New Questions and Answers

Q. Is it safe to assume that the Chicago Manual of Style itself is written in Chicago style? Sometimes I can’t find a specific answer, but the word or phrase itself is actually used somewhere therein.

A. Yes, you can assume that the Manual is written in Chicago style. Be aware, however, that the figures may depart from Chicago style in some details, since they are taken from actual manuscripts and published books or journals. Often during editing, a given detail of house style may be tweaked or even ignored to honor common practice in that writer’s discipline. For that reason, each figure should be regarded as an illustration of the point being made in that section, rather than as exemplifying Chicago style in every detail.

Q. I am teaching my students CMOS notes and bibliography type for all of their academic papers. When using footnotes on a paper the student did the full bibliographic citation on page 1. Then on page 2 there was a reference to the same source. Is it correct to allow the student to simply use author-date for that subsequent citation? Or is it more correct for the student to repeat the full bibliographic citation?

A. Chicago prefers shortened citations after the first full mention. Section 14.18 of CMOS will give you a solid overview of notes/bibliography style that will help you teach your students. Our Citation Quick Guide includes examples of such shortened citations (author, title, page). In addition, our Shop Talk blog has a great deal of free information geared toward helping students learn Chicago style and good citation and paper-writing practices.

Q. A recent article in Science magazine included the following sentence: “Every 10 weeks, Sundquist gets 32 bee sting-like injections of the nerve-numbing botulism toxin into her face and neck.” Should that be “bee-sting-like”? 

A. A look at the article online reveals that the punctuation between sting and like is not a hyphen but an en dash (bee sting–like), which indicates that the entire phrase bee sting goes with like. We show this use of the en dash at CMOS 6.80 in the example “Chuck Berry–style lyrics.” That kind of en dash (as we say) “is most helpful with proper compounds, whose limits are established within the larger context by capitalization.” The danger in using it for lowercased phrases is that many readers will read the dash as a hyphen—as you did. A good solution for phrases that aren’t proper nouns is to use two hyphens instead, as you suggest: bee-sting-like.

Q. If a sentence is a question and ends with a quote which is not a question, should a question mark be used, and if so, where should it be placed?

A. Put a sentence-ending question mark outside the quoted statement: Can you believe he said “I like your face-lift”?

Q. I am using the author-date system for a book. I need to cite a response from a survey that was done after a workshop. The survey results were never published and the responses are anonymous.

A. You can write, “Unpublished survey with anonymous responses”—although I’m afraid that doesn’t sound very authoritative. If it has a date and if someone admits to having administered it, those could be your author and date.

Q. I can’t find the rule that states proper typeface for a table of contents, specifically for a journal. Can you point me to the rule? 

A. There is no rule! There are many beautiful typefaces and as many ways to design a book or journal as there are books and journals. A style guide should not restrict the choices, which are usually made by a professional graphic designer. For instance, if you compare the contents in CMOS figure 1.5 with the actual table of contents of the 16th edition, you will see that they have different designs. Look at several books or journals at a bookstore or library, and you will see—all are different.

Q. I am writing a scholarly book and the publisher has explicitly indicated that it does not want numerous endnotes, long endnotes, discursive endnotes, or cross-citations. In providing a gloss of various texts in the scholarly literature in my introduction, I have provided the complete author’s name, the title, and date of the book within the running text. To add a note would be redundant. Is this an acceptable way to satisfy both the publisher and the scholarly readers?

A. It sounds as though it is enough to satisfy your publisher. It wouldn’t satisfy every academic press, however, and many scholars expect to see at least a place of publication or publisher (and most often both). Chicago usually requires full citations somewhere in a scholarly book. If a bibliography (or reference list) is included, then your short text citations are sufficient.

Q. Can I split the word recommendation other than recom/mendation

A. Yes. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary shows rec/om/men/da/tion. Any of those splits would be fine.

Q. Some authors use italics for unspoken thoughts. What is appropriate when the thought contains the name of a book (which is also italicized)? For example: I wonder where I can get hold of a copy of Julius Caesar. Do I italicize “Julius Caesar,” or do I toggle and make “Julius Caesar” roman type?

