Strict Discipline

Ooh, baby. For wordies like me, there is nothing like the bracing plunge into The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, available online for the mere bagatelle of $35 a year. If you have any questions that you’re embarrassed to ask anyone else you know, just log in, and there is virtually nothing grammatical you can’t lay to rest with the full faith and credit of CMoS, 16th.

Lose yourself in the lists: 5.191, words and the prepositions construed with them; 5.220, good usage versus common usage (and doesn’t that say it all?); 7.85, the hyphenation guide. In the world of CMoS, rules may be bent if ambiguity threatens. In the three-dimensional world, we consider ourselves lucky to count mere ambiguity as a threat.

The world is full of people for whom “Oh, you know what I mean” is an acceptable substitute for grammar, syntax, subtlety of word choice. After a couple of minutes spent wandering around the Internet, where sharp and incisive writing seems to have rapidly fallen out of favor, taking even basic proofreading down with it, it is comforting to know that I can find the careful consideration of the most arcane points of language in The Chicago Manual of Style.

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