Thursday, May 3, 2018

Book Talk with Lynda: Special Guest S.K. Anthony

Hey, everyone! It’s been way too long since I had a guest over for Book Talk, and there’s a really good reason for it. Actually, there are a couple good reasons, but the main one is because the book I wanted to talk about, the Book of All Books—yes, you all know it as The Chicago Manual of Style—released a new edition at the end of 2017!

I have to tell you, my heart went a-fluttering when I saw the 17th edition for sale. I sat on my back steps in the snow, waiting for the UPS guy to bring my Amazon box.

But—and I know you won’t believe this—I searched everywhere for someone who wanted to talk about it, and . . . well, you know how it is . . . everyone was busy with Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And New Year’s Eve. And then Valentine’s Day rolled around, and Easter, and—do you know how many people get swamped with having to shampoo their dogs or do their laundry and can’t spare the time to talk about the newest changes in CMOS? What on earth could possibly trump that kind of excitement, am I right?

So I decided to trick S.K. Anthony (Kat) by inviting her over for coffee (she'll do anything for coffee), and I left my beloved CMOS on the table. I know after her first sip she'll talk about anything, so here we are, having the time of our lives!

Kat: So, Lynda, I really appreciate you—

Lyn: Oh, I appreciate you too! [Grins.]

Kat: Umm . . . right. [Grins back uncertainly.] I mean, yes, of course! . . . but . . .  I also appreciate you having me over for coffee and book talk—oh, good God! Is this the book?

Lyn: YES! Isn’t it great?

Kat: [Wipes horrified look off her face.] Wow . . . I just have no words. Is there more coffee? I think I’m going to need more. I’m so . . . excited? I think that’s the word. What does the Chicago Manual say?

Lyn: [Pets the book lovingly.] Oh, pfft. What doesn’t it say? It’s . . . um . . . well, look how shiny it is! Isn’t it shiny?

Kat: It’s literally blinding me. It’s so shiny maybe it’s best you hold on to it and I’ll just ask you to check stuff for me. I have sensitive eyes, you know?

Lyn: Oh, I’m cool with holding on to it. I wouldn’t want to damage your vision. [Pulls book a little closer.]

Kat: Plus, it doesn’t seem like you’ll let go of it anyway . . . but since you have it and all, tell me—what’s new with this edition that has you so obsessed with it?

Lyn: There’s all kinds of exciting stuff! I can’t even list it all because you might be overwhelmed and then we’d run out of coffee. You seem to need extra today for whatever reason. But yeah, trust me. There’s STUFF. Lots of it. Like, did you know you didn’t need to put a comma after “etc.” anymore unless it’s confusing not to?

Kat: Oh my goodness! I didn’t know that. My only concern is I’m not sure when anything in that book isn’t confusing.

Lyn: But that’s why you have ME! I’m the queen of lack of confusion. Or something like that. The queen of . . . um . . . never mind, let me tell you some of the most exciting stuff. No longer will you have to capitalize the word “internet!” Did you hear that? I even said it without a capital letter.

Kat: That is such a time saver!!!

Lyn: And no more dumb hyphen in “email.”

Kat: Oh . . . I stopped that ages ago. But hey, is there any new rule that you felt happy they finally listened to you and made the change?

Lyn: I’d say getting rid of that hyphen and the capital “I” were more than enough to satisfy this gal. They even addressed the use of the plural “they” and “their” for singular stuff, but I’m still not keen on that. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. [Glares at the book, but only for a second.]

Kat: You have issues. I think it makes perfect sense to use “they” and “their” instead of he/she, or going back and forth too often between the two.

Lyn: I suppose you don’t want me to fan the pages so you can smell the new book smell, do you?

Kat: I was about to ask if you would . . . it might be the closest I get to it. You think the scent will upload any of the rules in my head?

Lyn: Definitely. It beats having to sleep with it under your pillow. [Fans pages front to back and then back to front. And then front to back again.]

Kat: Awesome. Hey, I had a question. Since all these books keep changing as the world progresses . . . or gets dumber, depending how you look at it, and none of them seem to agree on much and are based on preferences, why are they still so different? And why can’t they simplify things so years from now we won’t feel like idiots because we’ve used hyphens in “email” or capitalized the word “internet”?

