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Using COCA to evaluate The Chicago Manual of Style’s usage prescriptions

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Chapter Summary

By querying the Corpus of Contemporary American English and subjecting the results to statistical analysis, this study examined usage prescriptions in the most detailed style manual in the United States – The Chicago Manual of Style. The results lead to five recommendations. One, about half of the prescriptions are valid across all the registers and should be retained as they are. Two, in some cases, significant variations among registers should be acknowledged. Three, some prescriptions should be modified. Four, a few prescriptions should be eliminated for all registers due to widespread disregard. Five, a few prescriptions are universally observed and are no longer needed. The mean for each written register ranges from 86.1% to 88.6%. The median percent of total for all of the preferred written variants tested in this study ranges from 92.4% in the academic register to 95.5% in the newspaper register, indicating that Chicago’s prescriptions match actual educated usage half the time. These results carry significant implications for future editions of style manuals.



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