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Comma usage

Crumbly Writer

Quick question. My editor marked this as an error, but either way, whether I include the comma or not, my spell checker flags it as an error, but I find it reads better without the comma (i.e. there's no natural break in the sentence). What do you think? Comma or no comma?

My chances of finding some are virtually nil[,] as long as I restrict myself to ...


Damn, another grammar question came up: how do you handle non-list colon usages? In the following sentence, should the comma be replaced with a colon or a semi-colon?

The hell with that, we're too excited!


Since we're all shooting in the dark here, and neither Grammar Girl nor English.stackexchange has any reference examples, all opinions are welcome.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I have to be the bigegst hater of using commas in the world, but, I'd write them as:

My chances of finding some are virtually nil, as long as I restrict myself to ...

But I'd not get upset if it didn't have a comma. I feel the comma emphasizes the second part is a condition on the first part.

The hell with that, we're too excited!

The second phrase is and expansion of the first and the comma is, by far, the best way to write that. I don't see that as a list.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The hell with that, we're too excited!


semi-colon

They are two complete sentences.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

My chances of finding some are virtually nil[,] as long as I restrict myself to ...


You need to fill in what the ellipsis replaced. It may be two complete sentences which would require a semi-colon.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

Okay, apparently I have a mess of a chapter today. How do you apply the possessive (not the plural) of neither, or do you just drop everything other than the simple "neither"?

Neither's (neither person's) eyes leaving the pair.

I guess the simple solution is simply to explicitly note whom I'm referring to ("person's").

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You need to fill in what the ellipsis replaced. It may be two complete sentences which would require a semi-colon.

... as long as I restrict myself to the millions of other humans on the planet.

It's definitely a conditional clause that's dependent upon the first statement (a further restriction).

The full unedited sentence is:

Our evening together proved my chances of finding someone else are virtually nil, as long as I restrict myself to the millions of other humans on the planet.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Neither's (neither person's) eyes leaving the pair.


I'd re-write it to be much clear, and drop the neither. Turn it around, something like:

They both stayed staring at the pair.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I'd re-write it to be much clear, and drop the neither. Turn it around


The full sentence (before) was:

She moaned and he pulled her towards him, neither's eyes leaving the pair.


As such, I'm not sure I can 'turn it around'. Instead, I think I need to explicitly state who's eyes they were--or "both keeping their eyes on the other couple".

Update: How about:

She moaned and he pulled her towards him as they continued watching the other couple.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Our evening together proved my chances of finding someone else are virtually nil, as long as I restrict myself to the millions of other humans on the planet.


I don't think the comma should be there. To be honest, I don't know why. Maybe you can understand what's said in this link about it. It addresses using a comma before "because" and "as".

http://hgpublishing.com/blog/comma-before-as-or-because/

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

She moaned and he pulled her towards him, neither's eyes leaving the pair.


How about:

She moaned and he pulled her towards him, neither of their eyes leaving the pair.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't think the comma should be there. To be honest, I don't know why. Maybe you can understand what's said in this link about it. It addresses using a comma before "because" and "as".

Switch, your argument makes sense, except it reads better with a break as it's a separate clause and not part of the original sentence (i.e. it's more of an after-thought than part of the original thought). The speaker is qualifying the original statement, saying the odds are nil as long as it's limited only to the planet Earth.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

She moaned and he pulled her towards him, neither of their eyes leaving the pair.

That goes back to identifying who's eyes he's referring to, but I like it better than "as they continued".

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


except it reads better with a break as it's a separate clause and not part of the original sentence (i.e. it's more of an after-thought than part of the original thought).


"As" is a subordinate conjunction. Most times they are not preceded by a comma. As I said in my earlier post, I don't really understand why. Here's a link from Purdue University (the example is "because" but it applies to "as" as well).

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/index.php?category_id=2&sub_category_id=1&article_id=37

Subordinating conjunctions are used to join independent clauses to make complex sentences. The subordinating conjunctions are as follows: after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, if only, rather than, since, that, though, unless, until, when, where, whereas, wherever, whether, which, and while.

You can use subordinating conjunctions to correct run-on sentences and comma splices. And you can use them to combine sentences so that writing is less choppy. Consider the following examples.


It seems that when the subordinate clause is in the beginning of the sentence, you have a comma. But when it's at the end, you don't.

Crumbly Writer

It seems that when the subordinate clause is in the beginning of the sentence, you have a comma. But when it's at the end, you don't.

Damn, now I've forgotten which statement we're referring to!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Damn, now I've forgotten which statement we're referring to!


This one:

"My chances of finding some are virtually nil[,] as long as I restrict myself to ..."

So the way it's written, you don't have the comma (the subordinate clause is at the end).

EDITED TO ADD:
But I'm not 100% sure (as I was with the comma splice that required a semicolon).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So the way it's written, you don't have the comma (the subordinate clause is at the end).

Okay, this time I accept your argument (as opposed to the last time you make the same point).

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

She moaned and he pulled her towards him as they continued watching the other couple.


as the cat said, purrfect. Total clarity.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Our evening together proved my chances of finding someone else are virtually nil, as long as I restrict myself to the millions of other humans on the planet.


In this you're making a clear statement before the comma, then you have the comma break to show that one is complete, and follow it with the qualification of the restriction which is a very closely linked, but separate statement. A comma is best there.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

There is no reason for not allowing a possessive form for a pronoun like "neither".
The possessive form for most pronouns is the same as common nouns (add 's unless it is a plural ending in s when you just add an apostrophe).
The exceptions are personal pronouns with special forms (e.g. its and yours).
If you cannot find "neithers" in the dictionary, the possessive form is "neither's".

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The hell with that, we're too excited!

I think "The hell with that" is obviously an interjection, but I cannot explain why.
CMOS 5.208 states "An interjection or exclamation is a word, phrase, or clause that denotes strong feeling. (It) has little or no grammatical function in a sentence, it is used absolutely. It is frequently allowed to stand as a sentence by itself."
Although allowed to stand as a sentence, it does not have the grammatical function of a full sentence - it's just something extra that's been thrown in there.
It must be separated by something, but it's not an independent clause needed to consider the use of a colon or semi-colon.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

There is no reason for not allowing a possessive form for a pronoun like "neither".

I'd like to see a reference supporting that assertion, because according to most dictionaries, it's simply not a valid usage. (Has anyone ever seen it in a published work?) I suspect, most authors, without any supporting references, simply rework most sentences to avoid it, so while it may never have been considered 'improper', it's eventually become the assumed position.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer
Updated:


NO COMMA for a dependent restrictive clause following a main clause.