Lyn: That’s an excellent question that I can actually answer. [Looks at CMOS for inspiration.] Something I’ve learned as I’ve mingled with my people, the editor-types, is that far from being the rigid taskmasters most people think we are, we are hyper-aware of language changes with each generation. It’s our job to know what’s new, when we should fight to keep it the same, and when we should chill the heck out and go with the flow. The goal of all the revisions—and it’s not just in CMOS, either . . . Merriam-Webster just announced a bunch of new words that are being added to the dictionary!! YAY!—ahem . . . the goal is to simplify the language and the process of editing it. Hopefully, each change makes things easier.

Kat: That’s all great from the perspective of editors, but again MLA, Chicago, and Associated Press are all different. I still think they should agree, for a couple of reasons. Naturally they’re all accepting  the new changes “we, the people” are asking for. So why not make them more simple?

Lyn: I have to say I agree with you: why does everyone have to have their own style guide? Why can’t newspapers and novels agree on whether or not to have spaces before and after an em dash? Or when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals? There’s really no good reason for some of these to be different.

Kat: My other reason, which is also another question for you: isn’t it possible the fact that they have made these rules so darn complex is exactly what is holding the rest of the world back from actually understanding and carrying out simple punctuation, spelling, etc? Like, maybe we’d make the world a little smarter if they didn’t make it all feel like we were working on nuclear physics?

Lyn: I love the idea that there are people who would rise to the occasion if the rules were not complex, but I think we both know we’ve seen enough oopses that already should be simple. Some people may never get it. And that’s okay, because maybe they’re terrific at other stuff. Like . . . I’ll never be a nuclear physicist, but doggone it, I can tell you when that apostrophe needs to GO.

Kat: Okay, but maybe that’s exactly because the language and its rules are so freaking confusing that even the style books can’t agree. [Evil laugh.] But also, I’m asking this and yet I know the truth: editors want to keep their jobs and so . . . they are all in cahoots to keep things the way they are.

Lyn: [Looks around nervously.] I’m not sure why you would even think that. Because that’s ridiculous. How would we—I mean, they—even manage that kind of thing?

Kat: By doing exactly what we’re talking about. And when we think, “Hey! I finally understand the hyphen rules!” they go and change the freaking thing.
Anyway, going back to things we see people not getting right . . . one of the things that get me, and I’m annoyed the rules have changed to accommodate it (yes, I’m on editors’ side here), is turning “all right” to “alright.” Are there any new changes that have also annoyed you?

Lyn: I can’t stand “alright” and will always change it. Always. And Merriam-Webster now lists “literally” to include the figurative sense. Seriously? It literally now means virtually.

Kat: WHAT?!?! Oh, my goodness, I had no idea. But “literally” means literally! I don’t know why this is making me feel sad, but I do. [Starts drinking straight out of the carafe.]

Lyn: I know. Makes me sick. Sick, I say. [Cradles CMOS a little tighter.] If literal is not literal, I don’t even know what this world is about anymore. At least they’re still taking the stance that irregardless, though a “real” word, is not accepted and not recommended.

Kat: I don’t know what to do with myself with “literally.” It’s throwing me for a loop and I can’t remember for the life of me what my other question was for you. I LITERALLY forgot. Not figuratively. Pffft.

Lyn: I’m literally sad with you. I think we need more—oh . . . looks like the coffee is . . . um . . . well, I can make another pot.

Kat: Oh, do you have another pot to use? You need to get your own. So I wanted to know, now that I’ve practiced a 30-second meditation session, what do you feel about the way social media is destroying proper grammar? If you could pick one thing for them to get right, what would it be? For me, it would be “their,” “they’re,” and “there.”

Lyn: Uggghhh, social media. If any of my other, non-editing, non-writer friends are reading this, please believe me when I say yet again that I do not waste my time critiquing your posts. If you’re not paying me, I try to shut that part of my brain off. However, if I could choose just one thing for the average person to get correct, it would be YOUR and YOU’RE. I’m not sure why that bothers me more than any other stuff, but there is something in me that snaps and makes a terribly unflattering judgment on people who misuse it.

Kat: YESSS! That’s another one that bothers me. I do have to say, I don’t mean family and friends, really . . . I was thinking more of the memes and pictures with captions that go viral and things of that nature.

