Maybe there’s something a little nutty about caring so much. Caring about commas, caring about split infinitives, caring about “I” before “e”, caring about dangling modifiers. Woops, I just wrote a big fat fragmentary sentence. Well, I don’t care so much about that.
But show me a series that omits the “Oxford” or “Harvard” comma and I fidget. Show me a sentence with a non-restrictive clause without a comma on both ends and I practically break out in hives. I used to have an obsessive preference for putting periods outside the quotation marks unless the period was part of the quote – as the British do, as The New Yorker does. Or did. This was so annoying to editors working in my company that a couple of very, very good ones offered to quit their jobs if I didn’t embrace the Chicago Manual of Style on this point.
Most of the world doesn’t care. I’m editing a manuscript about the Peruvian Highlands, and in one place a community name is spelled “Kular.” In another, “Cular” or even “Q’ular.” There’s no point in googling it, or even looking on maps. Either it’s not listed, or there’s no consistency. In the context of that place, it simply doesn’t matter. Q, C, K – they all sound pretty much the same so you choose the handy one, which might change from one page to the next.
For your typical editor, though, consistency is next to godliness, right up there with keeping clean. So you make arbitrary choices, and by golly you stick to them. I’m not sure when that attitude began to prevail. The famously weird Robert Ripley claims that William Shakespeare’s name has been spelled 106 different ways in various historical documents. I think he might have made that up. Now back to my manuscript.