... but NO comma if it is essential to the meaning of the main clause.


I'm sorry, but your arguments counter each other. The "as long as" statement is a qualifier, but isn't necessary to understand the initial statement. Thus, according to you, the comma is both needed and not appropriate. (Personally, I favor the 'it isn't necessary to the meaning of the initial thought' argument.) The qualifying phrase is added information that isn't essential.

I think the first clause is an interjection, not an independent clause. If so, then it should be followed by either a comma or exclamation mark.

So far, I've seen no consistent determination of which rule applies to my "The hell with that" statement. Instead, I've got several different opinions with multiple supporting arguments. With no supporting outside references, none of the argued positions have any more authority than the others (as I said, GossipGirl has never addressed the issue).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I'd like to see a reference supporting that assertion

CMOS 5.50 headed "Possessive pronouns versus contractions" states:
"The possessive forms of personal pronouns are ... None of them takes an apostrophe. Nor does the possessive form of who (whose). These exceptions aside, the apostrophe is a universal signal of the possessive in English..." After that are explanations of common errors with words ending in s and confusion with homonyms that are contractions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


My chances of finding some are virtually nil[,] as long as I restrict myself to ...


SB got this one right. It matters whether the qualifier comes before or after the main clause.

CMOS 6.30 and 6.31 give these examples:

- "If you accept our conditions, we shall agree to the proposal."

- "We shall agree to the proposal if you accept our conditions."

The if clause is 'restrictive' (a qualifier) of when the main clause applies. The test is whether the meaning of the sentence changes if you delete it.

Your sentence has a similar form. There should be no comma.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

CMOS 5.50 headed "Possessive pronouns versus contractions" states:

One quick caution on quoting CMOS as a source, especially now that you're doing general editing work, CMOS only applies if you plan to submit your work to a traditional publisher who abides by it's dictates. It's a Style Guide, and not everyone follows that particular one--especially SOL authors, who are under no such restrictions. Most independent authors--unless they plan to submit their work later to a trad. publisher, tend to pick and choose which rules they'll adapt on their own.

Following CMOS is easier, as there's less confusion and less need to pick and choose which rules to follow, but it doesn't follow that they have a final say. As the title says, it's simply a style choice. That said, it's generally good advice to ask authors whether they follow CMOS or not when you first sign on, just so you'll know what to advise them.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

as I said, GossipGirl has never addressed the issue


I'm sure Grammar Girl has. It would be under comma splice.

EDITED TO PROVIDE THE LINK:
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/comma-splice

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

One quick caution on quoting CMOS as a source

You complained about "no supporting outside references" in a previous post, but ALL of the sources are aimed at technical writers, not authors of fiction.
I don't agree it is just a guide. For American style of grammar and punctuation, it specifies what is generally considered 'correct'. Fiction authors are free to disobey rules for effect, but the rules should be starting point before any artistic choices to do otherwise.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I don't agree it is just a guide. For American style of grammar and punctuation, it specifies what is generally considered 'correct'.

Being pedantic again, it's more a matter of being accepted (by publishers), rather than 'correct', since another style guide might contradict it. You accept a style guide's dictates, but that doesn't mean it's more correct than another alternative.

In the old days, it was either "follow this guide or hit the bricks". Nowadays, with more self-published than traditionally published authors, the various guides are no longer as strictly followed.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

For American style of grammar and punctuation, it specifies what is generally considered 'correct'.


This is simply not true.

There are more than a dozen different style guides for American English. And there are likely very few rules on which they are all in complete agreement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Style_guides_for_American_English

And one of those guides The Elements of Style https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Style

Is considered ass backwards in some quarters.

In criticizing The Elements of Style, Geoffrey Pullum, professor of linguistics at Edinburgh University, and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002), said that:

The book's toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar. It is often so misguided that the authors appear not to notice their own egregious flouting of its own rules ... It's sad. Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write however or than me or was or which, but can't tell you why.[16]


Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Being pedantic again, it's more a matter of being accepted (by publishers), rather than 'correct', since another style guide might contradict it.


It's my understanding CMOS has style guidelines, such as how to write an ellipsis and when to use the serial comma, but much of it contains actual grammar rules.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It's my understanding CMOS has style guidelines, such as how to write an ellipsis and when to use the serial comma, but much of it contains actual grammar rules.

My point wasn't so much an objection about their advice, but rather who it's directed to. They target a specific type of writing, so applying it's dictates to writers everywhere tends to misapply their advice. True, you want to know why rules exist before you flout them, but suggesting that some things are simply "never done" goes beyond that restriction by dictating what's worth considering and discouraging more creative approaches.

Again, I was merely suggesting caution in applying it to non-published authors who have no specific reason to follow its dictates. The issue in question might be addressed, but so are many others which aren't. :(

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

It's my understanding CMOS has style guidelines ... but much of it contains actual grammar rules.

Yes, and it's nowhere near as prescriptive in it's 'rules' on grammar and punctuation as I expected. It mentions quite a lot of differences that apply only for formal writing.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

There are more than a dozen different style guides for American English. And there are likely very few rules on which they are all in complete agreement.


This is because all the style guides are written for specific purposes, and often specific industries. The much touted Chicago Manual of Style was originally written for academic works and text books, and still is. despite that many people use it for other publications because it's what they were told to use while in college, thus they stay with what is known. There's a very different guide for the newspaper industry, and so one.

The one thing many people forget about these style guides is the importance of the word guide because that's all they are, a guide, not a set of commandments - except when you want to get something to accept your work because they demand you work to that guide.

All the style guides are sets of preferred instructions on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word usage.

Ross at Play

PLEASE, stop telling me things I already know. PLEASE, help learn things I can use in practice.

It feels as if every time I cite a reference defining what is 'correct', experienced editors jump down my throat stressing there are multiple guides, they are only guides, and authors cannot be restricted to their rules.

If that is ALL you say, you may as well say the only rule is "Anarchy rules!"

You may be experienced enough to achieve a consistent style making case-by-case choices while writing, but how do new writers get to that level?

I think new authors should have a set of personal principles and style choices they use in most circumstances. They may disregard those principles occasionally, but those should conscious artistic choices, not because there is nothing they usually choose.

Know YOUR RULES before you break them! What is so hard to understand about that.

I have asked, repeatedly, if anyone knows a guide which is suitable for authors. Nobody has identified one.

So, new authors should choose one of the existing guides, and then work out which rules they may reasonably be treat as optional.

