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style guide - there are so many, help me choose

 
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I'm looking for a style guide to help me learn consistency and accurate use of punctuation.  The problem is, every discipline has a different style.  Which one do I choose?

Here's what I already like and am hoping to find a guide that fits this style:

  • I like the Oxford comma.  (list, list, list, and, list)
  • I seek to use Canadian or British spelling and style.  (the 11th of October, 1918 instead of October 11th, 1918)
  • Which shows you I'm a bit old fashioned, but that's my idiom and I want to keep it that way.


  • There are probably some other things I really like, like not underlining titles of books.  But I suspect these could change.

    Anyone know of a style guide that would fit my predilections?
     
    pioneer
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    raven ranson wrote:I'm looking for a style guide to help me learn consistency and accurate use of punctuation.  The problem is, every discipline has a different style.  Which one do I choose?

    Here's what I already like and am hoping to find a guide that fits this style:

  • I like the Oxford comma.  (list, list, list, and, list)
  • I seek to use Canadian or British spelling and style.  (the 11th of October, 1918 instead of October 11th, 1918)
  • Which shows you I'm a bit old fashioned, but that's my idiom and I want to keep it that way.


  • There are probably some other things I really like, like not underlining titles of books.  But I suspect these could change.

    Anyone know of a style guide that would fit my predilections?



    I like the Oxford comma too, but it doesn't go after the "and" :)
     
    r ranson
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    Trace Oswald wrote:

    I like the Oxford comma too, but it doesn't go after the "and" :)



    Ug, you're so right.

    See what happens when I post pre-coffee?

    Also, another good reminder I need a style guide.  

    Do you have one you love?
     
    Trace Oswald
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    I don't.  I have things I like, but I didn't know writing style was a thing.  Sorry I'm no help.
     
    garden master
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    I think writing as whatever feels like "you" is the best choice. i'm no professional, so do take this with a few grains of salt.

    In high school, I got in trouble for not writing according to the styles or formats that were required for whatever essay we were doing. Then, in college, that was when I first got complimented on my writing. My style of writing is mostly how I think in my head, which is stream of consciousness. This typically involves, for me, a lot of tangential remarks, frequent use of comma-enclosed clarifications, lots of dashes for clarity or remarks, and also lots of parentheses and long drawn out sentences that may be properly listed out with commas, or improperly listed as "and and and but and but but and".

    As an example of my "style", or lack thereof, and how I use punctuation, these are a few of my essays from college.

    P.S. I think just knowing that punctuation is used to help clarify language and assist with communication goes a long way. I think associating punctuation with spoken word and cadence is effective as a tool for deciding what type of punctuation to use, as well as, when to use it. I like to think of periods as full-stops, commas like pauses, dashes like "here's a sidenote", semicolons as a partial stop (like slowing down at a stop sign instead of stopping completely with a period), and so forth and so on.
    Filename: DCB-Genre-Essay.pdf
    File size: 225 Kbytes
    Filename: DCB-Personal-Essay.pdf
    File size: 70 Kbytes
    Filename: DCB-Service-Reflection-No.-3.pdf
    File size: 155 Kbytes
    Filename: DCB-Essay-on-Science-as-a-Way-of-Knowing.pdf
    File size: 383 Kbytes
     
    r ranson
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    A style guide helps one be consistent in their writing, especially citation, quotes, foot/endnotes and punctuation.  

    A lot of my classes in University used the APA style guide, but I didn't like it much.  Come to think of it, all my classes used American based style guides.  I wonder if Canada has one.  Or maybe I should seek out a British one.
     
    master steward
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    r ranson
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    Here isa style guide the Canadian government recomends

    Not sure how I feel about it but I'll be curious to see what they think is correct.

    I'm especially interested in how they write the date and why schools now insist that programme drops the "me".  
     
    pollinator
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    I bought several permie related books this last month, and found quite a few outright errors; tables made of copy/pasted info where some entries are erroneously repeated, clearly incorrect units, spelling and grammar errors, and sloppy formatting.

    These were professionally published books written by people with multiple books to their names...

    I'm afraid I have no style guide to recommend, I don't use them... language is flexible!

    I think a couple good proofreaders are more important.

    (I could do some proofreading, if you are short on volunteers. I bet others here would also be willing..)
     
    r ranson
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    At the end of last year, we delivered the book to the printers.  This month, I spent a lot of time at that printers helping prepare it for publication.  I learned one very important thing through this process: It's important that the style and language use be consistent within the work.

    I don't know if I managed it, but it has become obvious to me these last few months that this is the one element that transforms a book from an amateur endeavour to a professional publication.  It doesn't matter how good the writing is.  If the decoration (formatting, fonts, punctuation, all that jaz) distracts the reader from the words, the message won't get through.  If I had known this at the beginning of last year, the whole process would have been much easier and cost about $4,000 less.  A book takes weeks or months to write and at least a year to edit well.  If we don't choose a style early on, it's easy to forget if we used a colon at the start of lists or not.  These things aren't always caught by proofreaders.  Books are HUGE!   They take a long time to write and a long time to read.


