It used to say, for example, that all federal agencies or departments must be referred to by their full official titles the first time you wrote about them in a story. Which led to the silliness of writing "the Federal Bureau of investigation", which everyone in the world knows better as the FBI. In fact, FBI is immediately more comprehensible than the full title on a quick read, which is all any newspaper story gets.
So when I saw in Village Books, my favorite bookstore, "An absolute phony guide on how to Write More Good," a delightful parody of newspaper stylebook, I had to buy it.
It has strictures on everything from politics to science writing, sex to religion. The religion section is the shortest. The only entry is "Not on your life."
There is a preface by Roger Ebert that includes one of my favorite quotes from my newspaper days: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." [A.A. Dornfeld].
Ebert notes that many newsmen live by another motto: "Never check a great quote twice."
He adds: "The authors of (this book) exists in the no man's land between these quotes. They know about Dornfeld's rule. They also give voice to the deep cynicism and cheerfully ironic worldview that has infected city rooms since time immemorial."
Probably my favorite part of the book are the definitions. Under entertainment, for example, we find:
Clear Channel - See Skynet
frak - Should only be used if you're fighting Cylons.
free verse - Poetry written by lazy people.
It made me nostalgic for the good old days.