My questions are:

1. Is there a more suitable reference than CMOS for rules on the American style for grammar and punctuation?

2. What are suitable references for differences between American and English styles?

3. What are suitable references for differences between formal and informal writing?

docholladay
Updated:

@Ross at Play


So, new authors should choose one of the existing guides, and then work out which rules they may reasonably be treat as optional.


I am not a writer, but I have a different suggestion similar to yours.

Read those rules and such listed by others especially writers. Then pick and choose which ones fit your individual style of writing.

Add the selected rules to your own individual list.

Then review your individual list adjusting it as your understanding and knowledge grows.

Like I said I am not a writer, but those rules tend to work across the board in all kinds of creative areas. Don't be afraid to remove one from the list if it no longer fits your style.

edited to add: I remember a conversation I had with a Professor in Utah one day. He said every one should use the lowest common word as a preference. Saving the rest for the technical crowds where it is used to show off how knowledgeable you are.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I have asked, repeatedly, if anyone knows a guide which is suitable for authors. Nobody has identified one.


I did recommend a style guide for authors — the Chicago Manual of Style. The reason is simple. It's what the publishing industry uses.

So since the goal is to be consistent, you might as well use what the traditional publishers use.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

they are only guides, and authors cannot be restricted to their rules.


I'm going to ruffle some feathers here, but that's a cop-out. It's an excuse for bad writing.

Yes, authors break rules. But it's really talented authors who break rules. I know I'm not that good.

But let's not confuse black-and-white rules, such as punctuation, with writing principles, such as "show don't tell" and adverbs. Those principles are not black-and-white rules. Stephen King says, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs" yet he uses adverbs. He doesn't mean never use an adverb. It's not a rule, like a grammar rule. It's the way you write your story.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I did recommend a style guide for authors — the Chicago Manual of Style. The reason is simple. It's what the publishing industry uses.


The question is: Which industry?

The academic industry and the text book industry use CMoS, and many authors use it because lazy publishing editors say to use it so it makes their job easier, but not even every book published in the USA is according to the CMoS rules. In fact, CMoS doesn't even recognise many of the ways used in fiction writing, and the great majority of fiction stories written using it come out stilted.

CMoS does incorporate many of the actual English Grammar rules, but that doesn't mean everything in CMoS is right, because a large amount of it is opinion only.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

CMoS doesn't even recognise many of the ways used in fiction writing, and the great majority of fiction stories written using it come out stilted.
CMoS does incorporate many of the actual English Grammar rules, but that doesn't mean everything in CMoS is right, because a large amount of it is opinion only.

Agreed! There is no accepted set of 'rules', and fiction written according to CMoS comes out stilted.
Can you recommend a different starting point for NEW authors who want consistency in their grammar and punctuation? (with it taken as a given that fiction authors must relax some, or many, of their rules)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Can you recommend a different starting point for NEW authors


I've not yet found any one good source for everything, but these links below is good for most general grammar stuff.

http://www.grammarbook.com/english_rules.asp

https://www.grammarly.com/handbook

Most grammar rules are still used, but the big difference between good fiction and good academic writing is in areas such as the use of dialogue, contraction, dropping of excessive word. This is much more so if you move into using vernacular English.

edit to add: I'm starting to feel a little better than I was, and hope to get onto those outstanding emails of yours, and others, over the weekend.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Thanks, EB.
At a quick glance grammarbook.com looks like what I've been trying to find for a long time.
Are you saying that authors may reasonably follow the rules it specifies, except for being more flexible for dialogue, contractions, dropping words, and vernacular English?

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

The question is: Which industry?


The publishing industry. Fiction and non-fiction by the Big-5.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


The question is: Which industry?


As a follow-up. This is from Writer's Digest University at http://resources.writersonlineworkshops.com/resources/writing-in-style/ (note the last part that I bolded):


I'm going to shock the English teachers among you: Most professional writers do not follow the style prescribed by the Modern Language Association of America. Joseph Gibaldi's MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is the bible to high school and college English instructors alike. I use MLA only when I teach composition. Otherwise, I use the following:

- The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (AP) for much of my freelance business

- The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) for my consulting clients

- U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (GPO) for my engineering clients

- American Medical Association Manual of Style (AMA, not to be confused with the guide published by the American Management Association) for health and medical writing.

And of course, for those who are writing books, there's The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (University of Chicago).


And from http://freelancewrite.about.com/od/mechanicsofwriting/a/styleguides.htm


Chicago Manual of Style. CMS is the standard for book publishing, both fiction and non-fiction. It is not generally used for scholarly publishing (journals and research), although it is sometimes used for history


So why go against the grain? If all the book publishers for fiction and non-fiction use CMOS, why would any author writing fiction not use it?

EDITED TO ADD:
And of course my grammar heroine, Grammar Girl, says: "If I had to peg down The Chicago Manual of Style, I'd say that its primary audience is book authors, but as you might have gathered by now, I think Chicago is great for everyone."

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I am not a writer, but I have a different suggestion similar to yours.

Read those rules and such listed by others especially writers. Then pick and choose which ones fit your individual style of writing.

Add the selected rules to your own individual list.

Then review your individual list adjusting it as your understanding and knowledge grows.

This has always been my position. Since I'm not obligated to use a particular style guide, I bristle whenever I'm told that "ze must do things this way because such-and-such style guide dictates such". Style guides aren't even an optional list of writing choices, they're merely 'acceptance guidelines' for submitting your works to specialized publishing houses. If you're writing for newspapers, you use one. If you write non-fiction textbooks, you use another. If you submit works to publisher A you use a separate one, and if it's rejected, you then change the entire text to match another style guide to submit it someone else. They don't so much list 'what's correct' as they list what one particular group requires.

That said, Ross is correct. If you're a new writer, it's easiest to simply pick a style guide and then you can essentially ignore all the various guidelines and follow the dictates of that one style guide. Essentially, their a short cut to understanding the strictures of English. They TELL YOU what to do, so there's no question how to handle certain situations.

The main problem 'that experienced writers keep telling me' is that, in writing fiction, many of those rules don't fit as the style guides weren't written for fiction. There are few references in any of these style guides on the proper use of the em-dash or ellipsis in dialogue (to denote interruptions or hanging pauses). If you never plan to use either, then sure, feel free to pick a style guide and follow it's dictates.

However, in exchange for a simplfied learning curve, you also lose the opportunity to learn new tools which can often help your writing.