    Two proofreaders are not enough - I think we made it to eight and I wish we had doubled that number because every single one found something new that could be improved.  Even after global searching the document for misspelt 'the', we still found one "teh" just before it went to the guy that prints the proof.  One of the biggest problems with finding a proofreader or editor is when they are trained in a different style to you.  If I were to choose an American editor then they would have found fault with a good chunk of my spelling and punctuation or they would have missed actual spelling errors because they assumed that's how Canadians wrote 'teh' (must be a Canadian thing - like "the" plus "eh", eh?).  That's because I'm writing in a Canadian/International style of English.  The discussion of the Oxford comma came up time and again because many of the people I worked with aren't trained to use it.  Don't even get me started about ellipsis...

    What's sloppy or incorrect depends on how well the author or publisher sticks to one style.  So long as it's consistent within the work, it makes sense to the reader.  We don't notice it.  

    Little things like inflammable - can mean both flammable and not flammable depending on the context.  Or lucked out - depending on the style, means to be in luck or out of luck.  Swapping between these two meanings within a work confuses the readers.  Choosing a style and sticking to it makes it easier for the author to convey their meaning.




    For the next books, I'm going to choose a style guide from the start because it really is that important.

    The problem I'm having is finding a style guide that is compatible with the style I've already established.  My style is archaic with an emphasis on Canadian (so I can apply for some grant money to help fund my writing). I know there's a style guide out there that matches this because I used it before.  I just don't know what it is or where to find it.  Hopefully, someone here can make a suggestion?  

     
    pollinator
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    Style guides, for editors and translators, keep us on this side of mentally healthy. I am an American but do a lot of editing of Australians, Canadians, British.... the style guide makes it so you aren't changing "different to" to "different from"-- if your proofreaders are professional they should know that.

    Chicago and APA are the most common in my areas (science/tech) but they are very America-focused, and Chicago Manual of Style has a cost barrier (you will be looking at it all the time, so you will have to pay the subscription fee). Chicago does require the Oxford comma, as does Oxford UP style and Strunk & White`s Elements of Style (another old but good reference).
    I have colleagues who work with the Canadian government one and their comment is that it is hard to keep up (not always consistent the way you might expect things to go. That said, any style guide is always changing.) There is also the Canadian Press manual https://www.thecanadianpress.com/writing-guide/ . Some others can be found here, including one from UBC. https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/en/ressources-resources/ressources-resources/guide-guidelines-eng

    Last but not least there is always the Economist`s style guide. Even though it is British English I use it with some clients who would generally probably prefer American English. It is very clean, succinct, and easy to apply. It used to be available for free but now is an actual book for sale. Review here. https://www.editage.com/insights/the-economist-style-guide-10th-edition

    A style guide should save you headaches by reducing the number of things you dither about and making things more consistent (as you said, it is maddening to see 5th and fifth in a text, for example), but there may still be things you are going to have to decide for yourself. Even the Chicago Manual, which has to be a good 600 pages, doesn`t cover every case and I have had to debate with colleagues about how to address exceptions in a journal.

    Finally, there will always be more errors. You can have 8 proofreaders or 100, there will still be something that escapes. We all do the best we can, but we`re human (and trust me, the bots screw it up MUCH worse than the humans do). That`s why books are published in different editions, with errata. Things slip past, we try to minimize them using tools, but it happens and you shouldn`t be too concerned. And another note about that "teh"-- when I see that in a text I edit I realize the person doesn`t have their word processor set to check their spelling correctly. I use editing software that helps me catch that kind of stuff as well as consistency, formatting issues (one tab or two before section heading?) and recommend it highly. If you work with Word, you can purchase PerfectIt, which fits in there and can be set to any style guide you work with. There is a serious learning curve, but if you have a text in Word (or a word compatible suite like Open Office, etc) I would be happy to run it through the software for you when you get to that point.
    Sorry for the tome. Catch me before breakfast and I`m a bit wordy.
     
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    It's been too long since I've had time to "write" seriously, and even longer since I worked as an editor.   But on my bookshelf, I have both of my most used guides from those jobs:  Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.  Just because online searching is handier than leafing through contents, indexes, or dogeared pages of my previously trusted 'friends', I now rely on the Purdue Online Writing Lab at https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html if I want to quickly check my own short missives.  That said, I agree with Dave: go with "whatever feels like you" and your writing will sound genuine and will connect with your audience.  I'm not a fan of my boyfriend's "style" of writing, but his stories are interesting so I enjoy them in spite of my preference, and he gets a LOT of positive feedback from readers who look forward to his next article in our local papers and magazines.  Write to share, don't worry about perfection...
     
