Style manuals

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Are style manuals outdated? Join the debate.

A new client of mine has an interesting view, and I'd like opinions.  As an editing student, I am taught to study and memorize different style manuals and follow them to the letter, using only the current edition.  It is important to stay on top of trends and always know if there is a newer version available and to not be following grammatical rules out of an old text.  Pretty standard stuff to anyone in the editing world,  or with an English degree, right?

My client tells me that he doesn't follow style manuals because he feels that are archaic and out of date.  He intentionally writes wordy run-on sentences, or short choppy ones, or uses active voice to passive, back to active again.  Under creative license, it is his right to do these things (I agree).  This client argues that The Elements of Style by Strunk and White was written in 1918 and doesn't apply to today's world.

I say that sure, The Elements of Style was first written then, but has since been revised to reflect the changes over time.  The fourth edition, published in 1999, is the most recent revision.  I am partial to The Chicago Manual of Style which is in its 16th revision, most recently published in 2010.  I also argue that this client understood that he needed an editor, or he wouldn't have gone looking, and then hired me.

So what does everyone else think?  Archaic style manuals and creative license in formal, published writing?  What style manuals do you use and prefer?  Chime in on the argument below or on Twitter, I'd love to hear from you.

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