Ross has a point, for newbie writers, picking a style guide makes sense as it eliminates the indecision phase. However, I was merely cautioning (not lecturing) that he should first ask authors he's editing for which style guide they follow before quoting a particular style guide. That was my only point: that if a writer hasn't selected a single style guide as a starting point, then limiting their choices based on that one source is misguided.

In short, if you're writing to be published, following a style guide makes a lot of sense, and you can churn through one book after another until the publisher finally selects one to publish. However, if you're not limited to a specific publisher, one you've gotten a feel for writing, I'd suggest that authors spread their wings and try out different techniques to discover which ones work for them, rather than following random dictates that don't really apply to them.

In short, style guides are a choice. You either elect to follow them, or you don't. Quoting them as a reference doesn't carry much weight, as they're no more 'correct' than is every other style guide.

That said, I'm sick of kicking this particular dead horse. I wasn't picking on Ross. Instead I was simply cautioning him about an over dependence on quoting style guides to unaffiliated authors. Each author should decide for themselves whether to use a style guide for themselves, and editors telling them they're wrong because they picked the wrong guide isn't helping them write.

@Switch

I did recommend a style guide for authors — the Chicago Manual of Style. The reason is simple. It's what the publishing industry uses.

So since the goal is to be consistent, you might as well use what the traditional publishers use.

This is the long and short answer. If you want to pick a single guide (rather than struggling with each question individually), then go with the gold standard which makes it easier to eventually get published. But don't dictate what choice other authors make, because they might not have made the same decision you have.

@Ross at Play

Can you recommend a different starting point for NEW authors who want consistency in their grammar and punctuation? (with it taken as a given that fiction authors must relax some, or many, of their rules)

Since I've gone the 'no specific style guide' route, I tend to favor asking sites like Grammerly and Grammar Girl specific questions for the best options, rather than following what someone else decided to do. That way, you can make more informed decisions by understanding WHY one technique works better than others.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I tend to favor asking sites like Grammerly and Grammar Girl specific questions for the best options, rather than following what someone else decided to do. That way, you can make more informed decisions by understanding WHY one technique works better than others.

Thanks, CW. That is a reason worth consideration.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer


The main problem 'that experienced writers keep telling me' is that, in writing fiction, many of those rules don't fit as the style guides weren't written for fiction.


I don't understand that comment.

CMS, for example, wasn't written for fiction writers. But fiction writers adopted it so because CMS says to show interrupted dialogue with an emdash, that's what you'll see in novels.

A native Spanish speaking person on wattpad (from Costa Rica) asked about writing stories in English. He had questions on punctuating dialogue. One thing that came up was that he said that in Spanish dialogue was enclosed in dashes, not quotation marks, so that's what he was planning on doing. Everyone jumped on him saying if he did that, no English speaking reader would understand it. So he decided to use quotes. The point is, people read published books and expect all novels/stories to follow the same rules. If they don't, they won't be understood. And that's what a style guide is for — consistency for the reader.

Consistency is about formatting, such as how/where the emdash, ellipsis, and serial comma is used. But grammar rules are the same across style guides. If you want to have a run-on sentence for effect, go for it, but know that you're breaking a grammar rule. But other grammar rules that people disagreed with here will actually confuse the reader. Just because the author thinks the sentence means one thing, the reader might actually interpret it as something different. It's better to learn grammar and do it properly.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

It feels as if every time I cite a reference defining what is 'correct', experienced editors jump down my throat stressing there are multiple guides, they are only guides, and authors cannot be restricted to their rules.

If that is ALL you say, you may as well say the only rule is "Anarchy rules!"


Guess what. In the case of language, with few exceptions (French) anarchy does rule.

Language rules are necessarily descriptive of common usage, not prescriptive of the one true correct way. This is because there is no person or organization with the authority to prescribe rules.

This is why language evolves, learn from this and get over the idea that there is "one true correct way".

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

This whole discussion reminds me of something I once read.

A law intern was looking at 60 linear feet of book shelving packed with legal books. He asked his mentor about how someone learned so many volumes of law. The mentor's reply was along the line of: You see those three books on the far left of the top shelf. They take up about 1 foot of shelf space and they contain all of the state's laws. The remaining 59 feet of books contain the court's interpretation of the laws in those three books.

Almost every publication group in all the various industries of every company that generates written documents has an internal style guide that dictates the proper style of writing for that company. If you were to compare all of those style guides, you would find numerous differences in what the respective publication groups say is the proper way to write.

Bottom line is – the rules of grammar are constantly evolving. If you want proof of that, all you need to do is go back in time 500 years in 100 year steps and look at the differences is what was considered proper grammar at each step.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

get over the idea that there is "one true correct way"

WTF? Did you read the rest of my post?

For the rest of you out there, this is what I said in rest of that post:

I think new authors should have a set of personal principles and style choices they use in most circumstances. They may disregard those principles occasionally, but those should conscious artistic choices, not because there is nothing they usually choose.
Know YOUR RULES before you break them! What is so hard to understand about that.
I have asked, repeatedly, if anyone knows a guide which is suitable for authors. Nobody has identified one.
So, new authors should choose one of the existing guides, and then work out which rules they may reasonably be treat as optional.
My questions are:
1. Is there a more suitable reference than CMOS for rules on the American style for grammar and punctuation?
2. What are suitable references for differences between American and English styles?
3. What are suitable references for differences between formal and informal writing?

I interpret the post from DS as advice to new authors that they should not bother seeking any consistency in THEIR use of grammar and punctuation.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


WTF? Did you read the rest of my post?


Yes I did. And I interpreted it as "Okay, if CMOS is not the one true correct way, that which guide is?"


I interpret the post from DS as advice to new authors that they should not bother seeking any consistency in THEIR use of grammar and punctuation.


Then you are an idiot.

I did not at all suggest that an author not seek consistency in his/her own writing, but rather that they not turn to authority as a source for that consistency.

I would rather recommend that an author develop his own style predicated on an understanding of the why behind each of the rules.

Relying on rules handed down from authority with no comprehension of the reasons for those rules is at best foolish.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

I would rather recommend that an author develop his own style predicated on an understanding of the why behind each of the rules.

If you said that before, I would have interpreted your comments differently.
How do you recommend authors develop that kind of understanding?

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The publishing industry.


Then why don't all the publishers insist on using and adhering to CMoS? It's because it isn't and industry standard publication, is the answer.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

How do you recommend authors develop that kind of understanding?


I'm still trying to figure that out myself.

