New Questions and Answers

Q. Do I cite the transcript of a radio broadcast differently from the radio broadcast? I read the transcript and did not access the broadcast itself.

A. Yes—it’s important to cite the transcript if that’s where you got your information. Please see CMOS 14.277 (“Recordings of literature, lectures, and such”) for an example.

Q. I’m confused why there is a comma before “as well as” in 6.18, “The team fielded one Mazda, two Corvettes, and three Bugattis, as well as a battered Plymouth Belvedere.” If “as well as” was replaced with “and,” there would not be a comma. I can’t find anything else about this in the Manual. Can you please explain?

A. The comma tells us to read the Belvedere as an afterthought—it hints that the battered car is in a different league from the other cars. A search of the Manual for the phrase “as well as” reveals that it is sometimes introduced by a comma and sometimes not, depending on context and meaning.

Q. I edit short summaries for nonfiction books. As you know, for informal writing, the bending of grammatical and stylistic rules is tolerated. I’m establishing a style guide to produce all my summaries in consistent style. I would love to know how CMOS might help me, or if you have any other resource that book editors may resort to.

A. If you are a subscriber to CMOS Online, you can use our Style Sheet feature to keep track of rules you decide to bend. You can make as many style sheets as you like. Style sheets can be copied, downloaded, and e-mailed to other people. Within a style sheet, you can use a button to insert a hot-linked reference to any numbered section of the Manual.

The Notes feature would also come in handy, since it allows you to annotate any section of CMOS to include your own styles and rules. 

As for guidance on editing informal writing, the decisions you make will be specific to each author’s intention and tone and audience. It’s more a matter of editorial judgment than something you can follow rules for. But the guidelines in CMOS covering punctuation, hyphenation, capitalization, and myriad other topics should still be very useful.

Q. I have a question about copyright notices in image credit lines. Section 3.31 says that credit lines “occasionally” require a copyright date, but I’m not sure when they do and when they don’t. The first example doesn’t have a copyright date, while the second example, which is formatted identically in other respects, does. Is this determined by the permission grantor, or are there other factors involved?

A. It is indeed determined by the permission grantor, who may specify that the copyright date be included in the credit line. For advice on a specific situation that isn’t clear, please consult an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law.

Q. If a portion of a book is quoted in text and the author and the name of the book are given in the text (e.g., “Sensory perception is a matter of selectively throwing away information,” write Terry Bossomaier and David Green in their book Patterns in the Sand), is there a need for an endnote, as well?

A. You do need a complete citation when you quote someone else’s work in text. It needn’t be in the form of an endnote, but an endnote (or footnote) is an excellent way to add the publication information (city, publisher, date) and page or location number of the quotation if you can’t squeeze it all into the text.

Q. Which is the proper spelling of a generic age: 30s and 40s or 30’s and 40’s?

A. Chicago’s preferred style is thirties and forties, but if you need to use numerals, we recommend leaving out the apostrophes.

Q. Is there any acceptable way for an author to distinguish between endnotes that convey additional information and those that simply provide a reference citation? I get very tired of chasing down a dozen who-cares citations to occasionally glean a gem of real information.

A. It’s fairly common for writers of scholarly books to use footnotes for discursive material and endnotes for citations. But to flag two different types of endnotes somehow in the text? That seems potentially fussy and confusing.

Q. “The question is: how would you ask Mr. Jones what concerns he has about placing his order today?” Is the question mark correct?

A. Yes, but the construction is ambiguous and could be improved by editing the sentence into a statement—an indirect question—which would end with a period: “The question is how you would ask Mr. Jones what concerns he has about placing his order today.”

Q. The 16th edition 13.7, point 4, states that it’s permissible to omit note reference marks from a quotation “unless omission would affect the meaning of the quotation.” Does the same principle apply to author-date citations within quotations? I.e., can author-date citations within a quotation be omitted without introducing an ellipse?

A. Author-date citations should be retained, or (as you suggest) their omission should be indicated with an ellipsis. If this would result in a manuscript full of ellipses, and if the citations are not needed, an alternative is to omit the references and explain your method in a general note.

Q. Why is University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization italicized in the “Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide,” when series are not italicized?

