New Questions and Answers

Q. I am looking without success for guidance on citing a specific chapter in a book with just an author. Of course, one can cite the whole book, but sometimes it is more appropriate to drill down on a particular chapter.

A. You can find examples of such citations at 14.111, under “Chapter in a single-author book”:

1. Brendan Phibbs, “Herrlisheim: Diary of a Battle,” in The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987), 117–63.

Q. When working with technical material, what symbol should I use between dimensions? For instance, in CMOS 3.27, the following example has a symbol that doesn’t seem to match either a multiplication symbol or a lowercase x, and the symbol is elevated above the baseline: “Oil on canvas, 45 × 38 cm.” What is that symbol called, and where is it discussed in The Chicago Manual of Style?

A. The symbol is indeed a multiplication sign (Unicode 00D7; please see CMOS table 12.1); the appearance of symbols can vary according to typeface.

Q. In a bibliography, is it ever appropriate to give the title of the work first and then the name of the author, if the title of the work is known better than the author or editor?

A. Yes, it’s occasionally appropriate to file a bibliography entry under the title. Be sure to cite by the title in the text or notes as well, so the reader knows where to look in the bibliography.

Q. In copyediting technical material, I often come across constructions such as “Results show that a potential source of chemical X may exist beneath building Y.” This sounds like hedging to me. Does one really need both the potential and the may? Wouldn’t either “Results show that a source of chemical X may exist beneath building Y” or “Results show that a potential source of chemical X exists beneath building Y” suffice?

A. Although academic writers sometimes overqualify their statements to the point of meaninglessness, two points are being made in your sentence: (1) a source may exist beneath the building, and (2) the source might yield chemical X. Your first revision is probably OK, although it is not as clear as the original, but the second revision changes the meaning, since it states that a substance is definitely under the building. In short, the original is clearest.

Q. Is sizable or sizeable the preferred American English spelling? Our searches have come up with conflicting answers.

A. If your searches give you conflicting answers, you can be fairly certain that there is no significant preference. But a dictionary will tell you whether one is preferred. The entry in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) is this:

sizable or sizeable

and the front matter of the dictionary gives this explanation of how to read entries:

When a main entry is followed by the word or and another spelling, the two spellings occur with equal or nearly equal frequency and can be considered equal variants. . . . If two variants joined by or are out of alphabetical order, they remain equal variants. The one printed first is, however, slightly more common than the second. . . . When another spelling is joined to the main entry by the word also, the spelling after also occurs appreciably less often and thus is considered a secondary variant: can·cel·la·tion also can·cel·ation.”

Thus sizable and sizeable are equal variants.

Q. What verb tense should I use in a construction such as “as of this writing”? “As of this writing, the full data from the 2014 survey were not available, so we use data from the 2011 survey,” or “As of this writing, the full data from the 2014 survey are not available, so we use data from the 2011 survey”? Were sounds better to me until I get to the use, which seems to conflict.

A. “As of this writing” may be taken from the viewpoint of the writer at the time of writing (present) or from the viewpoint of the reader at the time of reading (past). You only need to make up your mind which tense you like best and stick with it.

Q. In my role as an editor, I frequently face preposition-conjunction combinations such as this: “The analysis assesses the availability of and access to community services.” Does this need commas?

A. Commas around the second phrase (“and access to”) will indicate that it is somewhat parenthetical, an afterthought, so use them only if that’s the writer’s intention.

Q. Which is preferred: We got your back, We’ve got your back, We have your back? It will be used in an informal, conversational piece, but there’s disagreement among my coworkers on what is correct.

A. All are correct informal usages. You have typed them in order from least to most formal.

Q. Hello there!! I am writing to ask if you could shed some light on the usage of the expression “regard shall be had.” One of my teachers at my translation course uses it constantly as an equivalent to Spanish expressions such as “en función a” and differentiates this use of “regard” from transition linkers such as “regarding” or “with regard to.” Let me provide you with one sentence, which was actually discussed in class: “Regard shall be had to the best interest of the Argentine Audit office.” (This was our translation for the Spanish sentence “Se estará a los intereses de la Auditoria General de la Nación.”) But this expression does not really make sense to me as I haven’t heard or seen it in many contexts. I was wondering if you could provide me with more information about this use of “regard” and whether this expression (“regard shall be had”) can be used in both the active and the passive voice.

A. An idiomatic translation of your Spanish sentence would be “The best interests of the National Audit Office will be considered.” The expression “Regard shall be had” is grammatically and literally correct, but it is a formal construction used only in contracts and other legal writings. Native speakers of English do not write it or say it in a normal context—not even in a scholarly book—unless they are trying to be funny. The meaning is “Someone must pay attention”:

Regard shall be had to the bargaining positions of both parties.

“In regard to” and “regarding” both mean “concerning” or “about”:

With regard to the train ticket, you can buy it at the station.

Regarding the train ticket, you can buy it at the station.

As for the train ticket, you can buy it at the station.

Please note that “regards” in the plural means “good wishes”:

I’m sending this note with regards to your mother.

Q. Is changing and to or in the following sentence necessary grammatically? “Ghrelin does not bind and activate GHSR.”

A. This is not actually a grammar issue. Both and and or are grammatical in the sentence. But the truth of your statement may change if you change and to or. “Ghrelin does not bind and activate GHSR” means that ghrelin does not do both actions, but it might bind without activating, and it might activate without binding. “Ghrelin does not bind or activate GHSR” means that ghrelin does not do either action.

Q. A friend and I are disagreeing about the following phrases: “less and less likely” versus “more and more unlikely.” I say they are equal in meaning. He says that only the first one is correct. Your opinion, please.

A. My opinion is that your friend should be asked to supply justification or proof. (Don’t worry—he won’t be able to.)

April Q&A

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.