I have yet to find a decent source that presents things in a "we recommend x and this is why" rather than "Thou shall.." and "Thou shall not.." commandments.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

So why go against the grain? If all the book publishers for fiction and non-fiction use CMOS, why would any author writing fiction not use it?


There are seven publications listed there, and only one is CMoS - if they were all the same, you wouldn't need seven names.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

If you said that before, I would have interpreted your comments differently.


Sorry, for the way I came off, but the approach to grammar and writing style as rules handed down from authority and/or a search for such an authority is a pet peeve.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The publishing industry. Fiction and non-fiction


The wikipedia article on CMoS says:

quote
The Chicago Manual of Style (abbreviated in writing as CMS or CMOS [the version used on its website], or, by some writers as Chicago) is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its sixteen editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing. It is "one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States."

The Chicago Manual of Style is used in some social science publications and most historical journals.

The Chicago Manual of Style includes chapters relevant to publishers of books and journals. It is used widely by academic and some trade publishers, as well as editors and authors who are required by those publishers to follow it.

What now is known as The Chicago Manual of Style was first published in 1906 under the title Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press, to which are appended specimens of type in use.

end quote

all of which emphasizes it was created by an academic print house for academic works, not fiction.

And from the CMoS website:

quote

The history of The Chicago Manual of Style spans more than one hundred years, beginning in 1891 when the University of Chicago Press first opened its doors. At that time, the Press had its own composing room with experienced typesetters who were required to set complex scientific material as well as work in such then-exotic fonts as Hebrew and Ethiopic.

end quote

And on the CMoS home page they list there most important tools and uses as:

The Chicago Manual of Style Online also provides convenient Tools, such as sample correspondence, proofreaders' marks, and a quick guide to citation.

Students, researchers, writers: for help citing sources, visit the Quick Guide to see clear examples of how to use Chicago-style citation.

Again, more to do with academic works than fiction.

The fact some lazy fiction editors and publishing houses in the USA wish to use it because it saves them having to think before they reject a story, does not make it an industry standard.

However, the biggest clue as to what the CMoS is for is when you look at the purpose of the organisation that created it, and put it out for use by their people:

Since its founding in 1891 as one of the three original divisions of the University of Chicago, the Press has embraced as its mission the obligation to disseminate scholarship of the highest standard and to publish serious works that promote education, foster public understanding, and enrich cultural life. Through our books and journals programs, we seek not only to advance scholarly conversation within and across traditional disciplines but, in keeping with the University of Chicago's experimental tradition, to help define new areas of knowledge and intellectual endeavor.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

ME:
How do you recommend authors develop that kind of understanding?
YOU:
I'm still trying to figure that out myself.
I have yet to find a decent source that presents things in a "we recommend x and this is why" rather than "Thou shall.." and "Thou shall not.." commandments.

Your comment (I have nothing constructive to suggest) is constructive.
You have misinterpreted my posts. I did not ask for the "one true correct way". Those are your words.
I suggested "new authors should choose one (guide, then) work out which rules (to ignore)", and asked "Is there a more suitable reference than CMOS".

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Accepted.
I would appreciate you editing one post above to remove 5 words.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

and asked "Is there a more suitable reference than CMOS".


Which ultimately comes down to "Is there a better authority than CMOS?"

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I'm sure you would, but I stand by the notion that your original interpretation of my comment that no valid authority exists as a suggestion to abandon any attempt at internal consistency is both irrational and unreasonable.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

No! It comes down to is there a better starting point than CMoS - I've given up on hopes of finding anything suitable for writers of fiction.
I want consistency in my use of grammar and punctuation.
I need somewhere to start, and then I will work on what rules are inappropriate for authors of fiction.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Then why don't all the publishers insist on using and adhering to CMoS? It's because it isn't and industry standard publication, is the answer.


It's my understanding that all U.S. publishers (maybe not the little ones) follow CMS. I can't speak to non-U.S., but I'd be surprised if they didn't since the publishing industry is basically headquartered in NYC.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

There are seven publications listed there, and only one is CMoS - if they were all the same, you wouldn't need seven names.


They have different purposes, from journalism to medical. But the CMS is the one used by publishers of fiction. And that's what we write here.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

all of which emphasizes it was created by an academic print house for academic works, not fiction.


It doesn't matter why it was created, or even if it's intended for fiction. What's pertinent is that the publishers of fiction adopted it. It was the publishers, not CMS, that made it the de facto standard for fiction.

Switch Blayde

Just out of curiosity, can someone give me an example of a grammar rule they break?

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


No! It comes down to is there a better starting point than CMoS - I've given up on hopes of finding anything suitable for writers of fiction.


All the style guides are written as appeals to authority or assertions of authority.

There is no basis to say which is better, but by authority.


I want consistency in my use of grammar and punctuation.


A laudable goal.

However, I would suggest that all you need for this is a careful eye when editing, not a style guide.

If you can't see when you are being inconsistent, I don't think a style guide will help much.


I need somewhere to start, and then I will work on what rules are inappropriate for authors of fiction.


I have no issues with you starting with a style guide, but the choice of which style guide to use can't ever be anything but arbitrary.

You might as well put a list of style guides on the wall and throw darts at it. There is no other method for making the decision that will yield an objectively better choice.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

If you can't see when you are being inconsistent, I don't think a style guide will help much.


Without a style guide, how will you know if you're being inconsistent? If you can spot an inconsistency, you are following a style guide, even if you made it up yourself.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

In the future, I will post a reply to EVERY post you make quoting me with "As you well know, I do not respond to ANY posts you make quoting me."

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Without a style guide, how will you know if you're being inconsistent?


On what basis do you suggest it's necessary to have a style guide to recognize that you have done the same thing in two (or more) different ways?

ETA:

You might suggest that you need a style guide (even if self built) to decide which way to choose, however, that is only relevant after you have spotted the inconsistency.

You might suggest that a style guide will help you avoid inconsistencies in the first place.

To which I would reply, If you can't spot the inconsistencies without a style guide, you can never know if you are consistently applying whatever style guide you have chosen.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

On what basis do you suggest it's necessary to have a style guide to recognize that you have done the same thing in two (or more) different ways?


If you did it differently in two different places, which one is correct? Your style guide, even if it's the one you made up inside your head, tells you which is stylistically correct (for you).

Whether you like it or not, you're following a style guide. Whether you use parentheses or emdashes in certain situations is a style. Whether you write 15-yo or 15-year-old or fifteen-year-old or fifteen year old is a style choice.

For the life of me, I don't understand what the argument is.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


If you did it differently in two different places, which one is correct?