Lyn: And that bums me out so much. There are some memes that would be hilarious, but they have a misspelling or bad grammar, and I just can’t “like” or share them. It’s the principle of the thing.

Kat: And I’ll sneak this in again . . . are you sure these people who are making the memes are not getting them right BECAUSE all the style guides are purposely confusing them? [Grins.]

Lyn: I’m not entirely sure. But I am certain that between Webster’s, Oxford, Chicago, Associated Press, and MLA, they ALL know how to use “you’re” properly.

Kat: That I agree with. I do wonder if the complexity of a few things makes them give up on learning everything. But that’s not our problem because you know your stuff and I know some stuff and we’re good in the CMOS’s eyes.

Lyn: [Sighs happily while petting the book again.] Yeah . . . and besides, if everyone gets grammatically smart all of a sudden, I’m out of a job.

Kat: Aha! That’s the conspiracy I was hinting at earlier. I knew I was right. And on that note— because it’s always good to stop when you find proof you’re right—I want to thank you for having me over and for my new personal coffee pot.

Lyn: If you allow me to have the . . . your . . . coffee pot back for a bit, I’ll brew us a fresh pot. What do you say?

Kat: No, I’m good. At this point I think I’m starting to have heartburn from all the coffee, but thanks for offering. You should get a Keurig for when you want some for yourself, though.

Lyn: I guess I’ll have to.


You can find S.K. Anthony at her own site, S.K. Anthony, where you can read all about her current series, The Luminaries, and find their Amazon links.
at Writers After Dark, where you can find everything writer-oriented, from podcasts to resources to just plain fun.

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  1. This was so much fun! So much so that I still haven't been able to drink more coffee since that day . . . though, my brand new used carafe is always by my side.

    I can't wait for the next edition of The Chicago Manual of Style to come out! <3

    1. Your brand-new—

      I haven't had any coffee since your visit because I'm waiting for my own carafe to arrive in the mail . . . wish I'd thought of getting my own in the first place.

      I'm so glad you didn't run away when you saw THE book! Next time we can talk about whatever book you want to bring along. Or just books in general. Or just coffee. Um . . . once my carafe arrives.

  2. It sounds less to me like a conspiracy to protect the jobs of editors than a blatant move to support the literally - yes, literally - millions of middle-school dropouts who have come to the realization that they, too, can be "awthers." I mean, we have tens of millions of unedited first drafts offered for sale on Amazon alone; why not give them all intrinsic value by arbitrarily declaring them error-free? The general dumbing-down of America seems to be at work here as well. We had an evening news anchor here in the fifth-largest city in the US, reporting on one of the shootings, describe the initial attack as a "fuselage of bullets." It has become the norm: If you don't know what it means, or how to pronounce it, don't bother looking it up, just say something close. Come to think of it, maybe you should be worried about your job...

    If sunlight is the best disinfectant, then sometimes humor is the sunniest window. Great job yet again!

    1. Fuselage, eh? I can only hope someone got their butt chewed out for that one, although maybe their superiors have even lesser vocabulary skills.

      I'm glad you popped over, Jack! I'm on a mission this week and next to catch up with all the bloggers I neglected during the A to Z Challenge, both the regular blogs I follow and the A to Z people I'd wanted to check out.

      The good reason for the busyness is that I have so much editing on my plate that there's only a limited time for everything else. A to Z kind of kicked my butt, time-wise, but now I'm back to whatever normal means in my life.

    2. Amazing coincidence; just found this at Dr. Parrot's:

    3. "Fuselage" instead of "fusillade?" Oh, that's priceless!

  3. Hi Lynda and Kat - all I can say I'm glad there are professionals out there. I hate seeing things wrongly spelt ... or should it be spelled wrongly ... or any other which way you two experts deem to be right?!

    I don't like your and you're - see it so often, as too their and they're, and then its but not it's ... so it goes. My ellipses probably drive everyone looney too!

    Cheers to you both - Hilary

    1. "Spelt" or "spelled" all depends on where you're from. Being from the US, I'd think spelt is a grain, where a UK person would use it as you did.

      I'm glad you stuck with such a long post! We had too much fun to cut anything.

