April Q&A

Q. I see that we initial cap Satan, Satanism, Satanist. Do we initial cap Satanic?

A. Like biblical, the adjective satanic is normally lowercased, but writers of specifically religious content may prefer to uppercase such words.

Q. I work for a climate research group at a university. We are building a series of online tools for folks interested in using science to adapt to climate change. I need guidance on how our users should cite the unique forecasts and projections they produce using our tools. In a sense, the products (graphs, maps, etc.) are unique to them and their usage, meaning we could ask them to cite the access date, but that wouldn’t be that descriptive of what they were doing.

A. Although supplying a ready-made format might encourage users to acknowledge your products, so far it isn’t conventional to add such information to citations. Acknowledgment of software used to create or modify an image or data is more likely to appear in a caption or in-text explanation than in a formal citation, where the specific wording depends on how much information (version numbers, etc.) is likely to interest the intended reader.

Q. With regard to capitalizing city and state, we as reporters are taught to be “consistent,” which can be near impossible. Here is my particular dilemma: The City of Anywhere is being sued. Is city capped throughout as a governmental agency being sued? I thought so, fine, until the matter came up that someone gets paid by the state. Great, now what? Cap one but not the other? It’s really quite maddening and I am in a state of frustration.

A. The first step is to not worry about a “consistency” that is often impossible with city and state because they are capped in proper names and lowercased in generic names, and that is not the kind of inconsistency writers need to avoid. There’s no inconsistency in writing “the State of Illinois” and “I’ve lived in that state a long time” in the same paragraph. Just keep a style sheet and try to use the same case in similar contexts, such as capping the City of Anywhere when it’s mentioned as party to a lawsuit.

Q. In cases where a single short quotation stands completely on its own (such as in the front matter of a book or in a social media post), I generally see it attributed using a dash and the person’s name (“—Albert Einstein,” for example). Is this format accepted by Chicago, or is it strictly informal? Also, is it an em dash, en dash, or hyphen?

A. The use of an em dash with the source of an epigraph indeed fits with Chicago style. Please see CMOS 13.36 for an example.

Q. A question about paraphrased quotations. I am proofreading an artist monograph that includes substantial text. Much of the text comes from interviews with people who knew the artist. In many cases, the interviewees quote someone else, but in more or less every single case, these are paraphrased quotes and not exact reproductions of what someone said. The editor and I have not been able to come to a conclusion as to whether it would be better to set such quotes between double quotation marks, or to italicize them, or to simply capitalize the first word of the “quote.” We prefer to not simply capitalize the first letter for fear that it might cause some confusion, seeing as there are many different voices in the text. And we are hesitating about using quotation marks because (a) they are not exact quotes and (b) we feel that they divide up the text too much. We like the idea of using italics, as they maybe allow the text to flow better. However, italics are already in use for a number of foreign expressions in the text.

A. This is a sticky situation, but italics are probably not a good idea. Better to use a mixture of quotation marks when the syntax calls for them and no special treatment for paraphrases. Examples:

Interviewee 1 claimed that Mr. Rock Star enjoyed meeting his fans.
Interviewee 2 reported that Mr. Star said he enjoyed meeting some fans.
Interviewee 3 quoted Mr. Star as saying “There’s nothing I love more than meeting fans.”

Q. In the manuscript I’m working on, a citation from an article published in Britain uses the word artefact in the title, but the spelling artifact is used throughout the manuscript (as we’re in North America). This citation is the only place where this spelling appears, but obviously I can’t change it. How do I reconcile this inconsistency? Is there some way of saying “yes, this citation is spelled correctly, but it’s an alternate spelling”?

A. Rejoice! This is not an inconsistency. It’s just accurate citing. It’s really no different than if in a book about Jane Austen an article were cited by someone named Jayne. (Although some copyeditors might want to petition Jayne to change her name, CMOS can’t support that strategy.)

Q. Should published reports be italicized or in quotation marks?

A. Italics. Please see CMOS 8.186 (“Titles of Pamphlets and Reports”).

Q. I’m proofreading a manuscript in which US is abbreviated without periods throughout. But when it’s part of a compound, periods are added. (“The U.S.-ratified agreement,” or “U.S.-friendly leaders,” for example.) My impulse is to change it, but it appears so regularly that it seems to have been done this way on purpose. (There are 35 instances over 400 pages of text.) Is there ever a reason to use periods in some instances but not others, when you’re abbreviating “United States”?

A. We shy away from the use of never, but this seems weird and definitely worth querying. Perhaps it’s the result of a poorly executed global search-and-replace move that changed all mentions except these (or vice versa). If you can’t query, edit them with a note that you did so. It shouldn’t be too hard to put them all back the way they were if there turns out to be a good reason for the inconsistency.

Q. Should quoted (historical) telegram/telegraph messages be set in all caps?

A. The caps are necessary if it’s important to show how the telegram looked (though small caps would be more readable), but otherwise normal sentence capping is fine.

Q. Dear CMOS editors: Some colleagues are having a debate over whether an author’s personal life story written in third person should be considered an autobiography or a biography. The manuscript’s classification will drive decisions about including documentation in the work. Your help with this issue will be greatly appreciated.

A. It sounds as though you’re planning to classify this work based on a single factor: that it’s written in the third person. But that’s probably not a strong enough criterion. The decision should be made on the basis of the content of the book, more than the style it’s written in. Classifying a manuscript in this way might do more harm than good if the classification (rather than the actual content) drives major decisions such as whether to include documentation. Try to find other criteria for deciding how to classify the book, and don’t disallow a bibliography just because you choose one or the other. If possible, consult a librarian for more help on classifying your project.

Q. If someone has a compound surname like “De Chicago-Smith,” do we use an en dash? I understand the rationale, but I think it looks weird (but who cares what I think?). What about “De Chicago-Von Suedkurve Auf Der CSS&SBRR,” for example?

A. Although a simple hyphenated name normally takes (no surprise) a hyphen, a name with multiple appendages might be able to pull off the slightly longer en dash. Anyone with such a dazzling name as “De Chicago–Von Suedkurve Auf Der CSS&SBRR” deserves all the dashes and doodads they want. (And we care what you think.)