July 24, 2003 - Chicago Manual of Style

Broadcast on COAST TO COAST: July 24, 2003

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER -- a look at the book writers turn to settle questions of style.

RS: University of Chicago Press is just out with the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, "the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers." That's what it says on the front of the book.

AA: Note that there's a comma after "editors." Some guides would have omitted the comma before the last item in a series.

RS: And therein lies the difference between a style book and a grammar book, says Anita Samen, managing editor of the University of Chicago Press.

SAMEN: "For example, if you are writing and following Chicago style in your writing, and you say 'as we discussed in chapter 4,' the C on 'chapter' would be lower-cased, not capitalized, because that's our style. This is not an issue of grammar."

AA: "And that's what's so frustrating about this, when you've got a picky little style point and you go to four or five different style books -- "

RS: "And they're all different."

AA: "And they're all different."

SAMEN: "No, you go to ours. [Laughter] But if you think about the origin of the manual, the manual originally was for people working in the proof room, so they could make sure that things that were published by the press were consistent in the way terms were handled. So that is how our particular style evolved."

AA: "Well, let me ask you a question then -- why not a capital C?"

SAMEN: "We tend to save capital letters to make them stand out. For example, the New York Times -- if you read the New York Times -- will talk about the Clinton administration or the Bush administration and they will capitalize the word administration. Our style, however, is to have it lower-cased."

RS: "Now what is the difference between the 15th edition and, say, the 14th edition?"

SAMEN: "Oh, many, many, many differences. The primary difference, I think, is the Manual always evolves with the times. And if you think about what has happened in the world between 1993, when the 14th edition came out, and 2003 -- for example, in 1993 when I worked at the Press, I did not have e-mail. I had a computer in my office, but people didn't use e-mail the way they do now. When we were thinking for this new edition what we would do with the terms e-mail and Web site, and how we would style those -- for example, Web site, one word or two, cap W or lower case. It is two words, with a cap W, because Web site came from World Wide Web.

"E-mail is lower-case E, with a hyphen, and that actually is something now that I think about it, that may clarify the matter for non-native speakers of English. Because without the hyphen, just email, that may look like some word they're supposed to know but don't."

AA: "Final question here -- what was the most controversial, the biggest bombshell change from the 14th edition to the 15th?"

SAMEN: "Hmm. I would say adding electronic citations to our two chapters on citations. And our big debate was -- two debates, whether or not to advocate full URLs and whether or not to advocate adding access dates to the citations."

AA: "URL is the Web address, the Uniform Resource Locator."

SAMEN: "Yes, yes, and all that string of letters and the tildes and all that. And for awhile -- and we went both ways, and we actually drafted the chapters two different ways, and after a lot of discussion we decided to go with full URLs and access dates when either the discipline required adding them or when they gave useful information to the reader. How to handle URLs, I would say, generated the most conversation as we were preparing the fifteenth edition."

RS: Anita Samen is managing editor of the University of Chicago Press, publishers of the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.

AA: Now here's an example of a "full URL" in a formal citation -- http://www.voanews.com/wordmaster.

RS: Or just type in voanews.com/wordmaster, and you'll get to us just the same.

AA: And our e-mail address is word@voanews.com. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.