The original pensé that I took my title from is “Fashion fades, style is eternal!” It’s attributed to either Coco Chanel or Yves St Laurent – take your pick; of course they were basing that axiom on their world of couture. A recent announcement from the Chicago Manual of Style would indicate that the same adage doesn’t hold true where writing and language are concerned. At the American Copy Editors Society meeting last month it was announced that the good people in Chicago have decided to remove the hyphen from
Internet internet in their upcoming edition. These changes were greeted with cheers, whistles, and stomps of approval. There is nothing rowdier than a room of copy editors. All part of the evolution of written English – a language that wasn’t really codified until the 16th century.
The CMS is the style guide used by many American publishers, institutes, journals and publications; as I recall it was the standard we used when I worked at the Warsaw Business Journal back in waning years of the last century. However it is only one of the many manuals that set the standard for writing depending on subject, country, institute, and government. When I joined the Canadian Federal Government in 2001 I was confronted with a style guide that dictated Times New Roman 12 as font, English punctuation, and American spelling. It covered things such as the decimal point, abbreviations, capital letters, hyphenation, spelling, frequently misused or confused words, and Canadian geographical names. And it addressed them in two languages. No one ever bothered to tell me about it until my first quick reference job aid was rejected because it was “sans serif” and 16 font. Live and learn is the motto of Canadian Government in so many things.
When I began to work on this blog back in 2006 I guess I set up my own style guide and then too often neglected to refer to it over the next eleven years.
The Willy or Won’t He Style Guide
Amongst the “rules” I follow (with varying success) are:
- (Proper) English spelling (90% of the time)
- Titles of plays, operas, music, books, publications are italicized (most of the time)
- Direct quotes are italicized (most of the time) except when it follows a title then it’s pretty much free-fall
- Oxford comma in lists (that one comes and goes)
- Attributions and if possible links when things came directly from another source (I tend to observe that one scrupulously)
Amongst the “irritating” things I do which there should be rules about in my style guide:
- an over fondness for the em dash – I’ve counted three – ops make that four, ah five in this post alone.
- a penchant for run on sentences with some really sloppy punctuation – Miss Firth, god rest her soul, was forever marking my essays with big red “ME” for that one. Oh damn make that six! And that “really sloppy” would probably get the red pencil too; things are either sloppy or they are not, I can hear her intone.
- a very ridiculous overuse of the modifier “very” (see below)
- Oh let’s admit it – a general overuse of modifiers – see dot point two above. Oh crap make that eight!
But other than those points, as internet language goes, I don’t think I do too badly.
The Use of the Word “Very” as a Modifier
This is what started my writing this entire post, it has expanded since the original concept two months ago.
I think if I were to do one of those “word check” applications on the 2226 posts I’ve put up since 2006 it would confirm the belief I have for a
very long time that the word “very” appears very often frequently. It must or my faithful reader would not have, without any explanation, sent me this helpful little chart. Though I should suggest to faithful reader that he/she they* has left me in the dark about words beginning A through M and T through Z.
So as I navel-gaze (does it really have a hyphen?) about style, blogging, and the greater things in life I pass on these thoughts from several
very authoritative sources.
Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.
Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.
Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style.
Every style is excellent, if it be proper; and that style is most proper which can best convey the intentions of the author to his reader.
rather like that last one. Yes D’Israeli has the final word!