New Questions and Answers

Q. Searching for a guideline for “is known as” turns up two possible punctuation choices for the term/terms that follow. Sometimes the term is enclosed within double quotes; sometimes it lacks any punctuation. How does one decide?

A. Both styles are commonly used. Quotation marks are especially appropriate when the term is a play on words (e.g., the intersection known as “Hollywood & Wine”) or when it might not otherwise be clear where the term begins (e.g., the insect known as the “pleasing fungus beetle”).

Q. Is there a general rule on how to interpret a sentence like “The box must be A and B or C”? Does it mean the box must be A, and also either B or C? Or does it mean the box must be either both A and B, or just C?

A. This is the kind of instruction that makes test takers abandon hope. The general order of operations in logic is that and takes precedence over or: “The box must be A and B or C” means “The box must be (A and B) or (C).” However, a reader is left to guess whether the person who wrote the instruction knew that. Sometimes context gives a clue:

The box must be assembled and blue or black = (A) and (B or C).
The box must be taped and labeled or empty = (A and B) or (C).

The strategic insertion of either is a classic aid to comprehension:

The box must be assembled and either blue or black = (A) and (B or C).
The box must be either taped and labeled or empty = (A and B) or (C).

Q. My client for a project that uses CMOS has asked that abbreviations ending with S be pluralized without the addition of a lowercase s. So, for example, a first reference is to “asset-backed securities (ABS)” rather than to “asset-backed securities (ABSs),” and subsequent references use ABS as a stand-in for either the singular or the plural term. I cited CMOS 7.15—but the client is “used to seeing” abbreviations without the added s and says it “looks awkward.” I accept that the client gets to call the shots, so I acceded to the request. Did I accede too readily?

A. You did your job—there’s just no saving some people from themselves.

Q. I’ve written a number of technical user manuals. I would always write, “Perform step 1a, then do step 1b.” But then the Microsoft style guide stated that I should always write, “Perform step 1a, and then do step 1b.” I prefer the former and think it’s perfectly OK. What sayest thou?

A. Although CMOS 16 was silent on the issue, it is covered in the new 17th edition in response to many reader queries like yours: “The adverb then is often seen between independent clauses as shorthand for and then, preceded by a comma.” Please see the examples at 6.57.

Q. Is it acceptable to use the “from . . . to” and the “between . . . and” constructions interchangeably when referring to inclusive numbers and years? For example, “from 1900 to 1910” and “between 1900 and 1910” mean two different things to me. The first one is inclusive of the years 1900 and 1910, while the second one is not inclusive, literally meaning “from 1901 to 1909.” Others disagree with me on this.

A. Both constructions are ambiguous. The fact that people don’t agree on their meaning attests to this. For that reason, use whichever you like, and when it’s important to include or exclude a particular year (it isn’t always), make it clear by using phrases like “beginning in,” “ending in,” and “up to and including.”

Q. I’m editing a biography. The author has used a rather journalistic style of writing to indicate the ages of members of the family, e.g., Mary, 12, Ellen, 10, and John, 3. Apart from the general rule of spelling out zero through one hundred, I believe this kind of list is stylistically inappropriate in a discursive work, and would prefer to see it written. For example, Mary was then twelve years old, Ellen was ten, and John, three. Do you agree?

A. We do agree. Your preference aligns with Chicago style, which is favored by humanists, novelists, and other creative writers. See chapter 9 (Numbers) for confirmation. Please note, however, that to many people newspaper-style numerals are familiar and easy to read, and they are not incorrect.

Q. I am writing a dissertation on a cartoon series that appeared in a magazine. The title of the magazine is in the title of the cartoon series. Do I italicize? Magazine title: The Etude Music Magazine (I will always italicize that). Cartoon series title: “The Etude Educational Cartoons” (I have put it in quotes in every instance, but my editor doesn’t know if The Etude should be italicized in this case).

A. A magazine title is always italic, even if it’s within a title in quotation marks. Please see CMOS 17, section 8.173 (“Italicized Terms and Titles within Titles”). Please note, too, that Chicago style for comic strips and cartoon series is also italics (8.200, “Cartoons”). Thus in Chicago style your title would be entirely in italics, with the magazine part quoted: “The Etude” Educational Cartoons.

Q. Hello, I was sure I had read somewhere that there is a way to search the website and find CMOS 17 changes. It was just a single word or phrase that brought up things that changed. I cannot find the information or the word you used to search. Can you direct me to the correct place to find those changes?

