Thursday, June 23, 2011

Literary Agent Mary Keeley Presents: "Grammar Shrammar" (a peek inside the newest Chicago Manual of Style!)

 Good morning, Seekerville, and help me to welcome Mary Keeley, the newest addition to  Books & Such Literary. Mary joined Books & Such as an agent in 2010. She had been a non-fiction acquisitions editor for Tyndale House. Books & Such Literary  includes Janet Grant, owner/founder, Vice-President Wendy Lawton, and agents Rachel Kent (nee Zurakowski) and Mary Keeley. There's coffee in the back room and a full breakfast spread awaits you while you chat up grammar do's and don'ts (that was a DON'T) with Mary!

At the recent 2011 EPA Convention in Chicago, Ruth Goring, editor at the University of Chicago Press, led a workshop on changes in The Chicago Manual of Style: 16th Edition. Why is this topic so important that an entire workshop at the EPA Convention was dedicated to it? While just a few grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors in your proposal can render it dead in the water before an editor or agent ever reaches the manuscript, using the latest style guidelines can communicate your professionalism as a writer and commitment to your craft.

The guiding force in making changes was consistency. There are also additions since the last edition that revolve around electronic issues. With this in mind, I’m going to highlight some of the more notable changes in the 16th Edition in a simple list by their numerical address. Disclaimer: this is not a complete list; you’ll have to purchase the book or subscribe to the online version for that. But you can save the following quick list for easy reference.
CMS 16 Edition Changes

6.119      Commas following other punctuation marks are now allowed.

7.16, 17, or 18    Possessives. To maintain consistency, it was decided that possessives of all names, including names like Jesus and Moses, will end in ‘s (Jesus’s, Moses’s).

7.76     Website is now one word (website), and worldwide web is capitalized (Worldwide Web).

8.136   Rulings for styling websites. Roman for name of organization (; italic for title of book (

8.159   Ordinals and compound numbers. When the first word needs to be capitalized (as in the beginning of a sentence), both words are capitalized (First Century, One-Fourth).

8.55     When referring to a specific mountain, river, street, etc., both/all words are capitalized (Chicago River, Illinois River, Blue Ridge Mountains).

8.153   Brand names don’t need to follow standard capitalization style (ebay, iPod).

 8.157   Principles of headline style capitalization. Lower-case prepositions regardless of length or importance (A River Runs through It).

Chapter 5: the grammar chapter:

5.9 (and 5.220)     Mass nouns followed by a prepositional phrase. The definite or indefinite article preceding a mass noun + prepositional phrase indicates if the mass noun or the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase controls the verb form. If a definite article (the) precedes, the mass noun controls, and usually a singular verb is used (the quantity of coins saved this year has increased.) If an indefinite article (a or an) precedes, then the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase controls (a small percentage of coins are added each month.)

14.7  Access dates. Access dates are now allowed if no publication date is available. 

5.220  There is a great list of word combinations to watch out for. Example: close proximity. This is noted as redundant.

2.133  Checklist for proofing electronic publications. Also includes how to communicate those proofing changes on an electronic file.

11.2  Extended introduction to unicoding (for international characters across electronic platforms.)

 15.2  Uniform treatment in author date references and notes and bibliography. CMS now recommends a uniform treatment for the main elements of citation. Use authors’ full names rather than initials. Headline style capitalization for titles or works are now identical in the author-date system.

Here are three references you might find helpful to have in your library:

  1. The Editorium ( A company that sells macros.  You can purchase “File Cleaner,” which cleans up punctuation and simple grammar errors. Purchase a yearly subscription for $30.
  2. Guidelines for Fair Use. Go to to download a PDF file.
  3. Go to to get Manuscript Preparation Guidelines (also includes author permission guidelines).
 The CMS editors aren’t fundamentalists about following their style. Each publisher has its own adapted style, which the editors wouldn’t expect new authors to know. But that’s a reason to follow the CMS for proposals and manuscripts because it is a universal starting point.




  1. Oh wow does this bring back memories of the handy dandy Pocket Guide to Writing in History! I haven't looked at a style guide in years and it probably shows LOL! Thanks for sharing this Mary!

    XOXO~ Renee

  2. There are no words to describe how happy I was to see this one...

    Possessives. To maintain consistency, it was decided that possessives of all names, including names like Jesus and Moses, will end in ‘s (Jesus’s, Moses’s).

    Thank you Mary, for making it feel like Christmas in this Texas heat =)

  3. Thanks Mary.

    I need help with consistency! :)

    Yummy breakfast too. I'll get some tea going until Helen arrives.