A. You can put “Julius Caesar” in roman type (reverse italics) or in quotation marks. This is one reason why putting thoughts into italics is awkward, however. Chicago recommends either no treatment or quotation marks for unspoken discourse. Please see CMOS 13.41.

Q. The Naval War College Writing and Style Guide states: “Although a term may be plural or possessive, do not make the abbreviation plural or possessive on first usage: cluster bomb units (CBU).” Is that also The Chicago Manual of Style’s preferred convention for first appearance of an acronym in a document?

A. Although CMOS is silent on this topic, the plural “cluster bomb units (CBUs)” looks respectable. The possessive, however, would be awkward: “cluster bomb unit’s (CBU’s).” Reword to avoid it.

Q. I’m confused over when to use the article the in expressions like “the British psychiatrist Michael Rutter’s study.” Although readers will know it might not be the case, to me, using the makes that person the only one in that field.

A. It’s just a matter of how you read it. When you see that the name Michael Rutter is a restrictive appositive defining which British psychiatrist we’re talking about, the does not make him the only British psychiatrist—quite the contrary. See CMOS 5.21.

Q. Ending a sentence with a preposition? Is there flexibility in this rule? Section 3.68 in my copy of the 16th edition has a sentence like this. Thanks in advance!

A. Please see CMOS 5.176 (“Ending a sentence with a preposition”): “The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction. . . . The ‘rule’ prohibiting terminal prepositions was an ill-founded superstition.” As for CMOS 3.68, you’re probably referring to this sentence: “Each cell in a row aligns with the stub entry it applies to”—a simple, clear sentence just as it is.

Q. Dear wise and knowledgeable CMOS person, a fellow writer and editor and I can’t agree. She insists that “well-trained dog” shouldn’t have a hyphen. I think it must have that hyphen. We were both pretty tired when this cropped up, so we ended up barking a bit at each other. We’d like to resolve this bone of contention by appealing to you, whom we both respect and trust. Whatever you say, we’ll abide by.

A. If the dog is well trained (no hyphen), it is a well-trained dog. Please have a long look at our hyphenation table at CMOS 7.85. (Just one reason we’re top dog.)

March Q&A

Q. I can’t find any reference in CMOS 16 to how odds should be punctuated.

A. Odds are ratios. Ratios may be expressed in numerals with a colon and no spaces (CMOS 6.60) or with numbers spelled out or not according to the guidelines at 9.2:

The odds are 451:1.
The odds are 3:2.
The odds are 451 to 1.
The odds are three to two.

Q. In a dialogue tag after a question or an exclamation (e.g., “What did you say?” she asked), should the initial letter of the tag be capitalized (“What did you say?” She asked) or should it remain lowercase?

A. Because the tag comes in the middle of the sentence, it should be lowercased. It should be capped if it begins a new sentence. For example,

“What did you say?” She asked the question in a tone that made my blood freeze.

Q. I am confused about the capitalization of giclée, which is a type of computer-generated art print. I see it both ways. It isn’t a proper noun or anyone’s name, so I don’t see why anyone would capitalize it. Can you weigh in? It is not in my dictionary.

A. People probably cap giclée for the same reason they cap president, chapter, or impressionism. We don’t know what that reason would be, so we lowercase it.

Q. I am copyediting a scholarly text in which there are many excerpts from Italian correspondence, each followed by the author’s translation in parentheses. She has placed the note number (for the source) after the translation, rather than after the original, and has made it clear in an early note that all translations are hers unless stated. Is the note number placement correct? My inclination would be to put the number after the original text.

A. You’re right—since the note contains a source for the original, the note number goes with the original.

Q. I have noticed that many newly published books have no indentation for the first paragraph of chapters or sections of chapters. Is this now the accepted form or is this something some publishing companies use in their style forms?

A. It doesn’t seem to be new (in my 1965 Fowler’s Modern English Usage, for instance, all the first paragraphs begin flush left), and yes, it’s an accepted format. Often the indentation of opening paragraphs is decided by the book’s designer.

