Sunday, January 29, 2012

Turn the Page

In college, my technical writing advisor and professor taught us to use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS for those that love her). She is one of the most popular style guides and according to Wikipedia she is "considered the de facto guide for American English style, grammar, and punctuation."  I used her all the time, and there was a time in my life when I could almost tell you on what page you would find certain topics that I would get tripped up on a lot (what is the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash?).  The CMS was one of the only books that I schlepped around with me to all of my places of employment. I nervously showed up at my first big job out of college, holding a new portfolio and that unmistakable bright orange covered reference book. A security blanket of sorts, I thought it was my ticket to ensuring I didn't make myself look like a complete ass.

Eventually I stopped referencing it as often, but I still carried it around with me. When I made the final decision to be a stay-at-home mom, the CMS got put in a box with some project management certificates and other random notebooks that I wanted to keep for reference, thinking I might use them someday.

Then, fast forwarding a bit, my husband found minimalism. And I found my work box during one of our purging sessions. The CMS smiled at me brightly from its orange cover, asking me to put her on my new desk.But I have no new desk to move her to. I have a baby, and now my most important reference books are Baby 411 and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  And my CMS is old and out of date.  So she went to Volunteers of America to live wherever that graveyard is for old textbooks and reference books.

Later I felt a bit nostalgic and sad that I had given her away. I wondered if I would regeret the decision, or if I would wish I had her one day as I was doing the 10th load of laundry, just to clear up an argument in my mind (should I have said "who walked on the clean floor with wet shoes" or "whom..."?).

But as I write this post, I am glad I made the decision to let the CMS go. As minimalism likes to remind me, getting rid of the book didn't erase the memories of my tech writing classes at BGSU. It doesn't lessen the importance of my first professional job or my most recent one. It was a book that was collecting dust in a box in the basement. Now I can use that space for all of the things we are accumulating for Addy, which I know has only just begun.

So to commemorate my old friend and to honor my next chapter, I am changing my blog to Jessica's Manual of Style (JMS for short).  That's what I want this blog to be - a written version of the experiences that will mold the new rules in my life.  It will inevitably have multiple publications and versions, but that's what life is about. Hell, the CMS cover isn't even orange anymore - it's this pleasant powder blue. So even though I don't own it anymore, it's still giving me inspiration to keep reinventing myself.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently my RSS reader has been saving up your posts, and for some unknown reason decided to give them all to me last night. So I just saw this, and thought I'd share an amusing CMoS story.

    A few years ago, when I still worked in the office, we got a new marketing director. My first real encounter with him was when he came over to discuss some ad copy he had written and I had edited.

    Him: "You put serial commas in my copy."
    Me: "Yep, we use the serial comma in all our printed materials."
    Him: "Well, don't. I go by the Chicago Manual, and Strunk and White."
    Me: (glancing at copies of both books on my desk) "Umm..."
    ::awkward pause::
    Him: (finally) "Well, just take them out."

    I didn't take them out. And he never bothered me about them again.