Abbeville vs. Chicago: "See Also"

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Time yet again for a rousing battle against our formidably orange opponent, The Chicago Manual of Style. In Chapter 18 (“Indexes”), the Chicago editors weigh in on the subject of “Cross-References,” and in the process violate the very rules they lay down. Unfortunately, they do so in the least entertaining way possible. To wit: Chicago 18.19 declares that whenever See also references appear in an index, “See is [always] capitalized, and both words are in italics.” Yet Chapter 18 is full of See also references—none of them italicized!*

Chicago, Chicago. If you’re going to flout your own conventions, why not do so with a little bit of style? For example, your injunction against “blind cross-references” (i.e., “anyone editing an index must make certain that no See entry merely leads to another See entry”) holds much more potential for editorial mischief. Instead of a sorry bunch of unitalicized See also‘s, you could have sprinkled the entire chapter—the entire volume—with blind See references, leading unwitting readers from entry to entry, page to page, through a Borgesian nightmare labyrinth of infinite complexity! You could have built the Manual of Babel!

Ah, well…maybe they’ll let us edit the Manual one of these years. (Though as things stand, the University of Chicago Press blog won’t even respond to our invitations to battle. Come on, guys, pick up the gauntlet! It’s all in good fun. Our FAQ page even says so.) For now we’ll content ourselves with kicking off early in order to beat the Thanksgiving rush. We’ll be away tomorrow, of course, but we’ll do a post on Black Friday. Enjoy the holiday and see you then.

*UPDATE: A commenter points out that Chapter 18 is a chapter, not an index, so Chicago’s not being inconsistent here. A) This one wasn’t an oversight on our part (cross our hearts) and B) we submit that, in a larger sense, they are. What’s good for the index should be good for the chapters, by God!


Filed under Abbeville vs. Chicago, Books and Publishing

6 responses to “Abbeville vs. Chicago: "See Also"

  1. You are funny. I remember in grad school they wanted us to follow the Chicago rules. I bought the book but managed to churn out papers in the proper format without ever cracking it open. It still sits on my shelf looking as if it’s glowing with radioactivity.

  2. abbeville

    Thanks, Jean! Our theory, which we advanced in a post long ago, is that the outrageous cover color is intended to make the volume easier to spot amidst an avalanche of manuscripts, folders, and other desk debris. Either that, or it’s some kind of mating display intended to attract other reference books.

  3. > For example, your rule against “blind cross-references”

    Maybe I shouldn’t read blogs late at night.

    For a moment, I thought you said the Chicago Manual forbade “blind cross-dressers”.

    And then I wondered, “what would be the point of that?”

    Obligatory disclaimer: I don’t own a copy of the CMoS.

    I do own a 25-year-old copy of Strunk & White. But I don’t think I ever made it past the second chapter. It didn’t make very engaging late-night bedtime reading, either.

  4. abbeville

    No, for all our quarrels with Chicago, we have to admit, they’re pretty cool about blind cross-dressers.

  5. me

    Italic in index, not in main text, so?

  6. abbeville

    What’s good for the index should be good for the chapters, by God! (We’re so pleased with this line, we’ve added it to the post.)

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