Pick one arbitrarily. On what basis do you say one is correct and one is not. Both may be correct, but the goal being discussed is consistency not correctness.


Whether you write 15-yo or 15-year-old or fifteen-year-old or fifteen year old is a style choice.


True, but that doesn't make any of them incorrect.


For the life of me, I don't understand what the argument is.


Fine, let me correct my prior comment by saying that a formal style guide is not a necessary prerequisite to consistent writing.

A formal style guide isn't even useful unless you can already spot where your writing is inconsistent. Because if you can not spot where you are inconsistent prior to a formal style guide, how can you expect to spot places where you failed to apply or incorrectly applied the formal style guide.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Fine, let me correct my prior comment by saying that a formal style guide is not a necessary prerequisite to consistent writing.


I never said a formal style guide is required. I, as well as others, have said an author should be consistent so as not to confuse the reader. So if you strive for consistency and you have an inconsistency, one of the inconsistencies is incorrect (since it makes it inconsistent).

So to be consistent, you need to do it the same way every time. That's following some predefined way of doing it (a style guide).

If you want to make up your own style guide, go for it. But if you want to use an existing one, or use one as a starting point for your own, which do you choose? If I were writing newspaper articles I'd choose the AP Style Guide. If I were writing blogs about the medical field I'd choose the AMA Guide.

But we're writing fiction. Since the publishers of fiction use the CMS, I suggested we follow that one.

I never said one was right and the other wrong. All I said was to pick one.

We're not talking about grammar here. Whether you put internal dialogue in italics or single quotes or a blue font is not a grammar issue — it's a style issue. Whether you put spaces before and after an emdash is not a grammar issue. Whether you spell out numbers or write them as numbers in dialogue is not a grammar issue.

But then there are grammar rules that have nothing to do with style. Separating two independent clauses with a comma is called a comma splice and is grammatically incorrect (one of the examples in the OP). If you want a run-on sentence make it a comma splice. If you don't want to capitalize the first word in a sentence, don't. Many teenage writers on wattpad say why bother.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


It's my understanding that all U.S. publishers


Just checked the submission guidelines for Harper Collins, Harlequin Books, Random House, and Penguin, none of them say you need to comply with CMoS. A few others I checked only take submissions via agents and have no submissions guidelines beyond that.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

They have different purposes


Exactly, and CMoS is for academic publications. I checked several major publishers of fiction and found none listing compliance with CMoS amongst their submission guidelines. You keep saying the publishers insist on people complying with CMoS, maybe you need to post the URL for the submission guidelines of the publishers involved that insist on CMoS compliance for their fiction. I've found some who insist on CMoS for scientific and academic works like text books, but none for fiction yet - but I've not checked every publisher.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


So to be consistent, you need to do it the same way every time. That's following some predefined way of doing it (a style guide).


No, I reject that it has to be predefined. You do not necessarily have to explicitly decide how to do X until you discover an inconsistency in how you have done X.

ETA: I see consistency within a given story (or a set of related stories) as vital.

I am not as convinced that style consistency across unrelated stories is that important.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

ETA: I see consistency within a given story (or a set of related stories) as vital.

I am not as convinced that style consistency across unrelated stories is that important.


Very true.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater


Just checked the submission guidelines for Harper Collins, Harlequin Books, Random House, and Penguin, none of them say you need to comply with CMoS.


Never said they did. I said they followed the CMS so their editor would request changes if you didn't.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


No, I reject that it has to be predefined. You do not necessarily have to explicitly decide how to do X until you discover an inconsistency in how you have done X.


Then we're done discussing it. I believe in being proactive.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Never said they did. I said they followed the CMS so their editor would request changes if you didn't.


Since they don't mention it on the submission guidelines, how can you be sure the editor follows the CMoS? That looks a lot like an assumption.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Since they don't mention it on the submission guidelines, how can you be sure the editor follows the CMoS? That looks a lot like an assumption.


Well, an educated assumption.

Remember what Grammar Girl said: "If I had to peg down The Chicago Manual of Style, I'd say that its primary audience is book authors, but as you might have gathered by now, I think Chicago is great for everyone."

I've read that elsewhere too, but don't have links.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Remember what Grammar Girl said: "If I had to peg down The Chicago Manual of Style, I'd say that its primary audience is book authors, but as you might have gathered by now, I think Chicago is great for everyone."


Interesting that Grammar Girl says that, but it's no proof, especially when it contradicts who the original authors of the CMS say their intended audience was.

Your assumption doesn't sound very educated at all.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Your assumption doesn't sound very educated at all.


Do you get a kick out of talking like that?

As I said earlier, it doesn't matter what their original audience was. It doesn't even matter that they don't gear the CMS to authors. What matters is the publishing industry embraced it for their use.

The question you're all asking is, "Why should I use the CMS?"

My answer is, "Why not?"

Not_a_ID

@Dominions Son

Without a style guide, how will you know if you're being inconsistent? If you can spot an inconsistency, you are following a style guide, even if you made it up yourself.


People can have a "Style" without any particular notes being made as to what involved in it. So it seems to me that it is possible for someone to do the same with their writing.

As for an author writing something fictional for a broader audience, I think the main concern is that what they write is coherent. Adherence to a particular style guide is secondary. Either the story is coherent and intelligible, or it isn't.

If a story is intelligible, coherent, and "good" a publisher is likely to forgive it being written "in the wrong style" and help by providing an editor to fix what should essentially be formatting issues regarding punctuation usage and phrasing. Or short of that, they'll send a note back asking the author to resubmit in their preferred format.

A Publisher that rejects a (fiction) story simply on the ground of not being ____ style compliant isn't worth a damn. Which isn't to say they're not busy/overworked/underpaid, and have 15 other things going on at the same time. They're more likely to reject it for other reasons instead.

But the reality is a lot of the submissions they get are highly unoriginal, derivatives of other work, or wish fulfillment stories.

Works which are often also crammed full of spelling errors, unintelligible grammar(often due to missing (consecutive) words or otherwise bizarre word placements), and little to no punctuation in the first place. Basically on the same order as a lot of the BAD (fan)fiction that can be found on the internet, particularly from the "first timer" crowd.

Of course, you also have the Publisher echo-chamber/group-think thing in regards to the "Your story is about ____. Those kinds of stories will NEVER sell." Response which then promptly gets proven wrong once a story of that type does find a publisher and sells millions of copies, At which point they start scouring their submissions for anything that resembles it in any way. But once again, that has nothing to do with the "style" in which the story was written, and everything to do with the subject matter.

