The Book: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STYLEBOOK AND LIBEL MANUAL, Fully Updated and Revised. Perseus Books trade paperback, 1998 (fifth printing). Good condition; pages are slightly age-browned, book shows signs of heavy use, including a damp thumbprint mark along front thickness of pages. Small stain on front cover may be dried coffee.
First read: 1990 (approximately)
Owned since: 1999 (this copy)
I interrupt today's post for news of a real emergency: I can't find my copy of The Elements of Style. This means that 1) the mess in my apartment has started to consume itself; 2) I lent it to someone and forgot; or 3) I took it with me on a trip and left it somewhere. My fingers and toes are crossed that it's #2. If I happened to lose my mind and lend this book to you, can you please let me know and return it as soon as you can? Thank you.
This book was one of my first work-related purchases when I moved to Los Angeles. The copy I'd used before belonged to my employer, and I was honest enough to leave it behind when I left Washington. But every professional writer needs a copy of this book, and most amateur writers will find it useful as well.
I prefer it to The Chicago Manual of Style, though most of my clients now say they prefer Chicago. The ugly truth is that most people have no idea what they're talking about when they say they follow a style manual.
Style manuals give writers guidelines for punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and titles, among other things. Sometimes, when I fantasize about winning the lottery, I dream of photocopying pages 268-269 of this book (the entry on apostrophes) and handing it out as a flyer to every signmaker in the United States. I'd just drive around, correcting people's use of apostrophes. Like Johnny Appleseed, but I'd be Ellen Clair Apostrophe. Or maybe The Apostrophe Lady.
The world needs a grammar superhero. I know that a few regular readers of this blog are professional copy editors; Karen, Bill, Maureen, who would your superhero alter ego be? Ed? Anyone else?