The My Porch Manual of Style (MPMS)


Teresa at Shelf Love, a far better writer than I am, recently posted about her excitement over the new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Her post and the comments that followed were fun to read, but it wasn’t until my friend Steve (inspired by Teresa’s blog) posted a link to the CMOS website that I actually clicked over and checked it out. The Question and Answer section makes for fascinating and fun reading–at least for someone with my proclivities.

I am by no means an expert on style or grammar. I am sure I make plenty of mistakes, and unless they are egregious, I don’t really care. This is, after all, a blog that I do for fun. If it isn’t perfect, so what? There are some rules that I don’t seem to grasp no matter how they are explained. Part of my problem is that I am very bad with parts of speech, especially the more technical distinctions. I have a pretty good sense of what works and what is proper, but nine times out of ten I wouldn’t be able to accurately identify various parts of speech. Somewhere in my education the system failed me on that one.

In my comment on Teresa’s post, I noted how I am often too lazy when blogging and commenting to be consistent on certain points. I find myself having the style discussion in my head but don’t always come to the same conclusion. So, as I read through the Q & A on CMOS’s website I decided to make some decisions, once and for all, on certain issues of style that regularly crop up in my writing.

Important note: These are rules for me. You may use whatever style you want (or no style) in commenting on my posts.

I have been wildly inconsistent in the way I capitalize headlines and other headings. Even after considering the issue closely, a single answer doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. Since I would like My Porch to be more than a one-sided conversation there are times when my headlines are meant to be conversational in tone. In those cases I will use regular sentence capitalization. In other cases I will use headline capitalization which caps every word except for words like “of” and “the”.

Oh, the dogs I could love… [sentence capitalization]
Bits and Bobs [headline capitalization]
War and Peace Progress (with visual spoiler) [headline with a conversational side w/no caps]

And when it comes to the capitalization of deities, I will follow CMOS in not capitalizing any of them. So your god, whether him or her, will not be capitalized.

I use italics for titles in my text. But I don’t know how to do italics in my headlines so they remain without them. And if I remember, I will italicize foreign words in my text.

Serial Commas
This one is much easier for me. I have always preferred the use of serial commas. However, it seems that they are used less and less which has shaken my conviction in using them. Until today. From now on, serial commas will the standard on My Porch.

No periods for me (thus U.S.A. will be USA or US) except when it comes to titles such as Mr., Mrs., and Ms.

English Usage
No matter how much of an Anglophile I may be, I will only use American spellings. No favourite colours here. There are some though that I no longer remember which is which (e.g., cozy/cosy, gray/grey). And I won’t Americanize words in quotes or titles or proper names. I abhor The Washington Post’s standard of Americanizing “Labour Party” so that it reads “Labor Party”.

Tell me UK readers, can I use “Britain” interchangeably with “UK”?

Indefinite Articles
Right or wrong I will not use “an” before hotel or historic or similar.

Split Infinitives
CMOS has accepted the split infinitive since 1983. Who knew? But I think they prefer that one limits it to cases where one wants to add emphasis. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Upstairs, Downstairs. Hudson, the paternal butler always keen on providing instruction to his employees, says to one of the footman (I paraphrase): “You are correct in noting that the Master split an infinitive over luncheon.”

Things I Doubt I Will Ever Get Right
Affect and effect
You and I, You and me

Dealer’s Choice
Given that this is my blog, and it is meant to be a conversation and not at all formal, I reserve the right to be as ungrammatical or stylistically impure as I wish.

19 thoughts on “The My Porch Manual of Style (MPMS)

  1. dpv September 22, 2010 / 12:05 am

    As long as you don't confuse lay and lie in the present tense* and only use whom when you're 100 percent sure it's correct, in my book you're welcome to any other grammar and style rules you'd like. (*Not unlike affect and effect for you, I cannot seem to learn the other tenses of lay and lie, so I don't expect it of anyone else.


  2. callmemadam September 22, 2010 / 5:19 am

    Britain and UK.

    Great Britain consists of The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, so I'd say they aren't the same thing.


  3. JoAnn September 22, 2010 / 7:11 am

    Love this post… and hurray for the serial comma!


  4. September 22, 2010 / 7:11 am

    Great Britain is the land mass made up of England, Wales and Scotland. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland too (it's an abbreviation of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.) But as long as you don't just call everything England, we can forgive you!
    How lovely to have these beautiful rules. I'm a bad grammar pedant – always seeing other people's irritating apostrophe's but blind to my own!