Write things in a manner in which it leaves little to no ambiguity unless you actually intend for it to be ambiguous as to what is happening. Being overly ambiguous can, and probably will result in reader confusion later otherwise. Reader confusion is something a publisher is not inclined to like, unless, its intentional and you can somehow justify it.

Make sure what is written is coherent, consistent, and believable(within the realm of "suspension of disbelief"). If your story (unintentionally) contradicts itself, or otherwise starts creating situations that just doesn't "make sense" to "most people," you probably won't find a publisher for it. Once again, committing those acts leads to reader confusion, which a publisher will frown upon.

Pick a set of rules and practices, even if you make up your own, for the fictional world you're writing in, and for how you're going to write it. Once you done that, adhere to those rules. Also make sure that people can easily decipher those rules, whatever they may be. Because once again, confusing your readers is bad if you want to be published.

Using an established style guide is useful in this regard because it is a standard that many people have already agreed upon. As such, adhering to an established style guide is useful because it is likely to minimize the amount of confusion a reader is likely to experience.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

What matters is the publishing industry embraced it for their use.


Part of the problem with this discussion is the way you see the publishing industry as a single industry, when it's actually a group of sub-industries. The text book publishing industry isn't the same as the magazine publishing industry, or the academic works publishing industry, or the fiction publishing industry. Also, you've previously said you think all the US publishers use CMoS while I've found evidence Canadian, UK, and Australian publishers don't, so it would seem the fiction publishing industry is also broken up by countries, and may even be broken up by states in the US.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

Also, you've previously said you think all the US publishers use CMoS while I've found evidence Canadian, UK, and Australian publishers don't, so it would seem the fiction publishing industry is also broken up by countries, and may even be broken up by states in the US.


Maybe if you're dealing with a "boutique" or other small scale publisher. If you want national attention, you're probably dealing with a Publisher with offices in NYC, LA, and/or possibly Chicago. They may or may not have offices elsewhere as well, but their "presence" will be focused in one of those three.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

CMS, for example, wasn't written for fiction writers. But fiction writers adopted it so because CMS says to show interrupted dialogue with an emdash, that's what you'll see in novels.

Sorry. I last checked CMS before they added that allowance. When I was first researching using em-dashes in dialogue, I couldn't find any details in most of the style guides.

Apparently, times change.

I also agree with you. Grammar details are a separate category from other Style Guide stipulations. As is always the case, it's best to understand why you do things one way before you decide to reject it for effect. That's why I prefer researching the topic myself, so I can better understand how to apply the rules, rather than being told what to do in every case. But that's just me. When I wrote my first story on SOL, I decided to go the whole nine yards, using publication marks, foreign words and accent marks, and even considered (briefly) using the Interrobang.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

It feels as if every time I cite a reference defining what is 'correct', experienced editors jump down my throat stressing there are multiple guides, they are only guides, and authors cannot be restricted to their rules.

If that is ALL you say, you may as well say the only rule is "Anarchy rules!"

I know I'm beating the same old dead horse, but ... I never said authors couldn't constrain themselves. What I cautioned was that, as an editor, you should first ask which style guides/approaches a given author uses. It doesn't make sense to quote CMOS to someone who doesn't follow it, but for someone who doesn't know diddly about style guides, then feel free to suggest it.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Sorry, for the way I came off, but the approach to grammar and writing style as rules handed down from authority and/or a search for such an authority is a pet peeve.

Part of that is the result of feedback and online advice. Other authors, who have dedicated themselves to a single publisher, dictate to everyone who asks that "this is way it's done" because it's the way THEIR publisher insists it be done.

For those of us not married to a particular Style Guide, this come across as bullying without any justification for why it's a good idea. So Independent Publisher, as a whole, are a bit short-tempered in this regard. You get screamed at enough by people you ask for help, and you start anticipating trouble.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


My answer is, "Why not (use CMoS)?"


Having bought a copy recently, I can think of two reasons. One is cost. The other, it is almost unintelligible for those who do not have a thorough understanding of the grammatical terms it uses - and it DOES NOT have a glossary of those terms.

I want to learn correct grammar (or sometimes one widely-accepted principle). The explanations in CMoS assume a precise understand of terms such as nominative, restrictive and appositive, but finding its definitions of such terms is a real struggle.

My recommendation to others struggling to learn grammar is look elsewhere for a suitable basic reference. The best I have found so far (for ease of use and apparently quite comprehensive) is grammarbook.com.


The question you're all asking is, "Why should I use the CMS?"


My answers to that are:

(1) It is the style readers are most familiar with, so using it is most likely to be make your writing easiest for them to read and understand. Isn't that the whole point of this discussion?

(2) They might exist, but I cannot find any suitable alternative for someone who knows they need some basic reference book to achieve an adequate level of consistency in their writing? I have asked many times in these forums for suggestions of something more suitable for authors. EB has suggested some websites that are useful, but I do not recall anyone suggesting any suitable alternative for use as a basis reference book.

I have an answer to objections that using CMoS is not easier on readers - it makes writing stilted. Obviously, it should NOT be regarded as rule book that must be obeyed. It should be treated as a guide for what you should usually do. I have no problem with disregarding its guidelines for artistic reasons, but such artistic choices lose their impact UNLESS what you usually do is different.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

What matters is the publishing industry embraced it for their use.


You keep asserting that, but you offer no reliable evidence to support it. No, Grammar Girl's equally unsupported assertion isn't evidence.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I know I'm beating the same old dead horse

I understand your motives for repeating your caution, but I got it the first time.
For me the principle of first ask "What do you want?", must come well before "What tools shall we use?"

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

(1) Is it? What evidence is there to support this?

News articles, one of the biggest sources of reading material do not use CMOS. The Associated Press has it's own style guide, as does the New York Times. CMOS is targeted to academic writing.

(2) They don't exist. None of the existing style guides are geared towards writing fiction, this includes CMOS. All of them are targeted at either academic or journalistic (news article) writing.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Not_a_ID

People can have a "Style" without any particular notes being made as to what involved in it.


What you quoted is SB, not me.

Ernest Bywater

@Not_a_ID

If you want national attention, you're probably dealing with a Publisher with offices in NYC, LA, and/or possibly Chicago.


If you're concentrating on US only, that's probably true, but when looking at international you need to look much wider. Off hand, I know
Harper Collins are in Ontario, and Penguin are in London, for two big ones.

