Reading The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) "New Questions and Answers" column today, I got a huge laugh from the final question and answer:
Question: My library shelves are full. I need to make some difficult decisions to make space for new arrivals. Is there any reason to keep my CMOS 14th and 15th editions?
Answer: What a question. If you had more children, would you give away your firstborn? Find a board and build another shelf.
I can't add the building of a shelf to my to-do list, and my husband would not take on the task either. So I have given away my CMOS 15th edition, Gregg Reference Manual 10th edition, AP Stylebook 2008, and even my Garner's Modern American Usage, 2nd edition, not to mention a perfectly good but updated dictionary.
I used to save earlier editions of style guides, and I occasionally consulted them to compare how things had changed. Now I let them go. It doesn't matter how we used to do it. What's important is how we write today.
One exception is my Handbook of Business English by George Burton Hotchkiss and Edward Jones Kilduff, published in 1914. I like to keep it around to consult when people in business writing classes ask me, "When did they make up that rule?" In many cases I can answer, "Around a hundred years ago."
What do you do with old style manuals? Donate them to charity? Build another shelf? Prop up a child sitting in a too-big chair? Please share your secrets.