1. loomingtale
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    loomingtale Member

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    Is Chicago Manual really THAT important?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by loomingtale, May 27, 2012.

    Everybody seems to recommend it. And so I thought of buying this manual, but after finding out its outrageous price, I am not so sure. Do you writers use it? Is it really essential? Do you think it would be important for someone who is interested more in writing than in publishing?

    P.S.: Don't recommend me a used one or some discount site; I can only buy a new one, and only at full price because of certain circumstances. :(
     
  2. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Maybe I'm behind the pack, but I have never heard of it. How expensive is it? I couldn't imagine a manual being more than 15 dollars.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's not for everyone. It's extremely detailed. But if you are looking for a fine point of grammar or publishing standards, you'll find answers there you will have a difficult time finding anywhere else.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i bought it early in my writing career and then found i hardly ever used it...

    you'd do better to get the much less costly s&w and a decent punctuation guide... and/or add the helpful websites you'll find at the link below to your favorites menu:
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=21049
     
  5. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    It depends what you need it for. Are you in university and writing academic papers in the social sciences? If so, I would recommend you purchase it. If you are in university in the arts department, I would recommend the MLA Handbook. Both the Chicago and MLA are simply style guides that help you use punctuation, citations, and quotes in specific ways for certain mediums (typically academic journals). If you are creative writing, I can't imagine much use for it because agents and publishers will have varying standard for your MS to be submitted (as far as I can tell).

    There are a bunch of other stye guide's that I am not familiar with t. I know my husband sometimes uses Chicago in the accounting journals, but they also seem to have their own standards that only sort of adhere to Chicago style. It's all very annoying LOL
     
  6. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I'm in health sciences. They all seem to think APA is the format to go and there's rarely any information available for APA.
     
  7. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    That's the other one I couldn't remember!
     
  8. Akyra
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    Akyra New Member

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    It depends on whether you are following the Chicago manual of style or the associated press guide...

    Sorry, it was just too tempting (anyone who doesn't get that can check out "grammar nazi" on youtube).

    Back to the question at hand, is there any hurry ? You could wait and see whether you actually need it. Maybe borrow it from someone (or the library) and see if you actually use it. Then buy it. I don't know how much it costs but manuals are usually freaking expensive. You can also take a look in a bookstore and compare the contents with the other books available on the subject (for instance, is the the table of contents clear and detailed, are the explanations concise and well illustrated, are there tables you can use... etc.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The CMS need not be that expensive. Mine was less than 20 USD.

    Unlike other writing handbooks in collection, I haven't, and wouldn't, read it from cover to cover. However, it is my go-to reference if I encounter a thorny grammar or punctuation question fow which I can't get a clear answer anywhere else.

    I consider Strunk and White's The Elements of Style an excellent resource for the philosophy of writing style. It has quite a few specific guidelines, but I don't consider it the best reference to answer specific questions.

    For most SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar) questions, I generally look to either The Little, Brown Handbook and/or The Scott Foresman Handbook for Writers. Why those two? They were the preferred writing handbooks for colleges I've attended, and both have a sufficient level of detail for most writing problems.

    But when these others fall short, I don't hesitate to go to the CMS for the full skinny.

    By the way, I write in American English. For UK English, consider supplementing with the Penguin series, and it's never a bad idea to have a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary if you ever have to nail down the UK use of the language. Even if you don't write in UK English, it's a good idea to understand many of the differences, even if it's only for critiquing intelligently. And be aware that there are also a few unique differences in Australian or Canadian English.
     
  10. bo_7md
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    bo_7md Member

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    If the CMS is what you want, for the sake of owning it. You can buy one of the older editions - its on it's 16th now.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are British and have been taught reasonably well at school, guides and manuals will probably be unnecessary for your school or university essays, even for your theses. You may need to dip into some citation guidelines for your department--if there is a clear policy on citing--but we're really not over-particular in the UK. I'd barely heard of citation or style guides until I came to a foreign university that aspires to the American system, although I had a good dictionary and copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage.
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Strunk & White's Elements of Style has been criticised for being inconsistent, grammatically incorrect, and based on the authors' own (faulty) intuitions, despite being widely used in educational institutions.

