Q. Dear CMOS Editors, I once had an editing professor tell me, “Read through your style guides a few times. You won’t remember every rule that’s in there, but hopefully when you see something peculiar, a bell will go off in your head and you can look it up.” Her advice has worked like a charm with the AP guide (a mere 400 pages). Problem is, CMOS is a pretty hefty manual to read through a few times start to finish! Can you SuperEditors offer a little advice on memorizing CMOS enough to get those little bells to go off in my head?
A. Sadly, no. Even we are capable of completely forgetting whole sections of CMOS at a time. And I’m sure few of us have read at full brainpower the chapters on mathematics and illustrations and tables rather than dip in when we need to know something specific. It’s simply not efficient to memorize CMOS when so much of it is needed infrequently, especially now that we can search it electronically. Your professor’s advice was excellent. Every time I browse through CMOS I see things that didn’t register on previous readings, and I’m fairly certain that increasing numbers of bells clang during editing.