Somebody who had read my review of Bryan A Garner's Modern American Usage, 2nd ed. (2003)--IMHO, the preeminent book on usage, per se--wrote me the other day asking about a good book on typographical style. I recommended Words into Type which I have used for many years. But as I prepared to write a review, I was amazed to learn that a new edition of this outstanding reference work is lacking.
What we have here is the Third Edition from 1974, the same book I have in front of me. Yet, so much has changed since 1974--including the invention and phenomenal growth of a little thing called the Internet--that a new and updated work is sorely needed. On the other hand, so much in terms of what is appropriate style in the publishing world has not changed, which means that this venerable and authoritative work remains a most valuable addition to anyone's library.
First, a note on "style" as used here and as understood in the publishing business. Style does not refer to what should more properly be called the writer's "mode of expression," nor does it refer to such things as elegance or flair in wordsmithing; and yet it does have something to do with "fashion" in terms of how words, numbers, and symbols appear on the pages of books, magazines, and newspapers. In this sense "style" refers to "the rules or customs of spelling, punctuation, and the like..." (from Random House Webster's College Dictionary).
Style should therefore be contrasted with and compared to usage and grammar. Indeed Words into Type includes in its pages plenty of advice on grammar and usage. Part V is devoted to "Use of Words" and Part VI to "Grammar." Still, most of the book is about how characters appear on pages and how pages should be laid out and how various sections of books--introductions, indices, appendixes, footnotes, typographical style for tables and headings, etc.--should be ordered. Also included is guidance on the various responsibilities of writers, editors and copyreaders. To put it simply, I know of no book that gives anywhere near as much guidance on how words are transformed into type then this very appropriately named, Words into Type.
I have by way of comparison in front of me a copy of my old The Associated Press Stylebook, which I used when I was a newspaper reporter years ago. The AP stylebook tells you which words to capitalize for example and which words to leave lower case. It covers abbreviations, punctuation, whether numbers should be spelled out or not, conventions to follow in the reporting of sports, and various other matters related strictly to newspaper reporting.
Words into Type does all this and, as indicated above, much, much more. The AP stylebook is fifty-some pages long; Words into Type is nearly six hundred. I do not have the Chicago Manual of Style in front of me, but it is the only book that I know of that can compete with Words into Type in terms of inclusiveness. Perhaps it is a better book today. But when I compared them some years ago it wasn't even close. Words into Type was more comprehensive while being at the same time easier to use and understand. Still the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is from 2003.
Publishers, even if they use the Chicago Manual of Style, should have a copy of Words into Type at the ready. And any writer who wants to look professional and furthermore wants to understand the process of turning words into type--and indeed would like an education in "style"--should also own this book. With self-publishing and Web-based publishing growing by leaps and bounds everyday, I think it would be a good idea to update this book.
Maybe the people at Prentice-Hall or whoever now owns the copyright are working on such an edition. I hope so. Until such an edition or its equivalent comes out, I cannot recommend this book too highly as indispensable to serious writers, editors and publishers.
--Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”
I'm not a copy editor, but this book has been my go to style manual for years. What trite expressions should you be avoiding? Pages 411 - 415. If you need to know anything about using words, this is the book.
Although this book was written at a time when type writers were prevalent the information presented about how to present a manuscript, copy and proofing, copy editing, etc... are still very much relevant and important even if you are going to self-publish.
Not something you'd want to sit down and read all the way through, but a good reference. It would be nice if there were a new edition that mentioned computers - some of the sections were laughably archaic.