A. Certainly! For a list of significant changes and updates go to the Help & Tools page of CMOS Online and click on “What’s New in the 17th Edition.” You can also find some changes by searching for the word departure, but since there are thousands of little edits and tweaks in the new edition, this will only be a start.

Q. If a copyright page needs to appear at the end of a book (because, for example, p. iv needs to be used for sponsor information), does the copyright page need to appear in the table of contents? CMOS 1.38 explains why the copyright page is not included when it precedes the TOC (“[TOC] should include all preliminary material that follows it but exclude anything that precedes it”), but it’s not clear whether the copyright page should be included when it falls at the book’s end. Thanks!

A. A copyright page at the back of a book does not need to be included in the contents list, especially if the copyright page is unnumbered. But there’s no rule against including it, in which case the page should be numbered.

Q. The Chicago Manual is a thick guide that is difficult to follow. As a student and researcher, I find it difficult to find the appropriate citation for the cover page, in-text citations, and paper formatting. As a student in the library science field, it would be nice if the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual lacked these problems. If you are a newbie looking through the Chicago Manual, you don’t want to get a migraine or go blind from reading it.

A. It seems to me that you’re using The Chicago Manual of Style, which is for preparing manuscripts for publication, instead of Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers, which explains how to prepare class papers and theses in Chicago style. CMOS does not cover the formatting of student papers, but Turabian gives detailed guidelines. See also the For Students pages at the CMOS Shop Talk blog for the answers to many basic questions about paper writing, including paper setup.

Q. Hi—I have researched this but would like a definitive answer. Is it “cell phone” or “cellphone”? Merriam-Webster shows it as “cell phone” but “smartphone” is one word.

A. For “definitive” answers, you can’t beat the dictionary! Even CMOS checks in with Merriam-Webster now and then.

August Q&A

Q. I am a copy editor for an academic press, and I have noticed that many authors elide the “also” in the correlative conjunction “not only / but also” (regardless of whether the following clause is dependent or independent). Example: “These publications formed a body of not only opinion but aspiration.” This seems incorrect to me, but I have been advised not to correct it in page proofs. What is CMOS’s position on this?

A. CMOS omits also in a variety of “not only” constructions, although it uses “but also” more often than not. (You can search the Manual online for the phrase “not only.”) Consider the short version to be accepted; elisions like this are common in English.

Q. In a list introduced by “such as,” is it incorrect to use or (instead of and) to connect the final two items in the list?

A. It’s not incorrect. In some cases or may be essential for clarity. For instance, “They loved to ask for a topping such as peanut butter or jelly” instead of “They loved to ask for toppings such as peanut butter and jelly.”

Q. After reading your rule about not putting two periods one after the other, I wonder about a parenthesis as serving to break up this rule. How would you punctuate the following?

Option 1: Contact all departments (Finance, Compliance, Information Management, etc.)
Option 2: Contact all departments (Finance, Compliance, Information Management, etc.).

Or is there a third option?

A. Option 2 is correct; two periods are definitely required in the case of an abbreviation within a parenthetical like this that closes a sentence. Two periods one after the other—never.

Q. I’m an event organizer, and one of the themes of my event is “creativity beyond the page.” Should it be “Creativity Beyond the Page” or “Creativity beyond the Page”? Can beyond be capitalized in this case?

A. Chicago style lowercases prepositions, but many style guides uppercase the longer ones. If you want to uppercase beyond, it isn’t incorrect. But take care to send a memo or style sheet—if anyone else on your team is using Chicago style, you may find your slogan presents an inconsistency in your publicity.

Q. I want to refer as briefly as possible in the footnotes of my book to the two printings of the Japanese translation of a book, originally published in 1991 and reprinted with a new introduction in 2002. Can I refer as follows: C. L. R. James, Burakku jakoban (Tokyo: Omura-Shoten, 1991; 2002), or should I use a comma or a slash to distinguish the two printings?

A. Chicago style specifies the reprint date this way: (Tokyo: Omura-Shoten, 1991; repr. 2002).

Q. It would be more helpful if all the questions and answers in the Chicago Style Q&A were searchable. They are so useful, but I spend a lot of time slogging through the questions and answers. (Don’t get me wrong—the browsing and slogging are without fail a pleasurable diversion.)

A. You’ll be happy to know that the Q&A is fully searchable. The results are returned on the same page as other search results. Just click on the tab that says “Chicago Style Q&A.”

