Fri, Aug 08, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Mind your Ps and Qs, the Chicago Manual of Style says

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

"I surrender!" she wrote to another editor. "I'm the only managing editor on the planet who does not looooove the en dash!"

The manual had its beginning 100 years ago when typesetters at the University of Chicago Press wrote up a list of dos and don'ts. The first edition was published in 1906. It had some endearing advice. Page 99: "Read everything as if you yourself were the author, and your reputation and fortune depended upon its accuracy." On the same page: "Don't stultify yourself and discredit the office by asking foolish questions on the proof." (All editors take note.)

And on Page 100: "As for authors, typographically they very often do not know what they want until they see it in type and not always then." Point taken.

Among the major changes in the new manual:

Capital letters. The old manual recommended using small capitals in some cases, like AM and PM. But it is difficult for writers on a word processor to switch from regular size capitals to smaller. "In the new edition we now prefer lower case a.m. and p.m., with periods in between," Samen said, "and we are saying small caps are an alternative."

Ordinal numbers. The Manual used to prefer 3d and 2d, but it is now OK to use 2nd and 3rd, "like the rest of the world," Samen pointed out.

Dates. Previous editions recommended the British style: 1 July 2003. Now one can write them "the way everybody does it in real life," Samen said: July 1, 2003.

Inevitably the manual reflects social change. One of the biggest problems was how Web addresses should be written. Web sites are increasingly used by authors as sources of information for books and articles.

"There is no totally received wisdom about how to cite electronic sources," said Halvorson, the press' editorial director for reference books.

The problem, she said, is that Web addresses change constantly. "That was the thing people got most exercised about," she said. There was a debate on whether to include full or shortened addresses, or URLs.

"In the end, we decided it was in the interest of people being able to track down sources to include full URLs," she said.

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