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I'm severely disappointed with this revision. I'm all for descriptive linguistics injecting practicality into style guides, so that they reflect changes in usage and do not become stodgy and eventually irrelevant. But this post-
edition is sorely confusing itself about what its role is, and too often just throws up its hands. A book with "Rules" on the cover has to actually provide them. It is the very nature of a style guide to be prescriptive and to offer guidance.
This Waddingham edition of 'NHR' repeatedly observes differences in usage without making it clear in which registers or genres these differences operate, and then fails to recommend anything. Too frequently it tries to draw UK vs. US distinctions that do not really exist; what is actually happening is more often academic vs. journalistic style divergence, that also *somewhat* and decreasingly lean one way or another in Commonwealth versus North American English (for that lingering amount of nationalism, you can mostly blame
'Chicago Manual of Style'
and its territorial rigidity on some things it considers "traditional" to the point of sanctity in American publishing, whether American publishing actually agrees).
Parts of this new 'NHR' volume veer into adopting alleged language changes too soon, yet it remains farcically behind the times in others. Sometimes it even directly contradicts itself in the same section (e.g. in the chapter on titles of compositions, where this happens more than once, sometimes on the same page). The only conclusion I can come to is that Waddingham was not given sufficient time for a thorough revision. Sadly, this 2014 text is being integrated without change into the 2016
'New Oxford Style Manual
(combined with the text of the 2014
'New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors'
; this probably means we'll have to wait until sometime around 2018–2020 to see a reliable 'New Hart's'.
My recommendation in the interim would be to stick with Ritter's comparatively cohesive 2005 edition of 'NHR', and the 2014 'NODWE'. Supplement this with Butterfield's 2015 edition of
'Fowler's Modern English Usage'
, but also
Burchfield's 2004 edition of same
, since the Butterfield 'FMEU' suffers some of the same problems as the Waddingham 'NHR'. Remember that readers's expectations are actually built on what they've been reading their entire lives, not on what a style guide issued last year says, so relying on ca. 2005 material is stable strategy for some time, other than for new jargon, and new but strong shifts in usage. But you're probably already aware of them anyway.
A major causative factor behind the faults in the current 'NHR' is that British journalism has no consistent style on most matters; it lacks anything like North America's
, which for better or worse exerts a powerful normative influence in the news and PR spheres on the western side of the Atlantic. The result is that British news publishers do whatever they want, and issue competing house-style guides with the intent of making a big show of standing out in the news marketplace (much like the
bucking 'AP' style in the US, in ways that virtually no other publisher follows). 'New Hart's' just laps it up, reporting all these UK journo idiosyncrasies as equally valid usage, without providing any contextual cues as to what sort of writing any of them might be valid in and how widespread they are (usually not) outside a particular publisher. 'NHR' should instead stick to the core features of century-stable Oxford style, which has always been academic, aimed at book and journal publishing. (HInt to future editors: Start with Oxford U. Press's own house style, and build on that.) If they don't, the style guides of 'The Guardian' (online),
, and other British infotainment publishers are going to end up dominating. Or if we're lucky, Cambridge U. Press will shake off the dust and issue a competing, post-'Hart's', formal Commonwealth English style manual. I know I would welcome that.