I almost came home last night with a beautiful hardcover copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition. I was killing time in a local bookstore before meeting a friend, and was nearly late picking him up because I took so long deliberating on the potential purchase.

I admired its spine and heft considerably, but in the end I put the book back on the shelf and walked away. It’s hard to justify buying a vanity copy of an outdated grammar guide. Especially when you already own several.

Credit: Tony Delgrasso ( Flickr )

Credit: Tony Delgrasso (Flickr)

I find style manuals sort of ironic in that way that’s only amusing if you’re the type of person who even knows what they are, let alone lusts after them. We tend to think of “style” as a sign of distinction; self-definition by no standards but one’s own. And yet style guides – even the most superficial ones – are basically just long lists of someone else’s rules dressed in their Sunday best.

Whatever; we’re all slaves to some form of fashion.