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THE TIMES ON THAMES GETS WITH THE TIMES

The venerable Times of London has bowed to the demands of a vulgar modern age, revising its Victorian-era style guide to include such brash and contemporary language as the title "Ms."

The 205-year-old newspaper - whose readers tend to regard its eccentricities as a national treasure on the order of Big Ben - introduced the usage changes in Tuesday's editions.Editor Simon Jenkins tried to break the news gently.

"The mirror that a newspaper holds up to the world is constantly smudged with jargon, bad usage and verbosity," wrote Jenkins, who took over in March. "A style guide is a periodic cleansing of that mirror."

The Times style guide, introduced at the turn of the century, was last revamped in the mid-1960s.

There were regular updates, but the guide remained "terribly restrictive and quite Victorian," said literary editor Philip Howard, who helped write the new guide.

Even so, he was quick to point out, it was "very magnificent, with high standards."

The old style guide was replete with arcane treasures such as The Times' singular spelling of Mikhail S. "Gorbachov." Its rendering of the Soviet leader's name was based on its transliteration of the Cyrillic letters.

"Our Russian specialists know that our spelling is better, but if the rest of the world spells it another way, ours looks very odd," Howard said. "We're right, but we're wrong."

So from now on, it's Gorbachev.

Under the new style guide, there were changes in courtesy titles for both men and women.