New Questions and Answers

Q. Hi—I am a student from Montreal and I am trying to cite an online dictionary and cannot find the proper citation format.

A. Online dictionaries are cited like their print versions, with the addition of a URL or DOI and (if required) access date. If a DOI for the article is available, use that. The facts of publication are often omitted, but entries with bylines may include the name of the author. Well-known online reference works, such as major dictionaries and encyclopedias, are normally cited in notes but not in bibliographies. See CMOS 14.5, 14.6, and 14.247–14.248 for details and examples.

1. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Sibelius, Jean,” accessed July 19, 2008,

Q. Hello—For my dissertation, I am citing many Italian books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many contain prefaces, but they are almost never called by that name. Most of the time, they are dedications to so and so. What is worse, they often do not have page numbers. So if I take a specific quote from somewhere in the dedication, should I write the name of the dedication and then the page number (based on the pages I counted)? This is from a preface, so shouldn’t I then use roman numerals in the lower case, iii? So the entry might look like this:

Giovanni B. Donado, Raccolta curiosissima d’adaggi turcheschi (Poletti, 1688). (“Illustriss. Sig. Sig. e Patron Colendissimo”), iii.

I would greatly appreciate your help on this.

A. There is usually no need to include the title of a preface or dedication in a citation or to identify it as such, but when there are no page numbers, it is probably a good idea:

Giovanni B. Donado, “Illustriss. Sig. Sig. e Patron Colendissimo,” dedication in Raccolta curiosissima d’adaggi turcheschi (Poletti, 1688), [3].

Cite the page number in the same way you normally would, but put brackets around any page number that is not expressed. If the entire book is unpaged, it would confuse things to use roman numerals for the front matter, especially if you go on to cite another page in arabic numerals, since readers would have no way to know for sure on which page your imaginary numbers change from roman to arabic. If the main part of the book has expressed arabic numerals, however, then to avoid confusion with the expressed page 3, use roman numerals in brackets for the unpaginated front matter.

Q. I am confused by how to style bacteria names. Webster’s lists salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, as well as E. coli. Should they be treated as roman and lowercase (except for E. coli)? The bacterium Listeria is not listed. Is it inconsistent to style this as initial capped and italic if the other names are roman and lowercase?

A. Genus names like Salmonella should be capped and italic; their species are lowercased and italic: Salmonella enterica. However, when popular genus names are used generically (“I think he died of salmonella poisoning”) they are not capped or italicized. Note that you will see genus names all over the Internet lowercased and in roman type, but that is probably because someone didn’t know how to make them italic. Please see CMOS 8.119–8.129 for the treatment of genus and species names and vernacular names.

Q. I am writing a history of a jazz label and many of my source documents are contracts that were negotiated with the American Federation of Musicians. I am following The Chicago Manual of Style but do not see any specific reference regarding how these contracts should be listed in my bibliography.

A. It’s usual to cite documents like these in notes but not list them in the bibliography. If you must list them, try to put the information in an order that makes sense, modeling your citation on other items in the bibliography. Likewise for note citations. You can find examples of relevant note citations at CMOS 14.231.

Q. I am editing a ms for young adult fiction and this sentence struck me as odd, but I can’t find any reference on CMOS that it’s wrong: “We both have places to be, however much I’d like to stay here with her the rest of the day.” I’m having trouble with “however much.” I commented in the ms that replacing “however much” with “as much as” would flow better, but I’m curious if “however much” is actually grammatically wrong.

A. “However much” is grammatical, but it’s rather formal and educated and perhaps elderly-sounding, and it isn’t popularly used this way anymore. (“However” here doesn’t mean “on the other hand” but “to whatever degree or extent.” Read some dictionary entries on “however” and you’ll get the idea.) If the character in the book is a young person, you would be right to edit it.

Q. I’m editing an article submitted to an anthropological journal, and the author refers to someone being paid “2000 Euros” for one night. Is this an acceptable way to say it, or should the € sign be used?

A. Chicago style is to either use numbers with a symbol (or abbreviation) or spell out the whole phrase, so “€2,000” or “EUR 2,000” or “two thousand euros” would do. Please see CMOS 9.24.

Q. I am writing a book about home health remedies. I want to sort by the first bold word of the paragraph, which would be the name of the ailment. Do I need a special program to do this? My writing has come to a standstill and will stay that way until I can resolve this problem! Help, please.

A. If the bold word is always the first word of the paragraph, and if you are writing in MS Word, you can use the "sort text" function. (Called "table sort" in some versions. In spite of the name, you don’t have to put your text into a table to use it.)

Q. Can you clarify when a comma should be used before a quote, especially following the word read or said? For example, “Newspaper headlines read, ‘People Are Angry’ and ‘Crime Abounds’” versus “Newspaper headlines read ‘People Are Angry’ and ‘Crime Abounds.’”

A. The use of a comma to introduce a quotation is generally a matter of tradition rather than strict logic. That is, it is optional grammatically, but in most contexts readers expect it to follow said and various other dialogue tags. A comma indicates that the quoted material is seen as syntactically independent from the surrounding text. A quote that is seen more clearly as the direct object of a speaking verb, however, does not need a comma: He wrote “Yes” in large letters.

Q. Good day! I am currently revising our stylebook based on The Chicago Manual of Style. I would like to ask if you have a strict standard on slashes, whether I should put a space after the slash before typing/writing the next element, or is it all right if there is none?

A. If the slash divides two words, there is no space. If it divides two phrases or sentences (or a single word from a phrase), it requires a space before and after. Please see CMOS 6.104.

