Style-Manual Travails

RFP responses are supposed to look as if one person wrote them. Everybody says so. This is one reason we use style manuals, to standardize usage, terminology, punctuation. Over the years, I have happily ignored the preferences of proposal team members. “What matters,” I said, “is not that it be ‘right’ in some sense, but that it all be the same.” And that’s true enough, but not always comfortable.  

Excellent.

I have spent a few weeks aligning my manuscript with the Chicago Manual of Style –  hitherto unknown to me – and muttering about some of its oddball-to-me rules.  One of said rules is that “ending” punctuation always goes inside quotation marks (with the usual exception of the exclamation mark, unless it’s part of what’s being quoted).

Now, although I could argue against it, I have no serious problem with putting punctuation for a quotation or dialogue inside the quotation marks, thusly:

He said, “I simply cannot abide your temper.”

But what about where the quotation marks signal not a quotation but, rather, unusual or non-literal usage?  Which looks right to you?

Usage AShe believed that the only way ahead was to start a “SWAT Team.”

Usage B – She believed that the only way ahead was to start a “SWAT Team”.

Hitherto, I used Usage B without hesitation.  My thinking was that the period ends the sentence, not just the bit in quotation marks.

There’s a similar issue with commas, to wit:

Usage A –  According to this interpretation of “War and Peace,” the hero dreamed it all.

Usage B – According to this interpretation of “War and Peace”, the hero dreamed it all.

Hitherto, I used Usage B without hesitation.  My thinking was that the comma applies to the whole phrase, not just the book title.

Now, I can’t imagine many of you care about this, in and of itself.  And neither do I.  But here’s the deal.  After a few sessions of making all the text in my book align with Usage A, I am now in the happy position that neither A nor B looks right to me.

Excellent.

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