    Geoffrey Pullum provides some detailed and specific criticism in The Chronicle of Higher Education. After reading it, I understand why I've heard so much grammatical advice that doesn't make sense (for example, to avoid split infinitives).
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To be fair, Strunk and White is revised periodically, but the version you will find on the Internet is quite outdated. If you actually read a current edition, most of the guidelines make perfect sense.

    To use Islander's example, my fourth edition (published in 2000) recommends against splitting infinitives unless you wish to place extra emphasis on the adverb, and also notes in another section that sometimes the split infinitive really does flow better. This seems to me a well-balanced recommendation, and most of Strunk and White's recommendations are equally sensible.

    By all means, use more than one reference if you wish to see all sides of an issue. Strunk and White is not above reproach, but need not be demonized either.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    hear, hear!
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the UK it's worth checking out what online references your public library offers. Most offer the Complete Oxford English Dictionary online if you have a library card. Of course, firing up a web browser might be the worst possible temptation when you're trying to work, so you might want a paper copy too.

    Except it's completely wrong: splitting the infinitive reduces emphasis on the adverb. They get it right earlier when they tell you to put things to be emphasised at the end of the sentence. And why avoid them anyway? As far as I can tell, the only reason is to avoid criticism from people who believe S&W ;)
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    ...to boldly go where no man has gone before.
    vs
    ...to go boldly where no man has gone before

    In which version does boldly receive more emphasis?

    Nope, the adverb shouldering its way between the infinitive and the verb does grab the spotlight, and that's why that version was so effective.

    Naturally, if every infinitive in your writing is split that way, you dilute the effectiveness of the technique. So I have to agree with Strunk and White, better to not split the infinitive unless you are doing it for effect.

    You have to stop thinking of Strunk and White as a set of rules, and think of it instead as advice. Ignore a particular piece of advice if you choose, but at least take it into consideration, and have a reason for rejecting it. Knee jerk aversion is the enemy of learning, and that is how many of the detractors of Strunk and White, or other writing handbooks, tend to look at it.

    To keep this somewhat on topic, no single writing handbook is essential in itself. Whether it be CMS, or S&W, or Little Brown, it's a single source of information. I wouldn't think of owning only one dictionary, and neither would I consider relying solely on one writing handbook. Nor would I reject one out of hand just because some people don't like it.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The second. In the first the emphasis is on "go". As G K Pullum observes: 'Tucking the adverb in before the verb actually de-emphasizes the adverb, so a sentence like "The dean's statements tend to completely polarize the faculty" places the stress on polarizing the faculty. The way to stress the completeness of the polarization would be to write, "The dean's statements tend to polarize the faculty completely."'

    Of course, the way to write the sentence is to ignore everything to do with the split infinitive (which is a complete red herring) and go for the one that sounds best to you in context.
     
  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    All I can say is that G K Pullum seems to have tin ears, at least as far as I'm concerned. Both of these examples are so close in emphasis that it hardly matters. But I find the split-infinitive version to be punchier and, for lack of a better word, more modern.
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I must have too, in that case. It's not that one is "punchier", it's that the emphasis is different.
     
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  20. Islander
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    I agree. "To boldly go" is more effective than "To go boldly" because the former has better rhythm.
     
  21. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    The 'don't split infinitives' rule comes from people trying to force English to be Latin.
     
  22. loomingtale
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    loomingtale Member

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    Strunk & White doesn't forbid the use of split infinitives, but it gives the perfect solution. It says the use depends on how the sentence sounds; if it is awkward one way, do the other way.

    Though to be honest, I don't think this problem would come for avid Strunk & White fans: You'll be avoiding adverbs :D
     
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