Q. One of our editors tells us that it is poor form to break a word to which a footnote is attached such that three letters or fewer fall at the beginning of the next line. According to this rule, “organ-ism.” would be unacceptable, while “or-ganism.” would be acceptable (with “” being the footnote superscript). I have never seen this rule in print and would like to know whether this is, in fact, something that we should be on the lookout for.
A. Typographic rules vary; Chicago’s type specifications call for a minimum of two characters in runovers (thus we would allow “organ-ism” with or without the note number). You can see our rule in section 4 of figure A.3 (p. 871, first bullet point). In gray areas, typographers make decisions according to the client’s specifications and their own visual sense. Sometimes when we proofread we fail to see what led to a typesetting decision, and we demand a “correction” that results in an uglier problem. So take care when marking runovers that there is a visually pleasing solution.