New Questions and Answers
Q. A colleague and I have a conflict. I don’t like the use of and also in sentences like the following: “We walked and also ran the two blocks to the post office.” I would change the sentence to “We both walked and ran the two blocks to the post office” or “We not only walked but also ran the two blocks to the post office.” What’s your take on the use of and with also, two words close in meaning? My colleague says one is a conjunction and the other an adverb, so the combination is fine.
A. And also is conventional and grammatical. It can be used clumsily (as in the sentence you quote), and sometimes the also is superfluous, but there’s no need to avoid it when it’s used well. Here is an instance of its use in CMOS (at 15.25):
As Edward Tufte points out, “A graphical element may carry data information and also perform a design function usually left to non-data-ink.”
In that sentence, also carries some weight: rather than meaning simply and, it has an added connotation of “contrary to expectations.”
Q. This is an excerpt from an investigative report:
Officer Doe said that Sgt. Smith takes sleeping pills while on duty. Officer Jones stated that on a couple of occasions, Sgt. Smith gave him sleeping pills to help him relax. When asked what time of day he would take these pills, Officer Jones responded, around 11:30 p.m.
It was unclear to me who he referred to, and I asked the writer for clarification. The answer I received from the writer was “The pronoun he refers to the last male proper name mentioned, therefore Jones, but I’ll make it clearer.” I had not heard this before. Is this a rule of writing?
A. Although it’s true that readers tend to think that a pronoun refers to the last name or noun mentioned, it’s not true that the pronoun always does so. For example,
The policeman gave the sergeant his phone number.
No one would think his referred to the sergeant. Or
Jed loves music, and Mark knows he buys recordings of operas. When asked where he buys them, Mark said, “Online.”
Mark is the last male proper name, but he probably refers to Jed. So the actual rule is that if there’s any doubt, the writer must clarify. I agree with you that the sentence you quoted needs clarification.
Q. How would you cite Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, Question 65, Article 4? Thank you.
A. If you are using Chicago style, follow the form at CMOS 14.257 (“Identifying numbers in classical references”):
Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1.65.4.
Note that you need a part number as well as a question and article number.
Q. I’m confused about what to do when shortening the titles of books. The author refers to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as Alice in Wonderland, and I think that it should remain italicized. In addition, there is a dialogue in which a character asks, “Do you remember in Harry Potter, when the students are walking up the stairs?” I also think this should be italicized, but I can’t find an answer.
A. If a phrase is part of a book title, make it italic. This lets readers know you’re referring to a book (or movie, actually, which we also italicize) rather than a person or place. In the case of Harry Potter, there’s a whole series of books, and Chicago style puts series titles in roman type: the Harry Potter series. This means that in some contexts it won’t really matter whether you use italics or not, since either meaning (book or series) will do. It also means that sometimes you’ll want to be a little more specific: “Do you remember in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when the students are walking up the stairs?”
Q. I am most comfortable lowercasing job titles after people’s names (e.g., John Smith, director of marketing), but I struggle when the title is something like this: John Smith, William G. Brown Professor of Education. It seems that the latter example is some kind of appointment, and I’m wondering if it should be treated any differently or if, following CMS, it would be correct to write, John Smith, William G. Brown professor of education. Thanks!
A. There is definitely a difference; a named chair is a proper noun, and the entire title must be capped: John Smith, William G. Brown Professor of Education. Please see CMOS 8.27.
Q. My publisher has asked me to contact you. Do you have any experience as to whether various publishers of books will use a different style manual, say AP, for back covers and marketing copy (e.g., no serial comma, certain styles for word usage) than is used within the book (CMOS style)? Do publishers use different word spelling on a book’s cover than is used inside the book (e.g., openpit vs. open pit; socio-economic vs. socioeconomic, Website vs. website)? I work for a company whose marketing department has set their own style guide for marketing copy and book cover design that differs from that of the publishing department, who edits the body of the books. Does anyone else do this that you know of?
