LawProse Lesson 374: What’s Your Style Manual?

LawProse Lesson 374: What’s Your Style Manual?

Does your organization have a style manual? The benefits are many: a style manual settles thousands of little points of doubt in writing. For a singular possessive, do you write Jones’s (CMOS, Redbook) or Jones’ (AP)? For a plural possessive, do you write Joneses’ (every authority) or Jones’s (no authority)? Do you use the serial comma consistently (CMOS, Redbook) or only when its omission would cause a miscue (AP)? Is it okay to use disinterested to mean lacking interest (as opposed to impartial)? (No, according to CMOS, Redbook, and AP).

Dozens of questions arise each day in the publishing houses that we call law offices.

Yes, law offices are publishing houses. We publish for small audiences of varying sizes, from one to thousands. And publishing houses have long used style manuals to save both time and credibility.

So what’s yours? You have three main choices:

The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed. 2017) (with a 137-page chapter on grammar and usage by Bryan A. Garner, along with a 53-page chapter on punctuation).

Bryan A. Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (4th ed. 2018) (with a 62-page “restatement” of punctuation).

The Associated Press Stylebook (55th ed. 2020–2022) (used primarily by journalists, it’ll tell you that we’ve written Kyiv instead of Kiev since 2019, in accordance with the Ukrainian government’s preferred transliteration to English—and what we need right now [this is LawProse speaking] is solidarity with that government).

What? You say you use the Bluebook? No. That’s a citation manual, not a style manual. It tells you how to cite authorities, and little else.

So settle on a style manual, if you please.

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