Q. Please help our editorial team settle a debate! Our query concerns this paragraph:

Students might offer many different explanations, such as “Selma has 3 groups of __.” or “John has __. Selma has 3 times as many.”

Is it fine to keep the period at the end of the first example when it is followed by an or and then another example? Thank you.

A. This isn’t a good idea. A period so strongly signals the end of a sentence that there are few times you can get away with one in the middle. If you have room to set the examples on separate lines, they would be more readable:

Students might offer many different explanations, such as

Selma has 3 groups of __.
John has __. Selma has 3 times as many.

If you must run in the examples, you might set them in another font or color or in curly brackets:

. . . such as {Selma has 3 groups of __.} or {John has __. Selma has 3 times as many.}.

Note the period after the closing bracket at the end of the sentence.

Q. We have a raging style debate in our office. Our online editor says videogame should be one word. This usage is already common on more tech-focused blogs, and he says it is more accurate, as the interactive video genre has become so much more than a type of “game.” AP says two words. What does CMOS say?

A. Your office needs to choose a style guide and dictionary to arbitrate when there’s no single right answer. Chicago follows Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary in any spellings not covered in CMOS, and M-W says “video game.” If your company’s focus is electronic media, you may prefer to go with what’s current in that industry.

Q. When used in footnotes what does the Latin word pace mean?

A. Pace is Latin for “in peace,” and in footnotes it means something like “no offense intended” toward a person or source that you are contradicting. For example,

This conclusion is usually incorrect (pace Smith and Jones 1999).

Although in Chicago style familiar Latin terms are set in roman type, put pace in italics if there’s danger of mistaking it for the English word pace.

Q. Is it incorrect to use “and then” when stating the multiple actions of an individual? E.g., “She glanced around the room and then exited for the last time.” If it’s better to omit the and, does that mean there should be a comma in place of the and? How about in this sentence: “He got a DUI then resisted arrest”? Should there be a comma before then?

A. No, yes, and yes. It’s fine to write “and then” as you did in your first sentence. If you leave out and, add a comma before then: “He got a DUI, then resisted arrest.”

Q. Is there a rule governing the use of commas in a compound imperative sentence where the subject is implied? For example: “[You] Take the documents to the incinerator and follow safety guidelines during disposal” or “[You] Take the documents to the incinerator, and (you) follow safety guidelines during disposal.” Technically, these are both independent clauses. Is there any official rule that states whether the implied you exists only at the beginning of the first clause? Is this one of those situations that is never covered because it doesn’t matter?

A. No official rule can tell us what a writer was thinking, but when we read “Do X and do Y,” a comma before and implies two independent clauses: “[You] do X, and [you] do Y.” The lack of a comma implies a compound verb: “[You] do X and do Y.” CMOS covers this type of comma at 6.28–29, but as you guessed, much of the time it doesn’t matter.

Q. I am unsure of how to handle subject-verb agreement in sentences that involve em dashes or parentheses. For example, “The president (and, to some extent, Congress) is committed to the policy” or “The president—and, to some extent, Congress—is committed to the policy.” Is it correct to treat the subject in each of these sentences as singular or plural?

A. Singular. Choose a verb as though the parenthetical “afterthought” weren’t there. (This is true if the afterthought is set off by commas as well.)

Q. When providing options between two or more singular items and one or more plural items, should a writer use a plural verb or a singular verb? For example: “When Mom or Dad or both [say/says] no, you’d better stop asking.”

A. Grab the nearest noun or pronoun in the series and use it to determine the verb:

When Mom or Dad or both say no, you’d better stop asking.
When your parents or the babysitter says no, you’d better stop asking.

Q. I am putting together a PowerPoint presentation and use a specific term multiple times on a single presentation slide. I would like to define what the term means using a footnote. Should I include the footnote reference number in superscript every time I write the term on this slide, or just the first use? Thank you!

A. In a very long book, if a difficult or unfamiliar term appears on page 9 and then again on page 347, readers might appreciate being reminded of its definition. However, in the space of a single PowerPoint slide, readers who have just read the definition of a word and who are then sent to the same definition several more times would be justified in throwing things at the presenter.