The Style Guide Alignment Chart.

Jonathon Owen says: “I’ve been thinking a lot about style guides lately, and I decided that what the world really needs right now is the definitive style guide alignment chart.” It’s a lot of fun; most of my professional editing used the Chicago Manual of Style, so here’s his entry on that magisterial work:

A lawful good character “combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly.” And boy howdy, is Chicago relentless—the thing is over 1,100 pages! Even if you use it every day in your job as an editor, there are probably entire chapters that you’ve never looked at. But it’s there with its recommendations just in case.

I assure him, however, that there is not a chapter I haven’t looked at. (I’ve even researched their sample bibliography.) Thanks, Martin!


  1. I was thinking only yesterday that I would like to know which is your preferred style guide, and — why not? — which edition.
    (Assuming that Chicago is not necessarily your favorite, just the most frequently used.)

  2. Definitely not my favorite, especially since they turned their grammar section over to the absurdly reactionary Bryan Garner. The only one I recommend to people (and have done so frequently on LH) is Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage (or its big brother Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage; there’s not much difference between them). See this Log post for an eloquent account of its virtues.

  3. I’m not sure why it’s not on the alignment chart, unless Owen doesn’t consider it a “style guide” like the others because it doesn’t issue commandments, just gives suggestions and evidence.

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I bought the Chicago (15th edition) and Oxford more or less simultaneously. I quickly found that Chicago was much the better.

    If you want an Oxford guide, the 38th edition of Hart’s Rules is far better than anything Oxford have managed afterwards, including what they claim is a new version of Hart’s Rules.

  5. Yeah, Chicago is good if you want a traditional style guide, and of course it’s indispensable if you’re editing to Chicago style!

  6. In the recent Netflicks series on the Unabomber the heroes (both “forensic linguists”) identify him as Ted Kaczynski partly based on his odd spelling and grammar which is consistent with the Chicago Manual of Style. Sho’nuff, his formative years were spent in Chicago.

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    Glad to see that Jonathon Owen has accepted that Strunk and White is in fact Lawful Evil.

    The which/that thing is the poster child for made-up stupid pretend “grammar” rules, and “omit needless words” can hardly be topped as a specimen of apparently meaningful tautologous baloney. It could be significantly improved by omitting the words “omit needless words.”

    I’ve been told that Microsoft’s “grammar-checker” which-hunts. Figures. It’s exactly the sort of thing which I’d expect of them.

  8. Stu Clayton says:

    Now I understand why Trump feels persecuted when people mock him for his misspellings and rambling ruses. He too calls it a Which Hunt.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Glad to see that Jonathon Owen has accepted that Strunk and White is in fact Lawful Evil.

    Me too, but I do like the justification for considering it Lawful Neutral: it

    certainly upholds a lot of laws and traditions. Are they good laws? Look, I don’t see how that’s relevant. The point is that if you follow its diktats by omitting needless words and going which hunting, your writing will supposedly be just like E. B. White’s.

    …which isn’t even true, as documented somewhere on LLog.

    can hardly be topped as a specimen of apparently meaningful tautologous baloney.

    Also, the outcomes are so pathetic in practice – Classical Chinese is like “omit needless!”

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    Let me just cut and paste here the comment I made when a facebook friend posted this on Sept. 5: “I would think MWDEU would be the obvious chaotic good slot-filler. Unless it’s not viewed as a ‘style guide’ defined narrowly. Or unless the Buzzfeed era has obstructed Today’s Young People from becoming acquainted with it.”

  11. Hat, I meant not by way of linguistic style, rather of issues of legibility, punctation, typography, and othe such lovely minutiae.
    I have the 12th edition of Chicago (1969). I keep seeing pretty, new editions in bookstores, and wondering if I should buy a newer one.

  12. Oh! Well, in those terms it just keeps getting better, in my opinion, and of course the latest edition has more stuff, especially about electronic editions, so you might as well get it.

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