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Styling your writing

I still subscribe to newsletters, and one in particular that I enjoy is the one from the Chicago Manual of Style team. The newsletter permits you to forward and repost the message, so I will do so here. The newsletter is mostly a list of the most recent questions submitted to the team. Many of the questions are quite useful, but it is the answers that are sometimes quite delightful. Obviously some clever people there!

Here are this month’s questions:

The Chicago Manual of Style Web site has just been updated with answers to the following new questions:

Q. I am having a dispute with a local store regarding the wording of their return policy.

Q. Is footnote numbering allowed in an index along with a page number?

Q. I’m trying to find a definitive answer to whether an inanimate object can take the possessive form.

Q. Does the following sentence require a question mark or can it be given a period?

Q. To what extent, if any, does the copyright prevent the incorporation of Chicago’s style and usage guidelines into the house rules of individual publications?

Q. When correcting proof, what mark should a proofreader use to indicate that a word or words need to be underlined?

Q. Is there a good tutorial program (CD-ROM) for learning/studying the Chicago Manual of Style?

Q. I’m trying to complete a bibliographic entry for a chapter translated from Korean into English. Where do I put the translation credit in the Chicago style citation?

Q. How do you document pseudonyms which appear in online discussion groups?

Q. If Susan has a master’s degree in publishing, does Betty have master’s degrees in publishing and literature?

Find the answers on the Web site. There is an archive for past questions, which may be useful to you. This site is also home to the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. It is so practical to look for information online. Despite an extensive index and an extensive table of contents, I have a tendency to get lost in the hardback book. Much as I love books in general, the online version is just so much easier to navigate, and I can actually find answers! I am not connected with this site in any way, shape, or form. I am simply a happy user.

The topic of style guides surfaces regularly in technical communication circles. Without any numbers to back me up, I think most people use some standard style guide as a foundation for their writing policies. Then, they add an in-house style guide for any variations or policies relating to their particular industry or not covered elsewhere. The two guides are separate, but the in-house guide usually states which published style guide is used. The Chicago Manual of Style (also called CMOS by its users) is one such style guide to be used as a foundation.

Other style guides in book form include the Microsoft Manual of Style or Sun’s Read Me First. Online style guides that I have found include:

Do note that the Chicago Manual of Style, Microsoft Manual of Style, Sun’s Read Me First, and Web Style Guide are all American English. The others are British English. You must be aware of the differences if you have a certain language policy in your company. There are companies in Europe who choose American English as the base language for their documentation, despite the fact that the English taught in schools may be British English. Whatever you choose, just remember to be consistent, consistency being another technical writing mantra.

Happy styling!