Try Some Style On for Size

24 Jun

Most people would not characterize The Chicago Manual of Style as a source for some fun. In fact, trying to navigate the pages can be quite daunting, even to editors. One of the great features for the manual online that will not only help you with grammatical questions but give you a good laugh occasionally is the “Chicago Style Q&A” section. In honor of Friday and the need to laugh at least once a day, I decided to round up a few of my favorites.

Q. I wonder which you think is best: Key Lime pie, Key lime pie, or key lime pie?

A. I’m actually partial to pecan, but if you’re asking about spelling, consult a dictionary: Webster’s 11th Collegiate prefers lowercasing, noting that “Key” is often capped.

Q. My fashion expert daughter insists that denim does not go with “almost anything,” as I say it does. What is your opinion? Does denim match almost anything, including other colors and other fabrics, e.g., silk?

A. Finally, a real style question! If only we Chicago manuscript editors were a little more fashion-forward …

Q. Oh, English-language gurus, is it ever proper to put a question mark and an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence in formal writing? This author is giving me a fit with some of her overkill emphases, and now there is this sentence that has both marks at the end. My everlasting gratitude for letting me know what I should tell this person.

A. In formal writing, we allow both marks only in the event that the author was being physically assaulted while writing. Otherwise, no.

Q. My question is, is there any standard for the usage of emoticons? In particular, is there an accepted practice for the use of emoticons that include an opening or closing parenthesis as the final token within a set of parentheses? Should I (1) incorporate the emoticon into the closing of the parentheses (giving a dual purpose to the closing parenthesis, such as in this case. 🙂 (2) simply leave the emoticon up against the closing parenthesis, ignoring the bizarre visual effect of the doubled closing parenthesis (as I am doing here, producing a doubled-chin effect :-)) (3) put a space or two between the emoticon and the closing parenthesis (like this: 🙂 ) (4) or avoid the situation by using a different emoticon (Some emoticons are similar. :-D), placing the emoticon elsewhere, or doing without it (i.e., reword to avoid awkwardness)?

A. Until academic standards decline enough to accommodate the use of emoticons, I’m afraid CMOS is unlikely to treat their styling, since the manual is aimed primarily at scholarly publications. And the problems you’ve posed in this note give us added incentive to keep our distance. (But I kind of like that double-chin effect.)

Q. Is it “cell phone” or “cel phone”? I am working on a crash deadline, and would appreciate a quick response. Thank you so much!

A. Any writer who has deadlines should also have a dictionary. I always swear I’m not going to look up words for people, but it’s like being a mom and picking up socks—something just makes me do it. It’s “cell phone.”

Please buy a dictionary—and pick up your socks.

Happy Friday!


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