  4. 5.9, hahahahaha! Now that I've had my giggle for the day, I have to say that the 'file cleaner' sounds good... unless you have a YA ms. A lot of teen speak seems to be outside the box of normal grammar usage.
    As for the Moses's... sometime last year I noticed it written that way in two different print articles and wondered when it would change 'officially'.

  5. Welcome, Mary! Thanks for being with us today and for sharing your wisdom and experience with us as well as this peek into the CMOS.

  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Mary! It was terrific meeting you last October at the Books and Such retreat!

    Thanks so much for this post--it was AWESOME! I was wondering what the major differences were between the 15th and 16th editions--thanks so much for this quick and dirty list!


  7. Oh my stars, talk about teachin' an old dog new tricks.

    Jesus' home in Nazareth.

    Ruthy's home in upstate New York.

    Jess's home in Alberta, Canada.

    Okay, Okay, Mary! I'm educable! It is interesting to see how techno-speak alters the rules, and how we've managed to turn nouns into verbs:



    And I love writing with a mix of conversational and lyrical prose because that gives me some leeway in how I do things. And I think it sounds natural for the current times.

    Coffee is set, hot and ready to go on the back table. Jump in and enjoy a new day.

  8. So nice to see you here, Mary! I remember reading this list on your Books & Such blog and have since noticed those apostrophe s's cropping up everywhere. I'll admit it's still hard for me to get used to that one. :)

  9. Hi Mary!

    Thank you for this insider's guide into the new CMOS. I loved the your term, "universal starting point". So true!

    Sometimes the changes in grammar from one generation to the next seem so arbitrary. After all, who cares where the apostrophe goes? But, as I was trying to convince another homeschool mom last week, it does matter. Writers need to be consistent.

    The frustration comes when different editors/teachers/college professors require different sets of rules :) We just need to be prepared to change for our audience.

    It's a good thing there are reference books!

  10. Thanks so much for this post, Mary. I need to go back through my MS and find all those s'.


  11. Wow, I feel like I just went through an intensive course of Grammar 101.
    Thanks so much for this helpful post, Mary. I'm going to print it out as a checklist. I can already tell you I'm going to have to look through all of my ms for terms like 'close proximity'.

    Can I use the fact that I work with children as an excuse for loving redundancy? :-)

  12. Ruthy said:
    "And I love writing with a mix of conversational and lyrical prose because that gives me some leeway in how I do things. And I think it sounds natural for the current times"

    Pepper replied:
    Are you sure that's not just a nice way of making up your own writing rules, Ruthy? ;-)

  13. Great infomation, Mary!

    I'm ready for that breakfast also!

  14. Mary, you've made my day.

    I've always spelled the singular possessive with 's regardless of the last letter, even though people have said it's wrong. I've never submitted anything for publication, so it hasn't hurt me so far.

    The inconsistency of the s' has always driven me nuts (I confess it's a rather short trip ;)

  15. Mary, thank you for being with us today! And thank you for this great information. VERY INTERESTING! There are several changes I like seeing.

  16. LOL, Pepper! I think you may be right. :)

  17. Hi, Mary. Thanks for being on Seekerville.

    I'm sure it's just a mix-up but we usually have our posts written using the English Language.
    Mass nouns followed by a prepositional phrase. The definite or indefinite article preceding a mass noun + prepositional phrase indicates if the mass noun or the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase controls the verb form

    Seems to be in GREEK!!!!!!!!!

    I need to learn this to be a professional, huh? Rats. I want to be a professional BAD.

  18. I've been doing the 's for a while. I think Stephen King told me that (in his book).
    And editor told me once that, if in doubt, pick a way of doing it and stick with it. Be consistant even in your mistakes. Because then he can find those mistakes using Find and Replace and quickly change them to my publisher's chosen style.
    God Bless Him

  19. Hi Mary, Welcome to Seekerville.

    What a great idea to share these changes. I'm with Nancy. I love the possessive change.

    And Pepper and Missy, I think you're right about Ruthy.

    Breakfast is yummy and thanks for the tea KC.

  20. Pepper, that's it exactly! You know me too well, but didn't my "SPIN" make it sound really intelligent????

    LOL in upstate!

  21. Wow, I hope all the copy editors out there are reading this, because I doubt very much that I will remember these things--or take the time to look them up!!!

    Sorry. Just being honest!

    But I agree with Mary. It is very, very important to make your manuscript as free of errors as possible. Otherwise, it may get rejected without a second thought and before they can see how brilliant your story really is. So don't give editors and agents an excuse to reject your work! It's fairly simple, with Word marking your mistakes for you and all the great critique groups out there, to make sure you don't make a lot of mistakes.

