The Rules of Style

I have always been obsessed with words, but it wasn’t until I arrived on American shores (well, plains really and ten hours from the sea) that I finally buckled down and learned U.S. grammar. I am not sure if it is all that different from English rules of grammar, but the rules certainly looked different to what I learned growing up in England but this may have been that I wasn’t the most attentive student in the world. (Sorry, Mum and Dad!)

Teaching freshman English to young American college students during graduate school was when I worked out that to teach grammar, you actually had to know the rules and so I learnt them.  And then, I was introduced to the initial torture of learning the Modern Language Association (MLA) style book, which, when I first heard it in class, thought was being called “Emma Lay” and wondered who that was. (Thankfully, I kept my mouth shut during that class and found out later.)

And then I moved into the world of public relations and media and met with the Chicago Style Book – all different stuff! OK. Buckled down and learned that and somehow kept the two different writing styles straight in my head. That worked for a long time until I made an unexpected (but really good) move into technical writing for the world of engineering.

Holy cow. Yet another set of style guide rules to learn. And so now, I actually have four sets of style guide books floating around my head and am starting to get them mixed up with each other occasionally: the UK writing/spelling, the Emma Lay (:-)) style, the Chicago Style and now the engineering one that sort of evolves from one writer to another, depending on which area they are researching.

After having a confusing style day the other week, it’s clear that I have to pretty much forget all the other styles except this engineering one and so that’s my goal for this summer.

I will become a knowledge expert on this engineering style thingy. (That’s technical writing for ya.)

So I happened to be reading about copyediting and all that jazz, and came across this truly excellent article about the profession of copyediting (which is some of what I do)… These words are so very true and obviously written from experience… Take a looksie (article by Lori Franklin and taken from The Awl July 21 2010).

Aah. I understand your pain, sistah.

(And yes – there may an error in this post… Life is like that sometimes.)

1 thought on “The Rules of Style

  1. The cartoon reminds me of the menu board at my mother’s care home which always advertised ‘Artic Roll’. I used to sneak in a marker pen with me every time I visited and put in the missing ‘c’ but whoever wrote up the menu never took the hint.

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