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Two stylebooks can help out even word nerds

Word nerds (like me) usually look askance at most tomes on writing and language.

Oh, occasionally something like the best-selling "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" catches our collective fancy, but that was merely an amusement, a momentary distraction.

Genuine lingo gringos unfailingly poo-poo prosaic word books as beneath them (or us). Unless it's our go-to tome — the Associated Press stylebook or "The Chicago Manual of Style" — why bother?

Here's a look at the latest edition of one of them and a recent would-be contender.

"2010 Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2010" by the Associated Press; Basic Books, 465 pages ($18.95)

This resource is used in newspapers throughout the English-speaking world as an authority on usage, punctuation, abbreviation and more. It's also a fixture in the dens and cubicles of Anglophone business writers and other scribblers throughout the planet seeking authoritative guidance in their use of language for legal writing, ads and marketing communications material.

This new edition of the Stylebook is also available online (by subscription, with site licenses and individual deals, too.) In addition, an application — a recent addition to the Stylebook, apparently — for iPhones, iPads and iPods is also offered. These electronic versions afford immediate access to updates, so if the AP ever decides to allow "Internet" in lowercase, subscribers will be the first to know.

"The Yahoo! Style Guide: Writing and Editing for the Web" by Chris Barr; St. Martin's Press, 528 pages ($21.99)

Though Google rules search, Yahoo's strategy of providing actual content as part of its souffle of search and aggregation is still in place. As such, they've become a bit of an authority on content creation, and their style guide is a very nice grab bag of tools, ideas and instructions. A lot of it is Copywriting 101-level fare. It's a far cry from AP's no-nonsense journalism, but even the most recalcitrant newshound will admit that writing for the Web requires a sharp, punchy prose style that's more tabloid than Times, though accuracy and clarity still reign. It might be less hyperbolic than copywriting, but it still needs to sell — itself, at the very least.

For many writers, this style guide won't be anything new and it's certainly no replacement for AP's collection of golden standards, but for neophytes and others, this is a fine course.

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