Ross at Play

@Not_a_ID

Thank you for your post. I appreciate you put thought into what new authors can do in practice, rather that just rehash excruciating details of the problem we all already know all too well. :-)

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

You already know, I do not respond to ANY posts you make quoting me. I do the same for posts directed at me without any quote.

Not_a_ID

@Ross at Play

Thank you for your post. I appreciate you put thought into what new authors can do in practice, rather that just rehash excruciating details of the problem we all already know all too well. :-)


The other item would probably be to avoid the "big words" and try to keep the "grade level" of the reading down as much as possible. The Associated Press for example, attempts to aim for a 6th Grade reading level. The more difficult you make your story to read, the smaller the potential audience becomes. Publishers are likewise going to note of things like that as well.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


You keep asserting that, but you offer no reliable evidence to support it. No, Grammar Girl's equally unsupported assertion isn't evidence.


Then here's another from a site geared towards freelance writers - http://freelancewrite.about.com/od/mechanicsofwriting/a/styleguides.htm

"Chicago Manual of Style. CMS is the standard for book publishing, both fiction and non-fiction. It is not generally used for scholarly publishing (journals and research), although it is sometimes used for history."

Past experience has taught me that nothing I reference will convince you so I will not try. My posts are intended for those in this forum who want to learn and have an open mind.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Past experience has taught me that nothing I reference will convince you so I will not try.


A reference to an official statement by one of the major publishing houses or their trade association would be convincing.

Any thing else, especially a source that makes statements clearly contradictory to the statements of CMS's publisher, not so much.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I understand your motives for repeating your caution, but I got it the first time.
For me the principle of first ask "What do you want?", must come well before "What tools shall we use?"

That's fine. In most cases, if the author knows about style guides, they'll reference their preference at that point. If they don't, it's an appropriate time to suggest one.

REP

Little boxes on a hillside, cookie cutter housing tracts, and now cookie cutter writers, who have to conform to a single writing style. What is next?

Style guides have a very good purpose especially in commercial writing. Stories written for the SOL website are in general not written for the commercial market. If a writer needs a style guide, then they should use one -- which one doesn't really matter as long as they are consistent with themselves, it suits their purpose for using one, and they like the result.

I have my own writing style that I am happy with. I refuse to be pigeonholed into some box that someone says is the appropriate box for fiction writers. If my readers don't like my writing style, they don't have to read my stories. As I have said in the past, I write for the pleasure it gives me, and scores are not that important to me; although my ego does like high scores.

Ross at Play

@Not_a_ID

aim for a 6th Grade reading level

I will encourage all those I edit for to do that, but I am not going to dumb down what I write.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Then here's another from a site geared towards freelance writers


Switch,

I note this blogger and you state CMoS is the end all and be all of all writing and every publisher uses it, yet I don't see that being confirmed on the websites of the publishers, and the information I can get from the CMoS website is that it's for academic and technical publication, and wikipedia emphasizes it's for academic and technical publication and also implies it's only used in the US - which means it is not and industry wide staple or requirement as stated.

When you look at what CMoS does have to say about key fiction things like dialogue, it's talking about how to write the dialogue of the living person whose words you are quoting in your text as against quoting from a work they printed.

I'm aware that most US colleges and most creative writing courses in the US reference CMoS, which is why a lot of people educated in the US use it for just about everything they do, even when it's not appropriate. Add in CMoS is rarely even mentioned outside of the US, and you can see why non US educated people wonder why some US people treat CMoS as being handed down by God.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I note this blogger and you state CMoS is the end all and be all of all writing and every publisher uses it, yet I don't see that being confirmed on the websites of the publishers, and the information I can get from the CMoS website is that it's for academic and technical publication, and wikipedia emphasizes it's for academic and technical publication


I didn't read it as the "end all and be all." In fact, it listed many style guides. Keep in mind, it was written for people seeking freelance writing careers. It recommended which style guide was the standard for various types of writing. AP for journalism, for example. CMS for book writing.

They did not say it was for academic writing. I think they said MLA was for that. As I said earlier, it doesn't matter why the CMS came about or how broad they want it to be. All I said is it's the de facto standard for authors of books, fiction and non-fiction.


When you look at what CMoS does have to say about key fiction things like dialogue, it's talking about how to write the dialogue of the living person whose words you are quoting in your text as against quoting from a work they printed.


It does because it's not written for fiction writers. But it also addresses how to punctuate dialogue in fiction, as in the difference between ending an incomplete dialogue with an ellipsis or emdash.

As to publishers, as long as the manuscript is readable and pretty much error free they'll consider it (of course the Big-5 won't accept unsolicited manuscripts — needs to come from a literary agent) so they don't require you to follow the CMS style. I never said they did. What I said was that they follow it so their editors will make you change stuff if you don't comply with the CMS style. So why not do it their way up front? And I would guess your manuscript would make a better impression if it did originally.

I'm not suggesting you use CMS. I'm simply saying that's what the publishers use. So when you read a novel it probably followed CMS. Therefore, that's what readers are accustomed to. I strive to make my writing as professional as possible so I want it to look like a traditionally published book.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

they follow it so their editors will make you change stuff if you don't comply


I'm not sure that's true. Since developing the intention of writing a SciFi novel which might bother dead-tree publishers, I've become very aware of the different styles used in novels I've borrowed from my local public library. I couldn't put names to the styles but some of them are clearly at odds with each other.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I couldn't put names to the styles but some of them are clearly at odds with each other.


Could be when they were printed. CMS is on its 16th edition.

And when we talk about style, it's not stuff like font or layout or the author's writing style. The word "style" is misleading.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I will encourage all those I edit for to do that, but I am not going to dumb down what I write.

That's always the key. You can avoid the 'ten-dollar' words (though when discussing technical details, they're often useful), but writing to the lowest-common denominator--who often don't read as much as the college-educated crowd--seems like backwards advice.

A better solution is to keep you stories, descriptions and explanations simple and straightforward--even if you enjoy complicated plots. There's no sense in confusing readers. But the 6-grade educated people that I've known over the years don't spend much on books anyway!

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

it's not stuff like font


I consider that learning a style manual off by heart isn't a good use of time I could otherwise spend writing, but I've encountered a few style manuals in my time and one or two do actually list dos and dont's of fonts.

CMS is on its 16th edition


Funny, I was reading an article about planned obsolescence earlier this evening.

AJ

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Just out of curiosity, can someone give me an example of a grammar rule they break?

I can't, not because I do not break what I consider 'right or wrong rules', but because I cannot (yet?) always recognise when I've made mistakes - and I'm getting bugger all constructive advice HERE for how to learn to recognise them.

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