Tag Archives: style guide

Oxford’s internal style guide outlaws the Oxford Comma

What!? (that should be understood as an interrobang).

Long-term, or even observent, readers will know that I have a soft spot for the Oxford, or serial, comma.

When I’ve been questioned on such usage in the past I’ve simply appealed to the authority of Oxford. But now. It seems. Oxford isn’t so into the Oxford comma, this from a style guide for marketing the university:

“As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used – especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’”

Talk about going off message – the brand guardians of the Oxford comma have lost the plot.

Via Kottke.

Hitler’s Style Guide

Wow. The Nazis were apparently big on branding. Check out this style guide

The policing of all things Swastika was the responsibility of Dr. Robert Ley, the head of the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF) and the Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude, KdF). Known as much as anything for his heavy drinking, this former editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper, Westdeutsche Beobachter, was not a designer or art director, but garnered considerable power owing to his intense loyalty to Hitler. One of his most ambitious design initiatives was taking over the development of the Volkswagen (people’s car) from Porsche.

Perhaps a lesser, though significant, responsibility was developing a NSDAP handbook that detailed the organizing principles and mechanics of building the Nazi movement. It is this 550 page, red cloth-bound book titled Organizationsbuch der NSDAP, with the symbol of “Greater Germany” embossed in silver on the front, which turns out to be the elusive standards manual. The DAF was also responsible for typesetting guides and other graphic arts handbooks, but this is the graphic masterpiece of the Master Race.

There’s a copy for sale at this rare books auction site too. If you’re a collector.

Style Guide: to infinitives and beyond

The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the seminal style guides in the world. If you’ve got a grammatical question or are pondering an obscure rule governing the use of the English language (like whether or not to capitalise the E in english, or the names of birds in a tourism brochure) then you should check it out. Especially interesting is the FAQ/Q&A section.

On split infinitives:

CMOS has not, since the thirteenth edition (1983), frowned on the split infinitive. The fifteenth edition now suggests, to take one example, allowing split infinitives when an intervening adverb is used for emphasis (see paragraphs 5.106 and 5.160). In this day and age, it seems, an injunction against splitting infinitives is one of those shibboleths whose only reason for survival is to give increased meaning to the lives of those who can both identify by name a discrete grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic entity and notice when that entity has been somehow besmirched. Many such shibboleths—the en dash, for example—are worthy of being held onto… euphony or emphasis or clarity or all three can be improved by splitting the infinitive in certain situations. It’s one of the advantages of a language with two-word infinitives.”

Cop that one grammar nazis…

Say no to “tweets”

The New York Times has banned its journalists from using the word “tweet” or any derivatives in their stories (possibly with the exception of describing the noise made by birds). Awesome. Instead they must use “wrote on Twitter” or “said on Twitter”… here’s an excerpt from the memo (via The Awl).

“Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And “tweet” — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.

Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.

One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many don’t; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to “tweets” or “tweeting.” Someday, “tweet” may be as common as “e-mail.” Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and “tweet” may fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.)”

Typesetting Acronyms

Should you set acronyms in small caps like some style guides suggest?

Computer says no.

This nonsense, promulgated by snobs like that bore Bringhurst who have not read anything written after Jane Austen croaked, ostensibly improves typographic colour. What it actually does is inhibit reading: Acronyms are not regular words. All-small-caps setting fools the reader into thinking an acronym is a real world. That discomfort you feel is a reverse fixation you underwent trying to reread the word.

This was always a bad idea, but it’s much worse with abbreviations that mix case (ATypI) and, indeed, with alphanumeric abbreviations (H1N1). Then what happens when you pluralize one of those? Plural s is almost exactly the height of the small caps.

But wait. You say. Acronyms are initialisations designed to be read as words.

Or there’s the equally nonsensical habit of using small caps solely for word-pronounceable acronyms, some of which are mated to acronyms you read letter by letter.

Like this example:

The conclusion…

Use of small caps for acronyms and abbreviations is a surefire indication your compositor is a snob. Stop acting like acronyms are dirt you need to sweep under the rug.

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“Spiritual” Style

Someone has decided that someone at the Associated Press has decided that when Christians talk about the Holy Spirit’s guidance they actually mean something else.

That’s the only conclusion I can draw from this AP story about Catholics and celibacy.

Here’s the offending (or offensive) paragraph…

“Apparently seeking to squash any speculation that Rome had been courting the disaffected Anglicans, the Vatican said the “Holy Spirit” inspired Anglicans to “petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion” individually and as a group.”

Actually, the “journalist” has gone a “little nuts” with the “quotation marks” as though every “noun”, “adjective” or “clause” that is a little “complex” needs “punctuating”…

Here’s the post that raised the conspiracy theory. I think it more likely that the journo was providing quotes from the document he cited in the first paragraph.