Q. I’m trying to directly quote a source that includes a word typed in bold lettering, but the bold word is rather distracting within my paper. Is there a way for me to unbold the word and cite my alteration of the original text?

A. Yes. Unbold the word and in a note (or in square brackets at the end of the quote) write “Emphasis removed.”

Q. How to get better at shooting in lacrosse?

A. Spend more time practicing and less time annoying grown-ups online.

March Q&A

Q. What style of text and size (body and headings) does The Chicago Manual of Style suggest for submissions to the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation?

A. Most journals post instructions for writers at their websites online; search for “[journal name] submission guidelines” in a web browser. If type size and font are not specified, use 12-point type in a classic serifed font like Times New Roman for both body and headings. Headings need no special treatment unless you have more than one level, in which case you should indicate their relative importance by (for example) putting A-heads in bold type and B-heads in italics.

Q. In my dissertation, I cite a volume of letters in which the editor has inserted square brackets for clarification. So, for example, one passage reads: “Winston, Tito, Ben Gurion, Uncle Joe [Stalin], Bullitt, De Gaulle.” When I’m quoting the letter I’d like to add my own bracketed clarification to Bullitt’s name, but how do I distinguish it from the original editorial matter? CMOS 6.97 specifies that I should clarify whether editorial insertions are original, but surely there is some method that would prevent me from specifying the status of each individual bracket in footnotes.

A. There’s no need for footnotes; just add your initials to your own bracketed insertions [like this —CB].

Q. I am editing a text in which it is necessary to cite the source of several illustrations from an unpaginated book published in Asia. The author and I agreed that it would be useful to count the leaves and then cite the page number as a folio, for instance, “ff42v–43r.” We disagree on where to begin counting: the title page (English) or the first page with print. This first page might be interpreted as a half title page: it has just the Chinese name of the artist, who is the subject of the book. The verso might be considered a frontispiece: it has a photograph of the artist and a quotation. So which would be folio 1?

A. To leave no doubt as to how to find the page you cite, use the simplest and most obvious numbering: the first recto page is 1; its verso is 2. (Page numbers like “ff42v” are unnecessarily complicated and may give the impression that the pages are actually numbered that way.) In your citation use brackets [42–43] to indicate that the numbers are not expressed in the book itself.

Q. I subscribe to a magazine that recently hired a new editor in chief. This editor has changed the byline of authors to “words by.” I disagree with this usage because the authors did not create the words but rather assembled them in a proper order to convey a story. Am I off base?

A. “Words by” does not usually mean that a writer created the words—in fact, it usually means that the writer merely assembled them—but as a way to identify the writer of an article, it’s a bit precious. So while you’re off base in your reasoning, your reaction is understandable.

Q. Vertical lists punctuated as a sentence! Subsection 6.125 recommends semicolons at the end of list items that complete a sentence. As with run-in lists (6.123), would you recommend putting commas at the ends of items when all items contain no internal commas or other complications to their syntax? Would you use semicolons in every list (punctuated as a sentence) in a document if so much as one list contains one item that has an internal comma?

A. Chicago style does not put punctuation at the end of list items as a rule (please see 6.124), but it allows for semicolons if the list items are complex and contain commas. This means that in some documents, some complex vertical lists may feature semicolons at the ends of items and others, less complex, may have commas or no punctuation at all. Whether the presence of a single comma in a single list item would require the addition of semicolons to render the list readable is a matter of editorial judgment, and not something that CMOS is likely to legislate.

Q. Hello! I need to refer to a school that changed from a college to a university. If it was still Loyola College when that person graduated, is it correct to say “graduated from Loyola College in 1999,” or is it best to use its current name: “from Loyola University in 1999”? Thanks!

A. You must state what is true: the person graduated from Loyola College in 1999.

Q. Hi there. I have a question regarding the use of double prepositions. Is there a rule against it? I tried to check for rules in CMOS, but I didn’t see any. I also checked a dictionary, and it says that “off of” is an idiom and is therefore correct.

A. That “off of” is an idiom does not mean it’s correct. In fact, it means that caution is required: many idioms are considered slang or informal. CMOS guidelines apply to formal speech and writing, and CMOS says never to use “off of” (see 5.220, under “off”). There is no rule against double prepositions, however. “I ran out of the house” and “He peered from behind the tree” are perfectly grammatical and idiomatic.

Q. How do I cite a handwritten document that was originally written in 1781, but was copied in 1849? I viewed the copied version. Thanks.

A. You can add “copy, 1849” to the end of your citation.

Q. When I proofread, I am often requested to list the corrections in a note. An example of a note is: I recommend deleting “a querulous comment”. I put the period outside the closing quotation mark. I think what I’m reading on your site (6.9) would make my punctuation incorrect. Am I correct in this assumption?

A. No. Assuming that you want the editor to delete the words “a querulous comment” and nothing more—not even the period that follows—your punctuation is correct. Ignore the guideline at CMOS 6.9; common sense must prevail. You are trying to convey what should be deleted, and you must not put anything within the quotation marks unless you want it deleted. Given the nature of your list, you may wish to avoid end punctuation so the issue becomes moot.

Q. Can you change back and forth between first- and third-person narration within a story?

A. Yes, but it’s tricky. When you break the rules in writing, it’s usually a good idea to let someone else read it and give you feedback on whether it’s working the way you intended. Of course, sometimes the whole point is to confuse the reader—at least temporarily—in which case it’s weirdly even more important to know what you’re doing.