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Jonathon Owen

Great post, Carol. Notes and bibliographies are a frequent problem, because they're often quite messy when authors turn them in, and Chicago, as detailed as it is, simply can't cover everything. I try to remind my coworkers that the overriding concern is citing references adequately so that they're clearly attributed to their respective authors and so that readers can track them down if they're so inclined.

Patricia Boyd

Well said, Carol! I love your "What should she do? ... Make up a name? Delete that source? Change all 437 author names to initials only?" You crack me up!

Anyway, perhaps viewing style manuals' prescriptions as guidelines and not as rules would help. After all, we Americans don't have an Académie française.

You're right, Jonathan, in that notes and bibliographies are the main "problem" for rule-followers. As you say, a focus on the real function of references would help editors make the right decisions on styling problems.

As I learned when doing scientific research, the more you know, the less dogmatic you become.


In the bibliography example, I would look up the the reference and find the missing name. Wouldn't everybody?


With matters like what to do with state names, I find it's simpler just to have a basic approach that you can apply to any ms., because very often authors are not consistent on this front. You may get some way through a bibliography in which an author has left state names off in, e.g., Durham: Duke University Press, only then to find he or she starts including them. So rather than waste a lot of time trying to figure out if there is a pattern, I just insert state names for UPs whose name does not indicate the state.

Patricia Boyd

I don't know, Anita. What if the author always uses his or her initials only? A style guide that says always use the first name seems pretty rigid to me, anyway. Change J. D. Salinger? T. S. Elliot? But I guess if looked up the author name and found both the spelled-out version and initials for various publications, I would spell out the first name in the bibliog.

Regarding state names, etc.: Many authors omit the place of publishing when preparing their manuscripts, and many of my clients still want this information. Amazon.com doesn't include it. But thank goodness, the Library of Congress Online Catalog does.

Cathy Miller

Hallelujah-some common sense! Feel the power. ☺

Apps 55753818692 1673506752 E7d0f159c4adc94fb72d8b2b51ed79c0

This is so true! Copyeditors are hired to implement rules and consistency through out a manuscript, and sometimes those editors get so bogged down in the rules that they forget to use common sense. Myself included sometimes!


Great post! The rules of a style guide are similar to rules of etiquette in that they have a purpose, whether that be greater clarity for readers or social lubrication and civilization. If we lose sight of the reason for things, we get bogged down in pointless minutiae. Excellent reminder of that. (I too have freaked out over an inconsistency in the references when I have lost sight of the point.)

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