Stu and b253,
I don't think it's quite that simple...from the original post:
I know the 7110.65 tells controllers to say "climb and maintain" or "descend and maintain" when issuing a higher or lower altitude not associated with crossing a specific point, however, _MANY_ controllers abbreviate it and leave off the 'climb' or 'descent' portion from time to time. Rather than question the instruction, I simply read it back and did it. If I questioned it every time the shortcut was used, it would make for some pretty laborious interactions.
The controller issued an instruction and did not correct my read back. Yes, the instruction wasn't per the .65, but as a pilot, I'm not expected to know the exact phrasing that ATC will necessarily use (coupled with the fact that the phrase he used is used on a daily basis by many controllers.)
Right now, I'm sticking with the plan of using a very clear readback in cases where they use a shortcut assignment like that. I don't think that questioning the shortcut assignment every time is going to scale very well, as I get them on a regular basis in this airspace.
Thanks for the input, though, this has been an interesting thread.