Usage and Grammar

Q. Is there a good tutorial program (CD-ROM) for learning/studying the Chicago Manual of Style?

A. “CMOS” for Dummies? Not that I know of, although it wouldn’t surprise me. But try not to be intimidated. Unless you’re a technical writer, you can ignore some of the chapters and use them only for occasional reference. The goal is to know what’s in the book and how to find it, not to memorize it. Start by skimming chapter 3 (on manuscript preparation and editing and proofreading), and if it applies to the work you’re doing, read it more intently. Then look through chapters 6 and 7, on punctuation and spelling (read the detailed chapter tables of contents first). Again, the important thing is to educate yourself on the issues, not necessarily all the various solutions. Scan through chapter 8 (on names and terms), so you’ll know when you need to use it. (You will surely linger over “Titles of Works.”) Read the introduction to chapter 9 (on numbers), and if it holds your interest, keep reading. Look at the overall book TOC and all the chapter TOCs to see what issues apply to your own work. When you’re feeling strong, tackle chapters 14 and 15 on documentation—where the real copy editors hang out. After that, just dip in when you encounter things you need to know. To some, the book’s a page-turner—you may find yourself browsing, especially if you have the online edition.