A. I can only speak for the University of Chicago Press, where we strive for consistency in our books, cover included. The jacket copy is copyedited by a book manuscript editor, just for that purpose. Occasionally the marketers will win the right to depart from style in a certain matter, but on the whole, we assume that readers would notice discrepancies and chalk them up to sloppiness.
Q. We publish books in the water and mining industries. Authors list many references, and we’re finding that in-text citations are becoming more and more excessive. For example, one simple sentence lists seven sources, which seems unreasonable. One chapter is 158 pages long, of which 49 pages are references. Do publishers set some kind of limits on the quantity of citations? Of course it is necessary to avoid plagiarism, but 49 pages of citations seems to be too much! How would you suggest we address this with our authors?
A. It’s the job of the acquiring editor to assess the documentation in a book or article (or send the manuscript out to experts who can assess it), and if it is excessive, it’s his or her job to work with the writer to bring it under control. Our own books vary dramatically, ranging from almost no notes/bibliography to tons of it. It wouldn’t be right to set a limit, however, because writers must be free to document their work fully. Unless you’re publishing books with no oversight or development, someone must be in charge of judging the quality of each book, and this person should decide whether the documentation is really necessary.
Q. If you are referring to a street address that includes two adjacent buildings, do you use an en dash or and between them? I’m working on a project that uses the following, and I’ve put in an en dash, but I’m wondering if and would be better: “the full interior renovation of 619–623 West 113th Street.”
A. If the two buildings are separate, and is a better way to indicate that. If one building takes up two lots, the en dash is appropriate.
Q. Could you please clarify the proper usage of the word cannot, as opposed to can not?
A. In general, use cannot whenever you could mentally substitute can’t. Use can not when not goes with another word, such as only:
He cannot hum. [He can’t hum.]
She can not only hum; she can play the bagpipes. [She can hum.]
But beware of times when not doesn’t go with only:
He cannot only inhale; he must also exhale. [Only here means “solely” rather than “merely.” Our litmus test still works, however: He can’t only inhale.]
Q. My staff and I encountered a phrase and there’s a bit of debate as to how to hyphenate it: Wall Street darling-ready. Some believe an en dash should be inserted between Street and darling, followed by the hyphen between darling and ready. Others, however, feel the addition of the en dash would make the phrase even more difficult to interpret for readers. Thoughts?
A. I’m sorry, but the phrase looks like nonsense; I don’t think you can save it by tacking on hyphens or dashes. Please rewrite the sentence and—as they say—murder your darling.
Q. I have just received a manuscript for copyediting. The authors have left many references unfinished. They also used initials for first names in each and every reference (along with not including issues/volumes of journals, not putting chapters in quotation marks, etc.). As there are over 1,000 references, looking up all of this and fixing it will take some time, and I have another book scheduled right after this one. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that if the authors supply a reference list that is, basically, unusable, they should fix it.
A. If the publisher requires a certain style, then sometimes authors will be asked to revise. Certainly it is not usual for a copyeditor to supply missing citation data, and if the publisher is flexible about accepting a different style, you might be off the hook for the heavy copyediting. You should consult the assigning editor before you proceed. Incidentally, it would be a good idea to look at a guide like Charles Lipson’s Cite Right, which shows examples of citations in all the major styles. You will learn there, for instance, that in some styles it’s normal to use initials for first names and to omit quotation marks for chapter titles.
Q. When creating an outline for a research paper, does each object in the list regardless of hierarchy need to be a complete sentence?
A. In Chicago style, outline entries should be grammatically parallel whether they are all sentences or all fragments. However, your professor or thesis adviser might have rules that diverge from Chicago style, so it’s best to ask.
Q. I often find myself with questions about verb tense in indirect speech. When the main verb is in the past tense (e.g., said, argued), should subordinate verbs also be shifted into the past? For example, in the sentence “Military supporters claimed that the purpose of a nation’s standing army is to fight wars, not keep the peace,” I am inclined to change is to was. A cursory web search reveals that “backshifting” is a hotly debated question; does Chicago have a position on it?