  5. Susan in TX September 22, 2010 / 8:29 am

    I found this highly entertaining. Although I sometimes wonder if grammar errors on blogs aren't usually more of a “mind moving faster than fingers can keep up with” as opposed to lack of knowledge. Things like your v. you're. I think most people know when to use them, but when they are typing fast it becomes more of a typo than grammar mistake. I'll have to go over to the CMOS site and check it out further. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Tiffany Norris September 22, 2010 / 10:33 am

    I love this post! And I think we all have our pet peeves as well as things we'll never get right. I've been reading through the APA manual for school, and it's been interesting seeing the distinctions between different manuals.


  7. M. Denise C. September 22, 2010 / 1:58 pm

    I also loved this post, Thomas. And I also wish I could italicize (or just format) the blog posting titles.


  8. dpv September 22, 2010 / 3:01 pm

    The next time you want to italicize a word or words in your title, try this …
    Use to begin the italics.
    Use to end the italics.
    These words are italic
               should read
    These words are italic
    I'm not promising it will work, but it's worth a try.


  9. Thomas at My Porch September 22, 2010 / 3:19 pm

    dpv: Now that you mention it, I have problems with lay/lie as well. And thanks for the italics lesson. (I just used it now, did it work?)

    Call me Madam: Thanks for the input.

    JoAnn: One only has to look one post back to see that I failed to use the serial comma on one of my arrows in the W&P photo. I guess the MPMS came along just in time.

    Tea Devotee: Ah, the wiley apostrophe. There tends to be an overuse of quotation marks in this country. It is amazing what people seem to think belongs in quotations.

    Susan: You are definitely right. Haste causes many of the problems. But these are the ones I actually think about.

    Tiffany: I guess the real answer is consistency. At least then people can eventually figure out what you mean.

    Denise: See dpv's comment. We may have our answer.


  10. dpv September 22, 2010 / 4:15 pm

    is used most commonly in creating links. Begin a word or phrase that you want to be a clickable link with
    (where XYZ.COM is the desired resultant URL) and end it with . Thus
    Click here
    would make the words “Click here” a clickable link to


  11. music-books-steve September 22, 2010 / 6:36 pm

    A bracketed “a” when used with a bracketed “/a” is supposed to create a link, but for some reason, when I've tried it here when responding to your posts, it doesn't. But I'll try it again:


  12. music-books-steve September 22, 2010 / 6:52 pm

    OK, this works BBC. You need to enter the full conventional HTML code for hyperlinks. Unfortunately, I can't show it to you in full since they don't allow the necessary CODE HTML tag. Basically, add a bracket and close bracket to this: A HREF=””>BBC<. I have tried other HTML tags and they are always rejected. Seems oddly limiting to me.


  13. Teresa September 23, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    I love this! As much as I love a style guide, I am too lazy in my blogging life to try to establish a style, especially since there are two of us at ye olde blog. I tend to follow CMS style only because I've internalized a lot of its principles over the years. Most of the time, I just hit post and hope for the best!

    Also, I can't keep lay/lie straight half the time either. I am, however, brilliant at writing around it. That's how I solve tons of editing conundrums.


  14. Ash September 24, 2010 / 10:16 pm

    Ugh-grammar is so taxing isn't it?!?! But sometimes it can be really fun. I agree with you, I blog for fun so don't worry myself too much over mistakes, but if I'm reading a post I wrote and find a mistake I will go back and fix it.


  15. AnswerGirl September 25, 2010 / 7:05 pm

    I have always been a fierce defender of the serial comma.


  16. Emily Barton September 25, 2010 / 8:19 pm


    Signed, The Editor (someone who actually reads the CMOS for fun)


  17. Thomas at My Porch September 26, 2010 / 12:28 am

    Steve: I try not to think too much about HTML. I fear it would turn into a bit of an obssessive waste of time for me if I did.

    Teresa: Interesting that you don't follow the CMOS way of abbreviating CMOS. Are you trying to asset your independence?

    Ash: I go back and fix as well. Sometime months later.

    AnswerGirl: It really is the only way to go. I don't know why I doubted.

    Emily: Since Teresa's post I have taken to persuing through mine for fun.


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