  4. Hah. Lynda, you cracked me up with this interview. I happen to be rather partial to grammar things. I had no idea that literally could have any other meaning. Surely not? I don't think I am going to be able to move past that for a number of days...

    1. That one really has me thrown. If we can't count on literally being literal, then I don't know what this world's coming to. Is gravity real? Does the Earth really rotate around the sun? Is the Oxford comma going to go away too? I would console you with coffee but it appears that I'm . . . out for the moment.

  5. Wow! There is far too much in this post for me to agree with and/or comment on.

    I did a Grammar Nazi post complaining about how "literally" can now be used to mean "literally" OR "figuratively!" And "alright" bugs me, too!

    I stopped using "e-mail" instead of "email" years ago, and I've never capitalized "internet."

    I think a lot of errors are because too many people rely on spell-checkers, but spell-checkers can't read minds, so if a writer doesn't know the difference between "where" and "were," you'll end up with the kind of mistakes I see so often nowadays. And I've often seen people use "and" and "an" interchangeably, too. Everybody rushes, and nobody cares!

    I've often said that I have no problem with the English language evolving. What I object to is when it changes just to validate stupid mistakes. So many people use "loose" when they mean "lose," I predict that "lose" will eventually disappear from the English language. And many people make words plural by adding an apostrophe and an S, so the plural of "toy" becomes "toy's," for example. Someday people will throw up their hands and just say that's the proper way to do it.

    And the next time I see a blogger talk about someone or something being struck by "lightening"... AUGH!!!

    1. Things like e-mail and Internet are the type of things that are perhaps not earth-shakers, but an acceptance that it's what everyone is doing anyway. And they make sense, UNLIKE "literally" being made to mean the opposite.

      I'm with you: I take issue with the language evolving to validate laziness or stupidity. I'm pretty sure "wut" is going to replace "what" for exactly that reason someday.

      I'm glad your comment was on par with the length of the post. I would hate to think of you enduring almost 2,000 words (from S.K. and me, of all people) and not leaving a suitable reply.

    2. Yeah, but most of my posts are longer than this one was, so I really couldn't complain anyway. :)

  6. Aha! This is such a fun and interesting interview, Lynda! And enlightening too. Learnt a few new things.
    After reading your posts, I am always inspired to read more about punctuation marks. I am terrible with em dash, colon and semi colons and I use exclamation marks so liberally! :D

    1. My boss at my day job loves exclamation points, so I'm used to removing them, haha.

      Glad you liked it! It turned out to be fairly long, compared to what I usually post, but I figured if everyone drank coffee with us, they'd read faster anyway, so it might not seem as lengthy.

  7. I have to get a new CMOS. I am so excited they released another one. I will order it ASAP. I am going to write a letter to Merriam-Webster about the literally thing. They have to change that back. We cant have two words mean the exact same thing when they meant two different things. I am glad to see you and Kat at the table again. I was thinking you guys were fighting, and I can't have 2 of my favorite girls fighting...

    1. I know I'm not the only person who gets excited about these things. And honestly, I know the language is changing, but to have words suddenly mean the opposite—scuttlebutt on the street says that "nonplussed" is headed that way due to ignorance—is not cool.

      And no, Kat and I are still going strong! Our only beef with each other is that we've only been able to meet up in person twice in almost five years, and the last time was two years ago. It's hard living just far enough apart (8 hours) that it's not practical to pop over for an overnight.

  8. I forgot one of my pet peeves which is not in spelling but in pronunciation. Salmon- where it is acceptable to pronounce the silent "L" because people are STUPID! I type fast and leave "y" off of the and "r" off her but you know when I go back and read it, I catch it.

    1. Pronunciation . . . don't get me started. My mother was the queen of mispronunciation, and she wouldn't get it when we'd use the word back at her, pronounced properly. Ever.

      Funny thing, my husband's aunt was married to someone whose last name was "Salmon" (WITH the "L" pronounced) and it took me years to stop pronouncing it like the fish.

  9. Lynda, that was such a fun read, and made so much sense as well. I hate 'alright' all right. And I cannot fathom how literal is not literal anymore!

    1. Doesn't that just turn your entire world upside down? I'm glad you enjoyed our talk, Deepti!


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