Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. While copyediting a scholarly manuscript, I’m having trouble with the author’s very frequent use of key terms (which he puts in quotation marks and I then change to italics). I know the rule is to put the word in roman after first mention. The MS is nearly 500 pages, and I’m wondering if there are instances in which I should reintroduce the key term—that is, put it back in italic—if it has been quite a number of pages since its last mention. Also, in a similar vein: Some of the terms, if not italicized, don’t fit semantically into the sentence. So, should I put them in italic even after first mention (and despite the amount of space since last mention) if it will help clarify meaning for the reader? I have only a few weeks left to finish this book, and I’m agonizing over how long it’s going to take me to go back and fix places in which I might’ve been remiss.

A. There is no rule that a term must be put in roman every time after its first occurrence. And even if there were, it is wrong to enforce any rule when the result is confusing for the reader. Although it’s a good idea to put key terms in roman after the first occurrence because repeated italics can become annoying, italics should be used whenever they are helpful. Please read CMOS 7.54 and 7.58 for more guidance.