I’m not much of a consumer, but in the past couple of months, I’ve acquired three items I consider to be tools for specific purposes: a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition), a Silky Gomtaro 240 mm root saw, and a Kindle e-reader.
As someone who edits her own writing, I finally decided I need a definitive authority on matters of grammar, punctuation, and usage. Working through beta readers’ comments on my WIP, or trawling through the manuscript before moving on to the publishing stage, I kept encountering questions I couldn’t answer. Should “the” in the name of a pub or bar that begins with that word (as in “The Blue Poppy Pub”) be capitalized when it occurs in the middle of a sentence? What is the correct order of punctuation marks when a word is quoted in dialogue just before a question mark? Example: “What do you mean by ‘a problem’?” I asked.
Trying to find answers on the internet yielded a lot of irrelevant stuff (depending on how I worded the search) as well as contradictory answers. It wasn’t usually obvious how authoritative any specific answer was, either. So I shelled out the nearly $100 (in Canadian dollars, and including shipping) for a copy of CMOS.
And those two example questions? According to CMOS 8.45 “An initial the as part of a name is lowercased in running text, except in the rare case of an initial The in the name of a city.” So it’s “I’ll see you at the Blue Poppy.” And the matter of punctuation after a quoted word within a spoken sentence? It’s explained thus in CMOS 13.30: “Exclamation points, like question marks, are placed just within the set of quotation marks ending the element to which such terminal punctuation belongs.” To be honest, that sentence is pretty murky, but the examples had ‘?” rather than ?'”
I’ve complained before about shrubs that spread by underground suckers. Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is one of the worst. The little saw intended for cutting sheetrock (gyprock) I’ve been using to cut suckers isn’t up to the job. So I tracked down a saw made for cutting roots. Strangely, Amazon was unable to supply it, but I was able to order one from a farm and garden supplies store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I still use tools I bought there when I lived in that city more than 30 years ago. I suspect they happened to have one hanging around in old stock, whereas the ‘Zon was affected by “supply chain issues.” I intend to tackle the Oregon grape later this spring, using the new saw judiciously. (It wasn’t cheap, also almost $100 with shipping).
I’ve resisted for years buying one of these. Until now, I’ve read Kindle ebooks on my tablet, with the Kindle Reader app. But the tablet is fairly heavy and needs frequent recharging. It’s fine for scanning blog posts first thing in the morning, but for reading books, I much prefer my ancient Sony e-reader. It’s light and runs forever on a single charge. But of course it can’t be used for Kindle books. When I realized I was avoiding Kindle books written by fellow indies because my reading instrument was awkward, I caved in and bought a Kindle reader. An hour after it arrived I had activated wi-fi, linked it to my Amazon account, and was reading a book I bought months ago. (But I’m still a bit disturbed by the extent to which Amazon intrudes into my online life. Plus it doesn’t feel as though I own Kindle books the way I own the epubs I buy from the Smashwords store and read on the old Sony reader.)
The right tools for the job do make a difference.