    I'm glad to see they are now saying you should add apostrophe "s" to all names to show possession. I was already doing that! Just ahead of my time, I guess. ;-)

  22. WAIT A MINUTE....


    Are you agreeing with Pepster? For real? Like I'm making up my own rules and re-inventing the wheel???


    Hey, if it ain't broke...

    Sure, feel free to have fun at my expense. Please. Whatever it takes to make youse happy!

    (We New Yorkers are fond of our idiosyncrasies.)

  23. When you're reinventing the wheel, Ruthy honey, your big problem isn't 'it ain't broke.' your main problem is 'it ain't round.'

    (I have no idea what that means)

  24. Welcome to Seekerville, Mary! Thank you for sharing the latest changes in The Chicago Manual of Style.

    Nice that possessives of all names will end with 's. Yay for consistency!


  25. Thanks for the heads up on consistency Mary.

  26. Great post. I'm not exactly a grammar girl, but I love learning about grammar. My character is Agnes and I decided to go with s's, but unsure about it. So glad I picked a winner this time. I learned a lot here today.

  27. Helen, welcome to Seekerville!

    If you see Mary Connealy, honey, tell her to stop picking on me.

    Really. I'm not kidding. Mostly.

    And it's just after 9:00 AM on the West Coast so I'm putting out fresh coffee for Mary Keeley (because she's NICE to me) and because I really do love Mary Connealy, I'm NOT STICKING my tongue out at her in public.

    Because that's childish.

    But then so is making fun of your writer friends. Online. Where the WHOLE WORLD can see.

    But that's okay. I've gotten used to it, Mary.


    Not Keeley.

    Oh, this could get me into trouble today.

  28. Welcome to Seekerville, Mary, and thank you for giving us the updates.

    I have to admit, I don't keep on top of these like I should because my copy editor at Revell is absolutely awesome, so I rely on her HEAVILY!!

    But I am shocked at how things change all the time. In the beginning, I had a tendency to hyphenate colors (i.e. lemon-yellow roses), but she nipped that in the bud on the first four books. But on my fifth book, she put them back in, throwing me for a loop. The Chicago Manual of Style decided it was okay to hyphenate colors, she now tells me. Sigh ... why don't they just make up their minds???


  29. I like being able to put a comma outside of punctuation. That'll relieve some of my angst. :) (I know, I'm weird.)

    NO COMMENTS ALLOWED RUTHY--especially since I've already been mean to you today. :)

  30. And yes, I agree with Pepper! We pastors' wives have to stick together!!

  31. Speaking of Pepper...

    Did I ever tell you that when she and her family came to the Georgia mountains recently for vacation, I tried to woo her away from them to attend our ACFW local meeting? I told her to leave her gazillion kids in her husband's charge and to come have fun with our group!

    But she didn't. She was a good wife and mother and didn't desert them on vacation. :)

  32. I teach English to non-traditional students, that'a my day job.

    How often I've had to quit talking and silently weep over the chapter called 'optional commas.'

    That is evil.

    Make a rule and stick with it, people.

  33. And Ruthy, I am luckily, completely sure who I'm, I mean teasing.

    Not like you. You don't want to offend Mary K, she might not know that it's all in fun.

    Mary K.....let me take this burden from you. All the mean stuff said to Mary today, that's mine. All the nice stuff...that's yours.

    This does not strike me as fair.

  34. I agree with Mary Keeley and Mary Connealy that a proposal should be pristine.

    And I don't mean the first one.

    I mean every one submitted no matter how old or experienced the author is. To me, professionalism means putting the best foot forward.

    And if you do that, then the idiosyncrasies you employ in your dialogue don't look like stupid mistakes.

    Rather, they look fiendishly clever!


    That's what I'm going with, anyway!

  35. Fiendishly Clever would actually be a great title for a book about a demon possessed seriel killer.

  36. hi everyone! snoozed in today but woke up a bunch of times if that makes anyone feel better!

    all this writing talk is over my head! I just read! :-) and speaking of reading I've sure gotten lucky with some Love Inspireds lately! Not a dud in the bunch LOL!

    an older one I found at library - A Love So Strong by Arlene James. Of course I realized after starting that I'd missed a couple of stories but other than wanting to slap the preacher hero(lucky for him he straightened up!)it was a nice story. I think I've read one other by here - seems like she was in the AFter the Storm series from LI a few years ago.

    Small Town Hearts - Ruthy's book - this one made me hungry but was a sweet romance though the heroine could do with a few lessons - men are good liars don't ever let 'em walk off and have time to think of a good excuse - even the stupidest man can come up with something plausible given enough time combined with cell phone and internet access..I was seriously starving by the time I finished but not enough to try the recipe!

