Fun With the GPO Style Manual

April 15, 2010


It’s National Library Week, which prompted me to think about my favorite Government reference book – the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, which since 1894 has been the Federal Government’s  guide to form and style in printing and a standard reference for professionals in the field. Although I’ve used the Style Manual for years in a number of different jobs I’ve had at GPO, the real reason it’s my favorite is, I confess, that I’m a member of the GPO Style Board. For many months prior to the publication of the latest edition, our little group met for two hours each week to discuss spelling, capitalization, and the myriad of other details that collectively make up any book of this sort. The best part – it was a lot of fun. As one of the members said to me one day, “This is the high point of my week!” For a word person, spending time on this stuff was really a plum assignment. Some of my colleagues were old acquaintances, while others were new to me. The one thing they all had in common was a  depth of  knowledge and a dedication to producing the best possible product that was truly awesome. I also found out what a demonym is: “Demonym is a name given to a people or inhabitants of a place. ” (See Chapter 17, Useful Tables, Pages 332-334.)

My favorite new features of the 2008 edition: A list of information technology acronyms and initialisms; a chapter on capitalization  with totally updated examples of proper names (a lot of research went into this, believe me!); and a clean, contemporary new design and typeface, thanks to GPO Creative Services.

Despite my obvious bias in favor of the Style Manual, many other Government books and periodicals are worthy of inclusion in the library reference pantheon – you can find a few of them here.

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