The New Rules of Writing…

We had our monthly meeting of the Serivolous Panerians Writer’s Critique Group on Thursday at Panera’s that was, as usual, insightful and, at times, just plain silly. I love meeting with Cheri and Rai to discuss our stories and our lives; I look forward to it all month. And it helps when we can goof off in the midst of trying to have a serious critique session – hence the group name, Seri-(ous)(fri)-volous.

Cheri opened the meeting with the proposition that we look into getting subscriptions to the Chicago Manual of Style online site. It’s the fifteenth edition and the final say in all things grammatical. Since it will help us as writers in the long run by having the most polished manuscript to offer agents and publishers, we all agreed that it would be to our advantage to do so. Even though we are all teachers, and college graduates, we still don’t know everything there is to know about the rules of writing. But Rai had a point when she asked if writing really changed so much to have new editions of the Chicago Manual of Style come out every three years.

I mean writing rules, like math rules, are never changing. Right?

Apparently not, and as if to prove the point, Cheri’s first comment about my critique piece was that I am double spacing between sentences.

“Well, yeah,” I said. “That’s the rule.”

“Not anymore,” Cheri insisted. “Apparently the new rule, that’s been around for some time, is single spacing between sentences.” And she offered the name of a presenter at a recent conference she had attended that had shared this new piece of information.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I don’t believe what Cheri tells me, it’s just that I like to get it from more than one source. And most of my close friends, including Cheri and Rai, know this about me.

“Well, I think I’ll just wait until I get that subscription to the CMS before I go making changes.” That caused a stifled giggle from all of us.

Me wait? Yeah, right! Instead I googled the topic and found that double spacing between sentences has become a victim of our society’s need for speed. Just as thirty-second commercials shrank to fifteen-second spots and hand-written letters morphed into emails and text messages, so, too, has the spacing between sentences. It has something to do with monospaced fonts on typewriters that aren’t on computers.

Fortunately for me, this is the only rule that has really changed since the inception of the personal computer. I did a Google search on “new rules of grammar,” “new grammar rules since the inception of personal computers,” even “grammar rules that have changed in the last thirty years.” Nothing but the period rule showed up. Whew! I was really sweating the idea that commas would now be outside the quotations marks in dialogue.

Now off to change all the sentence spacings in my 135 pages of manuscript.

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