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Prepared by the Dept. of the Secretary of State. Toronto. Dundurn Press, c1985. 256pp, paper, $11.95. ISBN 0-919670-93-8. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Joanne K.A. Peters

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

The word "style," when used to describe writing, can mean two things. Usually, we thing of style as the mode in which an author characteristically expresses himself. A second, less common definition of style, is of "the custom or plan followed in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typographic arrangement and display." It is this second aspect of style with which The Canadian Style deals.

There is an abundance of style handbooks on the market. However, most are of American authorship, and even those that purport to be Canadian editions lack information on how to solve problems of style peculiar to Canada (proper punctuation of metric units being but one example). This book is exceedingly comprehensive in its coverage of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and so on, without falling into the trap of being boringly exhaustive. The conciseness and clarity with which the authors handle each example is admirable. Even those of us who pride ourselves on precision in mailers of mechanics will find something new to learn from this book. How many of you know the differences between an "Em" dash and an "En" dash? I did not, either, but if I had to know, this is the only style handbook in my personal collection that could tell me. Material used to illustrate each problem of mechanics is drawn from Canadian life.

As well as treating problems of mechanics, this style book has an excellent section on reference matter, such as footnotes and bibliographies, as well as a description of the different types of indices used in research and a listing of the codes and abbreviations found therein. Still another section deals with the proper formatting of letters, memoranda, reports, and minutes, and provides samples of the proper layout for each. Also included is an appendix of Canadian geographical names and one of standard proofreader's marks. Unique to this publication (and long overdue) is an appendix giving guidelines on the thorny problem of how to eliminate sexual, racial, and ethnic stereotyping and bias in writing. Most of us know better than to refer to women over the age of eighteen as "girls," but many of the more subtle forms of sexual bias insinuate themselves into the language of the most circumspect writer.

One subject usually treated in handbooks of style, and which is absent in this book, is grammar; subject-verb agreement and the use of proper tense is the same whether one speaks British English, American English, or Canadian English, and I presume that this is the rationale for its omission. However, there is a short section on problems of usage, primarily those of prepositional use, as well as a listing of words and terms commonly confused and misused.

Despite its authorship, this book is free of bureaucratic jargon and is most readable. Both the table of contents and index are easy to use and while it is unlikely that any but the most dedicated comma-chaser would need to consult the bibliography, it is both comprehensive and carefully subdivided as to source and content. In addition, sections dealing with specific areas, such as metric style, contain further sources for consultation, if necessary. The typographical layout makes for easy reading and ready reference, and each chapter is illustrated with a delightful antique illustration of some aspect of the writing or printing trade. My only complaint is that the book is paperback. A hard-bound cover would help the book to stand up to the hard use it would undergo in the classroom and library.

This is a book that can be used by anyone who has to put pen to paper; students and teachers of any subject, secretaries and business people, professional writers, and dedicated amateurs. If you were to own but one handbook of style, make The Canadian Style that book.

Joanne K.A. Peters, Sisler H.S.. Winnipeg, Man.
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