    Season of Dreams - Jenna Mendel - new to me author. actually I've never heard of her or if I did I don't remember. I liked the cover and it sounded interesting. Turned otu to be a good one and I learned a lot about growing cherries - enough to know I can't do it LOL! also made me hungry as all get-out!

    Home to Stay - Annie Jones. This one surprised me by being good. I don't like long separations with hurt feelings(she dumped hero at the altar and hauled it out of town about 10 yrs prior to story) and also had a special needs kid who surprisingly did't drive me nuts(neither did Ruthy's come to think of it!) I think this one was more women's fictin and could've been longer and more involved though there was a romance element I got more out of the heroine learning to let go and trust more than the romance. cute doggies in this one too and I'm a sucker for dogs.

    also just finished Instant Daddy by Carol Voss - another I hadn't heard of. cheesey title and almost didn't even read the description but I was bored and glad I did! TUnred out to be my most hated theme (right up there with separated for a long time) but with an ok twist - hero had no idea he'd fathere da kiddo with his one night stand with coworker. coworker moved off without telling him and gave him to her sister in a legal adoption telling the famiy the dad wanted nothing to do with the baby. sister ended up dying shortly after and the hero shows up a year later to present a scholarship in sister's name since he was just an hour or two away from the hometown. kinda funny - the family is staring at him and when the toddler wakes up he stares into his own face birthmark and all and knows then why they were staring at him! both are good people and both have legal rights but he struggles with a lot because he wants his kid yet has no one in his corner and has no upbringing in what to do since his parents ignored him his entire life. sweet story kinda cute and some tears as well.

    so had a good run with these - almost afraid to try my luck LOL! but I still have some more to go including some by seeker authors..just got to find that stack!


  37. Wow! I learned alot of things. I never really thought too much about, and wow!

  38. You mean there's a wheel?
    I think I missed my ride.

  39. I agree with Missy on whatever she says.
    From this time forward.

    And yes, Missy - I would have LOVED to come to Atlanta for your writers' group (did I get that apostrophe right?)
    But I put my husband's sanity and my children's safety over my need to find like-minded writer-people.

    I feel very near sainthood at the moment :-)

  40. People outside the world of writers just wouldn't understand how lively a discussion about possessives, apostrophes, and hyphens can be!

    Yes, Pepper, you can use the fact that you work with children as your excuse for redundancy. After all, repetition is the mother of learning.

    Lovely breakfast, Ruthie. I'll bring apple kuchen next time.

  41. My head is spinning. You've answered so many questions for me.
    Thanks for sharing!

  42. Mary C., I took three years of English grammar as part of my linguistic theory degree and the last class was English Grammar 495 taught by Tom Givon, who also WROTE the texts! I would come out of there with a head ache, every time. The worst part was when someone would pipe up in the back with some grammar joke and I didn't get it. :(
    But here's a grammar joke for you, since that's your day job.
    ONe day the grammar teacher says, "Remember, two negatives make a positive, but two positives never make a negative."
    And a gal in the back yells out, "Yeah, right!"

    Ok, back to work!

  43. Hi Mary and welcome to Seekerville. One can never have too many refreshers on grammar.

    Funny how everyone views commas. In nineth grade, my daughter brought her English paper to me and asked me to sprinkle in some commas. Okay, I helped with punctuation and didn't think twice about it. When she got her paper back, the teacher had removed almost all of my commas deeming them unnecessary.

    What? Phrases had now become sentences and the only discernable use I gathered for commas was in listing.

    Wow. I should have gone in and made a stink, but I didn't. One of these days, I will : )

    Makes me look long and hard at commas now. LOL, never know what they'll be used for next : )

  44. Oh my stars, crazy day.

    And for all of you going to RWA next week, I'll be praying for a good time. Great networking.


    THE BIG APPLE!!!!!

    ARE YA' KIDDIN' ME?????

    So fun. Just lovely.

    Hey, Susanna, thanks for reading Small-Town Hearts! I love that story, I love the chocolate store, I love the balloon rally in Wellsville!

    Great fun stuff that REALLY HAPPENS in ALLEGANY COUNTY!

  45. I love educational posts!! Mary, thank you so much for sharing this and welcome to Seekerville.

  46. This is great, Mary. Thanks so much for sharing the updated tips!

  47. Mary, so glad you came to Seekerville today, but...

    what a tangled web we weave when we attempt to follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

    By WE, I mean ME! And that's ALL I'm saying 'bout that!


  48. Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

  49. And, here I thought only the marketing information changes. I guess I'll have to get the CMOS 16th revision.

    Thanks for sharing this, I wasn't aware of the changes made.