June Q&A

Q. As a proofreader, I always mark a bad break when a line ends with an em dash and then a divided word:

This part of the street was relatively modest—boast-
ing a bank.

But I can’t find anything in CMOS that actually says this is necessary. Am I missing it? I also work for one publisher who considers it a bad break when an em dash appears after the portion of the word carried over:

This part of the street was relatively mod-
est—boasting a bank.

Is that rule any more or less valid than the preceding one?

A. Chicago’s guidelines for proofreading word division (2.112, 17th ed.) don’t prohibit such breaks, pointing out that the cure might be worse than the disease, resulting in a squished or loose line.

Q. I am editing a manuscript for an international journal that uses Chicago style. An author has cited a monograph. I cannot find an entry for Chicago’s guidelines on monograph formatting in the index or in chapter 14. Can you tell me where I should look?

A. Monograph is another word for book, usually on a specialized subject and written by a single author. Cite a monograph as you would a book. Details and examples begin at CMOS 14.100 (17th ed.).

Q. How can I look up words like “illegal alien” or “lady” that are hurtful to the people described?

A. Use search terms like “bias-free writing,” “slurs to avoid,” or “offensive terms.” To find general advice on how to write sensitively, you can search for “inclusive language” or “conscious style.” CMOS sections 5.251–60 might help (“Bias-Free Language”). You can also find lots of advice at Conscious Style Guide.

Q. Help! Here’s the problematic sentence:

Her efforts, along with the generosity of the Hearts and Art Ball Host Committee, Live Auction cochairs Joe Smith and Jane Smith, the Friends of the Museum, and our beloved patrons, have made this signature event possible.

I’m being told by a higher-up to remove the comma before “along with” and the comma after “patrons” because, in her words, “along is a preposition.” I think the commas (or better perhaps, em dashes) need to be there, but I can’t explain why. Can you give me a leg to stand on? Rewriting is not an option.

A. Your higher-up is correct that “along with” is a (double) preposition, but that does not mean commas are incorrect. In fact, the commas are useful in marking the parenthetical nature of the long and complex (and awkward) prepositional phrase:

Her efforts (along with the generosity of the Hearts and Art Ball Host Committee, Live Auction cochairs Joe Smith and Jane Smith, the Friends of the Museum, and our beloved patrons) have made this signature event possible.

The sentence is so awkward, perhaps one of your generous donors would pay the typesetting costs for changing it to something like the following.

This signature event has been made possible by her efforts, along with the generosity of the Hearts and Art Ball Host Committee, the Live Auction cochairs Joe Smith and Jane Smith, the Friends of the Museum, and our beloved patrons.

Your higher-up may also object to the comma after efforts in the revised sentence, and it is more optional there, but it will help readers navigate the complex sentence.

Q. Hello. A term you used in your hyphenation table is slightly incorrect, I believe. You call the units of measurement (m, kg, ft.) “abbreviations.” (I assume that things like MB and GHz also fall into this category?) According to Merriam-Webster, an abbreviation is “a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole word or phrase. ‘Amt’ is an abbreviation for ‘amount.’ ‘USA’ is an abbreviation of ‘United States of America.’” That has nothing to do with the examples in the table.

A. You are right. However, in CMOS the umbrella term abbreviation is used for acronyms, initialisms, and contractions, as well as for shortened (abbreviated) forms (ibid., vol., prof., etc.), except where greater specificity is required. This is stated more fully at 10.2. I’m sorry if it caused you confusion or inconvenience.

Q. Should hundred be repeated in spelled-out number ranges such as “one to three hundred” (meaning 100 to 300)?

A. Because “one to three hundred” can be mistaken for “1 to 300,” it’s important to spell out “one hundred” anytime there could be the least doubt.

Q. This is sort of a dangler, and yet it seems OK: “As a captain, most of my duties are administrative.” I rewrote it to be safe, but is that kind of construction OK?

A. Not OK! That’s a dangler of the type an editor should not let pass. Good catch.

Q. I am unclear on whether you always use brackets for ellipses that the author quoting the material has inserted. For example, in this quote, the quoting author has inserted ellipses. Would every instance of ellipses therefore be bracketed? “Make manifest the nature of the Moral-Mental-Physical Conflict; . . . discern a Pattern for Successful Operations; . . . help generalize Tactics and Strategy; . . . find a basis for Grand Strategy.”

A. It depends. In a work where all the ellipses mean that the writer has omitted a part of the original when quoting, readers will understand what’s going on and there’s no need for brackets. It gets tricky if the same document quotes from an original that has an ellipsis in it. That means there are two kinds of ellipses, and they need to be distinguished somehow. And that’s when brackets are used for the author’s own ellipses. (Sometimes it’s a good idea to explain this method to your readers.) An alternative is to skip the brackets and write “(ellipsis in original)” when needed.

Q. How do I cite a page or folio number if that number was incorrectly printed on the page—something that happens occasionally in early books? Page numbers might run 14, 15, 26, 17, 18. For the one after 15, should I use “26 [16]”?

A. Square brackets are indeed used in this way for editorial interpolations, but “26 [16]” might not be crystal clear to many readers. Instead, write something like “[16] (original page misnumbered as 26).”

Q. To correctly style the plural of a word as word, or phrase as phrase, (1) do we italicize the core word and leave the s or es ending in roman type: An excessive number of hads, hases, hises, hes, shes, ises, whereases, yeses, nos, etc.? Or (2) should the items be in roman: An excessive number of hads, hases, hises, hes, shes, ises, whereases, yeses, nos, etc.? Or (3) should the items be in roman, enclosed in quotation marks: An excessive number of “hads,” “hases,” “hises,” “hes,” “shes,” “ises,” “whereases,” “yeses,” “nos,” etc.? Please, no recasts.

A. None of these choices are beautiful to look upon. Rewording is the solution (e.g., “too many instances of had, has, his, he, she, is, whereas, yes, no, etc.”), but since that is not an option for you, go with (2) in the spirit of CMOS 17, 7.14.

Q. Phone numbers. The US convention is sort of (Area Code) PRE-Number. International is all over the place. Any advice on presenting these in a consistent manner? In particular, I want to set a style rule for my company, which is US-based but has mostly international customers, so I want to include the country code as well. I’m leaning toward spaces separating the elements: +1 222 333 4567. Any thoughts?

A. CMOS 17 has a new section covering telephone numbers (9.57) that agrees with you on the use of spaces instead of hyphens for international numbers.

Q. I’m editing an advertising brochure that says, “With more cruise departures from more convenient ports, you’ll find an itinerary that’s just right for you.” A colleague asks, “More than what or whom? You should not use a comparative word like more without providing the comparison. More than other cruise lines offer? With more cruise departures from more convenient ports than other cruise lines offer?” Is this true or have we evolved a little in terms of ad copy?

A. It’s the peculiar privilege of advertisers to weasel out of specifics. “We give you more!” is a time-honored pitch. Your colleague sounds like a stand-up kind of person whose sensibilities might not be tough enough for this game. Caveat emptor.