About the Book and the Author
In 1964 Bill Sabin became the revising coauthor, together with Ruth E. Gavin, of the fourth edition of McGraw-Hill's Reference Manual for Stenographers and Typists. At the time Bill was a young editor working in the Gregg Publishing Division, and the book was a modest paperback of 188 pages, including 13 pages of exercises. By the time the fourth edition was published in 1970, it had evolved into a hardcover book of 277 pages. Ruth Gavin died shortly before the publication of that edition, so Bill became the sole author, and with each succeeding edition, the book grew in heft and substance. The fifth edition, in 1977, was published in three formats; in addition to the regular hardcover copy, there were pocket-size and spiral editions. The book also sported for the first time Bill's inimitable essays on usage: "Mastering Number Style: One (or 1?) Approach"; "A Fresh Look at Capitalization"; "The Comma Trauma"; "The Plight of the Compound Adjective-Or, Where Have All the Hyphens Gone?"; "The Semicolon; and Other Myths"; and "Re: Abbrevs." With the fifth edition, the book was also given its present title and GRM was born.
By the time of the sixth edition in 1985, the book had added "new guidelines dealing with all aspects of business and academic reports," an enlarged section on tables, a section on preparing manuscripts for publication, and a word processing glossary. When the seventh edition appeared in 1994, its new material included the formatting of executive and financial documents, three ways of presenting a résumé, an expanded glossary of computer terms, and new guidelines on the effect of electronic equipment on format, style, and technique. Two years later the book jacket of the eighth edition states simply, "The manual spans the stylistic demands of business and academic writing." The ninth edition, published in 2001, was supplemented by worksheets on grammar, usage, and style, an instructor's manual, and other materials for classroom instruction. In 2005, the tenth edition added a Web site, including an expanded, electronic version of the print index and the special "Ask the Author" feature, which allowed readers to e-mail the author their most pressing questions on grammar and style-both routine and "once-in-a-lifetime" questions.
Bill's career blossomed with GRM. After receiving an M.A. from Yale in 1956, he had gone to work as an editor for Pitman Publishing in New York. The company was known at the time for developing the stenographic system of Pitman shorthand, and so when Bill transferred to McGraw-Hill in 1961, he was naturally associated with Gregg shorthand and with business books. (He probably did not tell McGraw-Hill that, in fact, at Pitman he had been working on textbooks in Russian-a language he learned in the process of editing the textbooks.) In the 1970 Reference Manual for Stenographers and Typists, he is described as Editor in Chief of the Gregg Division at McGraw-Hill and coauthor, with Mary Butera and Ruthetta Krause, of College English: Grammar and Style. By 1977 he is listed as Publisher of Business and Office Education and, by 1985, as Editor in Chief of Business Books in the Professional and Reference Division.
In 1990 he formally "retired," but as he says in a short sketch he wrote in 2006, "I never really did retire, because once I left the publishing company, I was able to devote full time to revising the reference manual every four or five years and keeping it up to date. Even now, I spend a good deal of time on the phone and on the computer, answering questions from callers and writers from all parts of the country. Since McGraw-Hill established a Web site for GRM with an ‘Ask the Author' service, the number and range of questions have increased dramatically."
Bill wrote these comments shortly after receiving the diagnosis for the cancer that ended his life on January 1, 2009. In the two and a half years that intervened, he was zealous about keeping up with "Ask the Author." And he set to work at once on making the revisions he deemed necessary for the eleventh edition, even though no one at McGraw-Hill had yet asked him to do so. In the last four months of his life, when he was confined to a wheelchair, he had a computer set up in his room, and when he woke as usual at 4 a.m., he would ask a nurse to place him in front of it. When his daughter Margaret arrived a few days before Christmas, he asked her to help him review his revisions; he finished at noon on December 29. His wife discovered among his effects one of the passwords he had used in recent years: "I love GRM."
The current edition is the fruit of a lifetime of dedication, love, and loving struggle with the English language.