Wow, this exchange with a concerned reader has given Mr. Rewrite fodder for two posts now. Thanks, gentle reader. Here's another of her concerns:
And I get really irritated when someone uses some other dictionary and tells me I'm wrong. True confessions: I collect style books and the dictionaries that go with them. Perfect example is night life, which brought a few of us to dueling dictionaries [when dealing with a work issue]. It's not in the AP Stylebook. Which I've always been told means dictionary next. In [Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition] and therefore AP, it's night life. In [Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition], the preferred dictionary for [The Chicago Manual of Style], it's nightlife.
Here's how Mr. Rewrite would handle such a conflict: Grip the AP Stylebook (or, better, a laptop with the online AP Stylebook called up in a browser). Hurl it with all possible force at the offending person's chest. Winded, he or she should be vulnerable to a groin kick that will send him or her down faster than Mr. Rewrite's 401(k) after Lehman Brothers failed. Apply a knee to the offending person's abdomen and scream the following 2.5 inches from his or her contorted face:
"You are the most annoying person in the world! I hate you!!!! HAAAAAAAATE YOU!!!!!! How do you like AP style now, YOU OBNOXIOUS BASTARD?!!?!!"
Or you could just agree to disagree and stick with your preferred reference books. It's really your call.
Anyway, since Mr. Rewrite follows AP style he'll go with night life – and be prepared to defend it by delivering blunt-force trauma.