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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!

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: "See Also"

blogcapture chicago

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!

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: Cartoons

 

Ordinarily our battles against the Chicago Manual of Style are waged on the killing fields of English grammar, usage, and style, but occasionally we like to hit our opponent from a completely unexpected direction. This week no less an eminence than “Grammar Girl,” a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, host of the wildly popular podcast on all things grammatical, provided us with an opportunity to do just that. Inspired, as she told us, by our poking fun at the Chicago Manual and the reverence accorded it by copyeditors, Ms. Fogarty has drawn the following cartoon for her blog:

Sorry, we’ve forgotten: how many satirical cartoons about Abbeville—drawn by Grammar Girl herself—has Chicago inspired? Here, give us a second to crunch the numbers and ah yes ZERO. This is a heady moral victory for the Abbeville Manual and our more enlightened, more stylish creed, one that we have every intention of lording over our orange archnemesis far into the future. Meanwhile, we are sitting at our desks in full Halloween regalia, looking forward to the debaucherous phantasmagoria of tonight’s parade, which we will be joining as soon as it sweeps by our office door. See you there!

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Poll Results; FAQ Page

The results of last week’s poll are in, and it is our knock-down drag-out mano a mano battles with the Chicago Manual of Style that have emerged as our readers’ favorite feature. Apparently all of you like to see that big orange palooka take a hit almost as much as we do. Fair enough; we will be treating you to another Abbeville vs. Chicago bout later this week. Less popular features included our “witty, civilized discussions of art” (see if we ever fish for a compliment again) and our interviews with noted art and publishing figures (we’re hoping the next interview subject we’ve got lined up will change some minds on that one). The people have spoken—or at least, resoundingly clicked—and we will be incorporating this feedback into our future content. Thanks to everyone who voted, and even though we know it’ll be anticlimactic after the excitement of an Abbeville poll, don’t forget to vote on November 4 also.

One last Monday tidbit: as you can see, site redesign is underway, and we are playing with fonts and color schemes like a fifth-grader jazzing up a book report. Apologies if the result is a bit unattractive at times, but we’re confident everything will look stylish in the end. Among the new features we’ve added is a FAQ section (see tab at top of page), so that you may quench the thirst for Abbeville Manual of  Style knowledge that has so long parched your soul.

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: “Effete”

 

Oh, man. Some style manuals just weren’t meant to be arbiters of style. Thumbing through the Chicago Manual‘s quaintly-named “Glossary of Troublesome Expressions,” we came across this stunning act of capitulation:

effete. Traditionally, it has meant “decadent, worn out, sterile.” Today it is often used to mean either “snobbish” or “effeminate.” Because of its ambiguity, the word is best avoided altogether.

That’s right: rather than argue for one definition or the other, or attempt to reconcile the two, Chicago thinks we should simply eliminate the word from the language! Just forget, as a people, that it ever existed! One can imagine the poor editor who wrote this sitting at his desk, worn down by life’s stormy vicissitudes and one too many battles over punctuation, clutching his head and crying, “Damn you, ‘effete’! You’ve caused me too much heartache! Just go—go, and never darken my door again!”

But as we look ahead to the VP debate tonight, we ask our readers: is this truly the American way? Did Teddy Roosevelt surrender like this when he led his men up San Juan Hill? Did Chicago itself surrender after the whole place was nearly burned down by a cow? And anyway, couldn’t “effete” still be used for phenomena to which both definitions apply—things that are decadent, worn out, snobbish, and effeminate all at once? Like Horace Engdahl?

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: "Effete"

 

Oh, man. Some style manuals just weren’t meant to be arbiters of style. Thumbing through the Chicago Manual‘s quaintly-named “Glossary of Troublesome Expressions,” we came across this stunning act of capitulation:

effete. Traditionally, it has meant “decadent, worn out, sterile.” Today it is often used to mean either “snobbish” or “effeminate.” Because of its ambiguity, the word is best avoided altogether.

That’s right: rather than argue for one definition or the other, or attempt to reconcile the two, Chicago thinks we should simply eliminate the word from the language! Just forget, as a people, that it ever existed! One can imagine the poor editor who wrote this sitting at his desk, worn down by life’s stormy vicissitudes and one too many battles over punctuation, clutching his head and crying, “Damn you, ‘effete’! You’ve caused me too much heartache! Just go—go, and never darken my door again!”

But as we look ahead to the VP debate tonight, we ask our readers: is this truly the American way? Did Teddy Roosevelt surrender like this when he led his men up San Juan Hill? Did Chicago itself surrender after the whole place was nearly burned down by a cow? And anyway, couldn’t “effete” still be used for phenomena to which both definitions apply—things that are decadent, worn out, snobbish, and effeminate all at once? Like Horace Engdahl?

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Strunk and White

Our editorial hearts were warmed by Jonathan Yardley’s recent paean to The Elements of Style, the classic style guide first privately published by Will Strunk in 1918 and made famous upon its republication in 1959 with “Revisions, an Introduction, and a New Chapter on Writing” by Strunk’s former student, E. B. White. Popularly and affectionately known as “Strunk and White,” the book is one of the scriptures of the English-language editing world, and unlike other such scriptures (cf. Fowler’s Dictionary; The Chicago Manual of Style), has the virtue of being incredibly short. Indeed, it is best known for its immortal Strunkian dictum: “Omit needless words”—a line that echoes in editors’ heads with more authority, and greater concision, than any of the Ten Commandments.