Q. In certain scenarios (invitations, ads, etc.), our organization sometimes omits the verb: for example, “Complimentary parking available” (with is omitted). If the verb is elided, is it still a sentence requiring a period, or is it a fragment?

A. Although it is a fragment, even fragments require periods when they appear in a paragraph. If a fragment appears apart from other text, however (on a line by itself or in a banner or burst on an invitation or flyer or sign or ad), there is often no need for end punctuation.

Q. What is the correct way to format a note citation from an edited book when the editor and the author happen to be the same person?

A. Cite it as a contribution to a multiauthor book and put the author’s name twice, where the author and editor names go. There are examples at CMOS 14.112 (16th ed.; “Contribution to a Multiauthor Book”).

Q. I am inquiring about the use of plural acronyms in parentheses. The writer wrote “A three-person board comprised of Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO)s.” Their use of “(SNCO)s” just looks strange. I said it should be “Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs).”

A. You are right. The writer’s solution is wrong. (And we almost never say that!)

Q. There seems to be an increasing number of people who prefer their names in lowercase, and I was wondering when other capitalization rules trump this preference. It seems like the first letter of a sentence should be capitalized even if it happens to be a lowercased name (e.g., “Damali ayo is . . .” or “Ayo is . . .”), but could that look clumsy or incorrect, requiring all such sentences to be rephrased?

A. A capital letter does look best at the beginning of a sentence. An exception may be made for words that have a midcap like eBay or iPhone.

Q. I’m encountering reference lists that include names that do not use the typical structure of “surname, first name.” Typically I follow CMOS 16.76 (16th ed.) in cases that seem clear. However, in some dialects or cases, there aren’t surnames, exactly, and authors have asked me to keep entries as is, without commas. I find this all very confusing. Would you please advise?

A. When editing non-English names and languages, it’s wise to defer to the writer’s wishes rather than blindly apply rules from a style manual. (CMOS 8.15 [16th ed.] recognizes that Chinese names, for example, usually begin with the family surname rather than the given name—but some people of Chinese origin choose to switch to the common Western order.) Keep a careful record of your writer’s requests and instructions; keep an eye out for anything that looks like a contradiction or ambiguity; query generously; and pass along a memo about the issue to your assigning editor or anyone else who might blame you for problems later!

Q. In “number + noun” of the CMOS hyphenation table, you say “Hyphenated before a noun, otherwise open.” You include the following examples: “a one-and-a-half-inch hem” and  “one and a half inches.” As “inch” is a noun and “one and a half” is a number/quantity, why not “one-and-a-half inches”?

A. That part of the table is explaining what to do when a “number + noun” modifies another noun. In “one and a half inches,” inches is not modified by a “number + noun” phrase; it is merely modified by a number: one and a half. Therefore no hyphens. After all, we don’t hyphenate phrases like “a hem of two inches.” In phrases like “a one-and-a-half-inch hem,” the noun hem is modified by a “number + noun” phrase: “one-and-a-half-inch,” which is therefore hyphenated, as we would hyphenate “two-inch hem.”

Q. I’m in the process of editing an article and the author is using a neologism of sorts. He’s taken the word digital and is using it as a verb—digitaling. The author is insisting on adding a hyphen (digital-ing) so that it’s clearer to the reader. I think it’s unnecessary, as there would be no confusion without it.

A. I agree that the hyphen is unneeded. (And I hope the text gives an excellent reason for the new word—otherwise, it looks pretty silly!)

Q. I am editing manuscripts for publication in an international scholarly journal. The journal uses CMOS, 16th ed. The British author has cited a book’s edition published by a British publisher, for which the title uses the British spelling (Thy Neighbour’s Wife). For the bibliography (and notes), should the British spelling be changed to US spelling, for consistency? I am inclined to retain the British spelling.

A. That’s exactly right. It’s essential to retain the British spelling. No editor has the right to copyedit an already published work!

Q. Hi there! Which of the following is correct? (1) “Here you go, dear” or (2) “Here you go dear”? The way I see it, a comma should not precede dear because dear is an adjective and not an interjection. “Here you go dear” is not the same as “Here you go, sir [or Stan].”

A. Dear is actually a noun here, since it stands for a person’s name, and grammatically “Here you go, dear” is exactly the same as “Here you go, sir [or Stan].” In direct address, a comma prevents misreading. A popular example demonstrating this is “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat Grandma!”