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    I am also a fan of the oxford comma. The simplest of writing guides is The Element of Style https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Style-Fourth-William-Strunk/dp/020530902X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1547311488&sr=8-3&keywords=elements+with+style    It is American style though, sorry. My biggest peeve is double negatives, such as: Irregardless, so didn't I, and recently in a Permaculture Book I saw dethaw! Wouldn't dethaw mean to refreeze? I worked at Harvard University for 5 years or so, and my writing style improved greatly. Many people, at least American's, can't seem to grasp the whole: there, their, and they're or to, two, and too, problems. I have met many people who can't grasp past participles either. For instance, I seen Mary leave, instead of I have seen Mary Leave, or I saw Mary leave.  I have no right to be a "grammar Nazi," but I find my self groaning regularly over people's lack of grammar.
     
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    I'm also a professional book editor, and Tereza's advice seems sound to me. Journals and newspapers usually use different styling than for books, but for book style, I can also recommend The Canadian Style by Dundern Press, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, and, if you want to go more British, New Oxford Style Manual. I mostly edit USA manuscripts, and for those I use The Chicago Manual of Style.
     
    Dillon Nichols
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    Raven, I thoroughly underestimated the scale and professionalism of your project, and can only hope that you found this less obnoxious than I would have, in your shoes.

    My apologies for any offense, and congratulations on your milestone.

    If you seek more proofers next time round, let me know.

    Have you written further about the writing/editting/publishing process elsewhere on permies? Very interesting stuff to me.


    'Dethaw'... wonderful. Language is flexible, and unfortunately some people are set on tying it in knots.
     
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    Hi all. I am an English teacher by trade - a graduate student pursuing my PhD - and teaching college writing courses. In my "professional opinion," I agree with everyone who says language is flexible - and those who say the rules depend on your field.

    Let's start with the dictionary. How do lexicographers decide on the definition of a word in English? They look at how English speakers use the word! Other languages, like French and Castilian Spanish, have centralized authorities who decide what is and what isn't official in their language. Not so in English. Folks who want an authority go to "the dictionary" without realizing they are chasing their own linguistic tail!

    I cannot in good faith recommend The Elements of Style. I attempted to teach it once but I do not see the logic in its rules. I suspect Strunk and White were among the scholars who insisted English follow the rules of Latin. It's inappropriate in the sense that English is largely Germanic and Latin is, well, Latin. Of course, we might be flexible abou this, too  ;-p

    Finally, a word about fields. I am a big fan of MLA, but English is my field. Many publications use Chicago or MLA or even their own in-house style, like the Economist or the Wall Street Journal. These latter two resonate with folks enough that many publications follow their in-house style ... which I suppose makes it less "in-house," ha! The most important factor in printed communication is probably consistency. It becomes confusing for the contemporary reader when there seem to be no rules - because we expect there to be some. Less so in, say, Shakespeare's time, but we have come to expect some measure of consistency.

    Audience, then, becomes the main guideline for style.
     
    r ranson
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    Going back to something said earlier, language is fluid.  English, in particular, is constantly shifting, changing, growing, and shrinking.  I take great joy in this, and as my discipline uses jargon no longer in everyday use, I am keenly aware of how our language shifts.  

    For this reason, I deliberately included two words that aren't yet in the dictionary in hopes to help enshrine them in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).  A good many words I used in the book are no longer in our dictionaries so I had to explain what they mean.  'Though there was a time only a few generations ago when everyone knew their meaning.  But that is what the glossary is for, words that aren't in the abridged OED.


    But vocabulary and the fluidity of language is not  style.


    As language changes, styles change, but the rules of a style are consistent within that style.  For example, Textspeak and Emojispeek have their own rules and patterns of communication; as these two communication methods develop, there will naturally settle into a style.  It won't be long before someone publishes a style guide for them.


    It's like two people sitting down to play a game of cards with each other.  One person is playing Cribbage.  The other person is playing Snap.  We have two people playing the same game of cards with each other, only using different rulebooks.  There is an infinite number of games we could play with cards - including many that haven't been created yet.  But it helps if we both agree on the same set of rules before shuffling the cards.  
     
    master steward
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    Raven, it's like The Onion knew you started this discussion.

    https://www.theonion.com/4-copy-editors-killed-in-ongoing-ap-style-chicago-manu-1819574341

    (Hope you don't mind the drive-by levity!)
     
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    The Elements of Style is revered by many but not by those who study grammar and syntax. E B White was not a scholar. He was mostly a journalist/author.

    The Land of the Free and The Elements of Style
    William Strunk and E. B. White have a vice-like grip on educated Americans’ views about grammar and usage. Yet
    almost everything they say on that topic is wrong.
    Geoffrey K. Pullum

    http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/LandOfTheFree.pdf

    AND

    50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice
    By GEOFFREY K. PULLUM

    http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/50years.pdf
     
    r ranson
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