A. That example is treating the title as the title of a multivolume work rather than as a series. Sometimes the nature of such a work is ambiguous and the writer must decide which form to use. Please see CMOS 14.122–23.

Q. I am a little confused about how to properly use an em dash in the case of independent clauses. I thought that it should not be used to join two independent clauses, but I see it used this way all the time, and there is nothing definitive about its use in this instance in your book. Here’s an example: This plan isn’t like other diets—in fact, it’s not a diet at all. Please help me settle this issue once and for all!

A. There is no rule against joining two independent clauses with an em dash, as the examples at 6.82–87 illustrate. The em dash may be used in almost any syntax where a break is needed.

Q. In an essay, an author cited a report by an organization that has, since that report, changed its name, and later the author cited a second report written and published by the organization under its new name. Should the entries in References be under two different names, or both under the new name, perhaps with the first including a note such as, “Formerly . . .”?

A. The author should cite each report under the name that appears on the report. Annotating the new name with “Formerly . . .” is a good idea. Add blind entries in the reference list, if necessary:

New Name. See also Old Name
Old Name. See also New Name

Q. Chicago is very clear on the styling of editor- or author-translated titles in notes, but the examples provided are all books with italicized titles. In the case of a paper where the foreign title is enclosed in double quotes, is the bracketed translation placed before or after the closing quotes?

A. A translation would be placed within the quotation marks only if it were actually part of the title. You can find examples of bracketed translations of titles in quotation marks at CMOS 14.194 (“Translated article titles”).

Q. Hello. I’m organizing a bibliography with multiple sources from the same author, including several introductions she’s written. Would all the introductions be alphabetized under for Introduction?

A. Yes, and then all the introductions should be sorted into alphabetical order by book or article title. See CMOS 14.116 for how to style a bibliography entry for a book introduction.

Q. Hello, Chicago. I’m having a heck of a time with this one. Yes, I’m probably overanalyzing it, but . . . Chicago says to lowercase hell and heaven except in a purely religious context. I’m editing a romantic novel where the author makes several references to hell. I’m second-guessing myself on when to cap it. In an expression like “no way in hell,” I’d lowercase it. But in the next sentence, the heroine thinks she’s going to Hell. And what about words like hell-bound? Thanks.

A. By “purely religious context,” CMOS means “in a religious publication,” since readers of such publications may be offended by lowercasing. I’m guessing that this novel is not a religious publication. Lowercasing throughout should be fine.

October Q&A

Q. Can you use ’80s when referring to the 1880s? Thanks.

A. Yes. But if you want people to know what you’re talking about, and your context hasn’t already made it clear which century you’re in, then no.

Q. While copyediting several scientific research papers in different fields (mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, etc.), we encounter some uncountable nouns used in countable forms (with plural s and preceded by an or a). Some of these words may be used across the paper more than a hundred times, and correcting these may require rephrasing some parts. The authors of the papers complain that this is how they use these terms. Is it possible to use these uncountable nouns in the countable forms if this is how they are used in the scientific field? Also, should I question every single noun used in the research paper and check whether it is countable or uncountable?

A. Without examples, it’s difficult to know how to advise you, but normally it is the copyeditor’s job to render prose in standard English and query unfamiliar usages, especially if they dominate in a given text. (It’s the unglamorous side of editing!)

Q. My question is about this sentence construction: I’m bigger, stronger, and I know more about it. In narration, I would change this to “I’m bigger and stronger, and I know more about it.” But when it appears in dialogue in novels, I’m inclined to leave it as is. What’s Chicago’s take on this construction? Am I right to be fixing it in narration? Thank you!

A. It’s a judgment call. But by editing only the punctuation, you can eliminate the infelicity and retain the original language: I’m bigger, stronger. And I know more about it.

Q. In mathematics it is common to refer to an important construction or theorem due to several authors by joining their names together with hyphens. For example, one often refers to the Cartan-Eilenberg spectral sequence for the spectral sequence of Cartan and Eilenberg. There seems to be room for confusion when an author’s name is already hyphenated. For example, some authors refer to the conjecture of Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer as the Birch-Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, whereas others write the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture. Is there a style which you recommend?

