I think it's safe to say that nobody reads the MLA Style Manual for fun. After all, the aim of a style guide is to inform, not entertain. So it's remarkable that Guardian Style, by David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon of England's Guardian newspaper, succeeds in doing both.
Mind you, not all the information in this book can be regarded as essential. (How often are you called on to spell awopbopaloobop alopbamboom?) But the usage advice is generally sensible, witty, and concise.
For your information and amusement, here are some of my favorite entries from the third edition of Guardian Style.
- apostrofly "an insect that lands at random on the printed page, depositing an apostrophe wherever it lands" according to the first Guardian readers' editor. [See Swatting Apostroflies.]
- band names lc the: the Beatles, the Killers, the The; but uc equivalents in other languages, eg Les Négresses Vertes, Los Lobos. Bands that do not take the definite article (although they are often erroneously given it) include Arctic Monkeys, Pet Shop Boys and Ramones; for most bands, this can be easily checked online.
- because can be ambiguous. "I didn't go to the party because Mary was there" may mean that Mary's presence dissuaded me from going or that I went to sample the canapes.
- berks and wankers
Kingsley Amis identified two principal groups in debates over use of language: "Berks are careless, coarse, crass, gross and of what anybody would agree is a lower social class than one's own; wankers are prissy, fussy, priggish, prim and of what they would probably misrepresent as a higher social class than one's own."
- boo-boo mistake; Boo Boo cartoon bear who lives with Yogi in Jellystone Park.
- Dad or dad? I'll have to ask Dad, then you can check with your dad.
- firing line the people who do the firing; if they are aiming at you, you are in the line of fire.
- geriatrics branch of medicine dealing with elderly people, not an amusing way to describe them in an attempt to make yourself sound cool.
- grammar the set of rules followed by speakers of a language, rather than a set of arbitrary dos and don'ts people half remember from their schooldays.
- Meat Loaf sings; meatloaf doesn't sing.
- moon walk what Neil Armstrong did; moonwalk what Michael Jackson did.
- no doubt that, no question that are opposites: "There was no doubt that he was lying" means he was lying; "There was no question that he was lying" means he wasn't; the two are routinely confused.
- one one should generally find an alternative, preferably "you" (unless one is making fun of one's royal family)
- proactive hideous jargon word--do not use with a hyphen. Or without one.
- yo-yo toy; Yo-Yo Ma cellist.
More About Style Guides:
- Choosing a Style Manual and Documentation Guide
- Free Online Style Guides in English
- Twenty Questions: A Quiz on the AP Stylebook
Image: Guardian Style, 3rd ed., by David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon (Random House UK, 2010)