One expects such stern admonitions from Strunk, a career professor and grammarian; White’s involvement with the book can be more puzzling to modern readers accustomed to remembering (or imagining) him as a charming old man who sat in barnyards spinning children’s tales. And yet White was many things during his lifetime: a Cornell student, a journalist, an ad man, a sailor, a New Yorker sophisticate, and above all, a marvelous writer. His advice on diction is folksier than Strunk’s, but no less austere: “Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.” Around here, we feel that rule’s honored more in the breach than the observance, but White himself rarely broke it; think of the final lines of Charlotte’s Web:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Surely one of the best endings of any twentieth-century novel, this is also a model of Strunk-and-White plainness. We have to admit that, even now, it always makes us cry—not for the spider, of course, but for the economy of the prose.

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Abbeville vs. Chicago: Word Usage

  

Yes, it’s time for another brief wrangle with the only style guide whose jacket color can be seen from outer space: The Chicago Manual of Style. We came across a puzzling entry today in their “Word Usage” section (a simpler title would have been “Diction,” but we’ll let that go) regarding the distinctions among “odious,” “odorous,” and several similar words. “Odious” they correctly identify as meaning “hateful,” and “odorous” as meaning “detectable by smell, for better or for worse,” but they go on to confuse the issue mightily:

Odoriferous means essentially the same thing [as odorous], although it has meant “fragrant” as often as it has meant “foul”…The mistaken form odiferous is often used as a jocular equivalent of smelly, but most dictionaries don’t record it. [Word Usage, 5.202]

Really—odiferous? Who “often” uses that as a synonym for “smelly”? Foghorn Leghorn? The Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas Manual of Style? Our theory is that someone at Chicago has a specific, jocular uncle—let’s call him Uncle Toby—who tried to put that one over on them when they were kids, so that they grew up believing it was in common usage. And while we’re at it, since when is odoriferous a neutral term that can easily mean “fragrant”? We dare the Chicago editors to try this word out the next time their significant others put on perfume or cologne. “No, honey, I meant it in the non-pejorative sense!”

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Abbeville vs. Chicago Part 4: Gender Bias

 

We couldn’t resist a little one-round bout with The Chicago Manual of Style after this passage caught our eye today:

Word Usage

5.204. Gender bias. Consider the use of gender-neutral language. On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun (he in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using he/she or s/he, for example) or use they as a kind of singular pronoun. Either way, credibility is lost with some readers. What is wanted, in short, is a kind of invisible gender neutrality. There are many ways to achieve such language, but it takes thought and often some hard work.

Oh please, Chicago Manual. “What is wanted” is a little backbone. When an editor wants to use language that’s both harmonious-sounding and appropriately gendered, she simply goes ahead and does so.

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Abbeville vs. Chicago 2: Hyphenation Domination

      vs.  

To-day we here at Abbeville are squaring off against the reigning heavyweight champion of style guides, The Chicago Manual of Style, over one of the most devilishly contentious punctuation marks ever invented: the hyphen. It’s going to be a tough fight, but we’re prepared to face that big orange style Goliath armed with nothing but naked hubris and the slingshot of our editorial whim. In fact, we’ve thrown down the gauntlet in the very first word of this post by employing a deliberately archaic hyphen purely for style’s sake, and you know what? We might do the same thing to-morrow.

All right, enough trash talk. Let the battle begin.

Hyphenation

1.1. Multiple hyphens. Chicago claims that “although two or more hyphens are standard in such phrases as a matter-of-fact approach or an over-the-counter drug, there is no consensus—nor need there be—on the need for more than one hyphen in longer and less common adjectival compounds.” Wait, sorry: “nor need there be“? Oh, there need be, Chicago. What’s the fun of having grammatical authority if you can’t wield it like a truncheon? The Abbeville in-house style guide is crisp and clear on this point: “Use hyphens with compound adjectives before a noun.” Boom. Done. Makes Will Strunk look like a rambling old man. But wait, there’s one exception. Chicago says that “early nineteenth-century literature and early-nineteenth-century literature are both in good standing.” Not with us! We choose the first formulation, because the second just rubs us the wrong way. First round winner: Abbeville.

1.2. Adverbs ending in “ly.” Chicago lays down the law on this one. “Compounds formed by an adverb ending in ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible.” We tried hard to come up with some clever example of ambiguity to prove them wrong, but a formulation like “the bravely-borne illness of the tightly-wound tailor” looks a little la-di-da and suspicious even to us. Winner: Chicago.

1.3. The trend toward closed compounds. Chicago: “With frequent use, open or hyphenated compounds tend to become closed.” Yeah, but LESS CHARMING in the process. We reserve the right to subject our readers to all the deliberately antiquated verbal frippery they can handle. If we want to go on-line today and e-mail you about a level-headed book-worm we know, we don’t expect anyone to stop us. Likewise, we reserve the right to play Joyce and Faulkner and throw a few hyphennegating highmodernist compounds your way (cf. “artblogosphere“). Not that we’ll usually do any of these things; we just like having the option. Winner: clearly us.

FINAL: Abbeville 2, Chicago 1

Chicago put up a good fight, but in the end, our never-flinching, ambiguity-loathing, style-loving approach to hyphenation has won the day. In celebration, we-are-going-to-use-this-sentence-to-take-the-hyphenation-equivalent-of-a-victory-lap. Next time on Abbeville vs. Chicago, we’ll duke it out over their chapter “The Manuscript Editor’s Responsibilities,” which we hope include mixing a good stiff drink at the end of the manuscript editor’s day. Good-night!

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