how we pronounce terms like "Euripides' plays" or "Ramses' tomb." The new rule seems out of step with language trends: more and more publications (even those that are "sort of" Chicago publications) don't add the apostrophe-s to any words that end in the letter s (so they'd write "Charles' sisters" instead of [the Chicago-approved] "Charles's sisters"). I prefer the apostrophe-s in those cases (again, in part for reasons of pronunciation), but I think it's going to become rarer and rarer.

Also, how can you defend "Moses' children" when you suggest "Ramses's wives"?


Then there's this:

When a title ends in a question mark, a comma should also appear if the grammar calls for one: Three stories she never mentioned were “Are you a Doctor?,” “The Library of Babel,” and “Diamond as Big as the Ritz.”

This was something Chicago didn't really address before (I believe). But the idea sort of comes up in the section on bibliographies (15.221): "A question mark or exclamation point coming at the end of a title or subtitle of a journal article supersedes the usual punctuation."

And that makes more sense to me. It's not clear now how we're going to treat titles that end with periods, or whether a period should also "appear if the grammar calls for one" (or whether a question mark should appear if the grammar calls for one—for instance, "Have you seen the film Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf??"). If not, why not? And how do we explain the rules?

Much remains to be seen.

I'm looking forward to reviewing the new Chicago next week. But when it comes to these punctuation pileups, I will continue to follow the advice of Words into Type: ". . . try to avoid such situations by rewording."

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