Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading
Q. Hello! The material we edit often includes editorial insertions about actions such as [laughs] and [sings]. Could you please recommend which of these is best usage? These aren’t stage directions but rather editorial insertions (in transcriptions) and used per CMOS 6.97 and house style.
a. [Sings:] Hallelujah.
b. [Sings]: Hallelujah.
c. [Sings: Hallelujah].
A. First, you don’t actually need a colon. “[Sings] Hallelujah” does the trick. If you must add a colon, since it is not part of the original transcript it should go inside the brackets. Thus (a) and (c) are correct. To test an interpolation’s format, remove the bracketed material; it should leave your text in its original shape. You can see that if you delete the bracketed material from (b), you’re left with a mysterious colon:
b. : Hallelujah.