A. Since using two hyphens (or an en dash and a hyphen) would be confusing, use and instead.

Q. Should the sound (i.e., pronunciation) of a parenthetically included word be factored in when deciding between a and an? “Patent holders may wish to consider a (preliminary) injunction” or “Patent holders may wish to consider an (preliminary) injunction.” Lots of Internet discussion on this one, but I can’t seem to find any definitive answer in style manuals or grammar books.

A. A definitive answer would be hard to find, but the reader can’t skip over the word in parentheses, and either choice is problematic. In most cases like this, there’s little to justify having parentheses in the first place. Removing them is the easiest solution.

Q. Hello. I wonder where in the CMOS might lie hidden the answer to the following question: should I refer readers to “Table 1, in contrast to Tables 2 and 3,” or to “Table 1, in contrast to tables 2 and 3”? In other words, should all items in a numbered series such as tables, sections, chapters, etc., be capitalized in such references? A minipoll among colleagues has yielded mixed results; hence my appeal to the Ultimate Authority in Such Matters.

A. We have very sneakily hidden it under section 3.51 (“Numbering tables”). It is also hidden in the index under “Tables > numbering of, 1.55, 2.26, 3.51–52, 3.54.”

Q. I edit academic papers in Canadian Press style, which uses per cent rather than percent. However, I am always told that while the text must be Canadian Press, the footnotes must be Chicago style. Since it looks odd to have per cent in the text and percent in the footnotes, is it permissible to alter that word to Canadian Press style in footnotes? The same would go for the problem with Canadian Press style: colour, behaviour, etc., in the text as opposed to color and behavior in the footnotes.

A. Anyone who asks an editor to use Canadian Press style in the text and Chicago style in the notes is begging for inconsistencies in all the ways you mention and more. And if you’re able to use two style guides simultaneously without mixing things up, you deserve double pay! However, given the possibility that you are taking the instructions too literally, you should run this by your supervisor. Once made to see the issues, your supervisor might clarify—e.g., that you should use Canadian spelling throughout.

Q. I’m editing a translated interview transcription for publication by a university press. The sentence in question reads as follows: I asked, “Mr. agent, why don’t you do me a favor.” The speaker is addressing an unidentified agent of a Colombian paramilitary. The uncapitalized agent looks strange following the title of address, but then of course agent isn’t an actual capitalizable name. Should I go with “Mr. Agent,” or would “Mister Agent” take some of the formal edge off, or is “Mr. agent” preferable?

A. “Mister Agent” or “Mr. Agent” would both follow the customary capitalization. I agree that there is little precedent for “Mr. agent.”

Q. What is the proper way to punctuate or structure a bulleted list of items that ends with “and much more!”? Thank you!

A. “And much more” can be the last item in the list, or it can be the first words of a paragraph that continues after the list. Punctuate the items as you would a list in running text. For guidelines on punctuating different kinds of lists, please see CMOS 6.123–25.

Q. Dear CMOS experts, I’m in a debate with my thesis advisor regarding using years or decades as time-stamp adjectives. For instance, I might write: “Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby” or “influenced by 1950s rock and roll.” However, my advisor says this is wrong. It should be “Fitzgerald’s novel from 1925 The Great Gatsby” or “rock and roll from the 1950s.” Who is right?

A. You are right, but your advisor is following a zombie rule that won’t die, and there may be no point in arguing. You might ask your advisor to point you to the rule in an up-to-date style manual. You can also point to CMOS 5.82 as support for your own view.

Q. I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed all cash, credit card and mobile phone were stolen off us. It would take me 5 working days to access funds in my account, our flight will be leaving in less than 8-hrs but the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills, i promise to make the refund once we get back home.I need about $1,940. You can have the cash wired via Money Gram transfer, thank God i have my passport ID as identification to pick up the money. John Brewer, 54 Boulevard Chave, 13005 Marseille, France. Let me know if you are heading to the Money Gram outlet now.

A. Don’t worry! We sent $3,000 (for good measure) to John Bowen, Montpellier, France (eek—is that right? Hope so!). Meanwhile, let us help: you have a serious problem with run-on sentences; Chicago normally spells out numbers up to and including one hundred; there is no need for a hyphen in “eight hours”; periods need a space after; and the personal pronoun “I” should be capitalized. Good thing you wrote!