Q. I am editing a first-edition ecology textbook, which uses both footnotes in tables and variables in equations. In the first chapter, the author italicized the variables, and I added italic to the footnote superscripts. However, a subsequent chapter (written by a different author) does not use italics in equation variables set in text or their subscripts. In situations such as this, is it my responsibility to set a style, or should I follow the author’s style? I find that these contradictory situations occur with regard to hyphenations and such as well. Please help me put an end to this type of confusion!
A. This is exactly what style manuals were invented for: so that editors can impose consistency as they read without stopping to ponder each issue as it arises. Style manuals also tend to be based on long-term observation of style trends, so that consulting a manual can save an editor from an embarrassing departure from convention. Rather than let whichever author comes first in the book dictate the style (do I hear a collective gasp?), check a manual like CMOS and find that footnote superscripts are normally set in roman type and mathematical variables are set in italics.