A. We don’t have a position on it, because writers must be free to use the tense that their meaning requires. You could make a rule that the past must always be used, but that would result in universal ambiguity: “They pointed out that as humans we were fallible” leaves open to question whether we still are. The present tense in “They pointed out that as humans we are fallible” more clearly implies that humans are still fallible today. To restrict writers with an arbitrary rule in this case is not in the interest of clarity.
Q. Style dictates no paragraph indent on the first line of an extracted quote. When there is dialogue, it looks awkward to leave out the indent on the first line, but I have always done that true to style. Could you verify that? Also, I now have a case of dialogue using em dashes instead of quotation marks. I assume the same is true: The first line has no paragraph indent but subsequent dialogue has normal paragraph indents. Again, please verify.
A. If you are talking about dramatic dialogue, in Chicago style, each paragraph normally begins with the name of a speaker and is set in flush-and-hang style, so there’s no question of a first-line indent. (Please see CMOS 13.44.) In any case, when following a style looks awkward, the last thing we want you to do is use it anyway. We try hard to discourage writers and editors from forcing our guidelines into unsuitable situations!
Q. I’m a young writer who is the editor and journalist for a small publication and school newspaper. I was never taught how to write or how to write an article, so my question is how do I seek help or improve my means of editing and writing without support?
A. This is a tough question. Usually people aren’t asked to run before they can walk. Unfortunately, there’s no magic way to bring someone up to speed in the craft of writing or editing without a great deal of practice. Take an editing or writing class if you can, but for now, read everything you can get your hands on that’s similar to the material you’re supposed to be writing and editing. Read every issue of your school newspaper that you can find. In addition, read high-quality literature in whatever area interests you. When you read, your mind absorbs the sound and feel of the writing, and it becomes easier for you to write in the same way. It’s like learning a song. Imitating the writing of others is the first step to becoming a writer. You’ll find your own voice later. To learn about editing, read The Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. That will help you know what kinds of problems to look for. And if you find all this reading to be a burden or boring, you’ll know you’re in the wrong line of business.
Q. Dear CMOS, I’ve often encountered “business process outsourcing” abbreviated to BPO whether it’s used as a noun or as an adjective. To my ear, the abbreviation is fine as an adjective but sounds awkward when used and read as a noun, in which case I use the full form. For example, “The company provides IT support and BPO services”—fine. “The company provides services in IT support and business process outsourcing”—fine. “The company provides services in IT support and BPO”—awkward. Is it just me, or does this preference have a sound grammatical basis?
A. It’s just you. Outsourcing is a noun, so there’s nothing wrong with using the initialism as a noun. If your readers are used to the abbreviation, then by spelling it out you are probably just slowing them down.
Q. I found some phone conversations between Richard Nixon and some other people in office, and I’m not sure how to cite them. Should I cite the transcript and include the website that they came from, too? They came from the National Security Archive, George Washington University.
A. Yes, cite the transcript and give the name and URL of the website where you found them. You can find examples to follow at CMOS 14.219 and 14.245.
Q. Hi, Chicago—I’m replying to your e-mail answer more than seven years later because I’m still trying to wrap my head around punctuating sentences like these:
She was still so shocked, it took her a while to find her voice.
He was so fixated on his game, he had no idea I’d entered the room.
Do they require the comma? Based on your seven-year-old e-mail reply (“I don’t know of any such rule”), I’ve been deleting most such commas. Occasionally, I’ll replace the comma with a semicolon. But I guess what I’d like to know now is this: Is there any rule (preferably somewhere I can cite) that governs this type of sentence?
A. I’m happy to report that after seven years of intensive focus on your question, the CMOS team has still not encountered a rule for this. Please note that when it’s this hard to find a rule, it’s likely that nobody knows one or cares. We hope this helps you move on. If not, please write again in 2020.