New Questions and Answers

Q. Apparently, the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual is opting for email over e-mail. I take it, then, that the 17th edition will also recommend Xray, Tshirt, Hbomb, Tbone steak. Don’t be ridiculous. Consistency requires the hyphen: e-mail.

A. Every good style manual contains exceptions that could be seen as inconsistencies but that are actually thoughtful adjustments for sense, readability, and usage. For instance, CMOS 7.85 (16th ed.) lists antihero but anti-inflammatory, coworker but co-op, midthirties but mid-July, promarket but pro-life. You will find that authoritative dictionaries like Merriam-Webster and American Heritage, as well as many fine newspapers, now also acknowledge or even prefer email.

Q. A colleague wants to use a hyphen in the phrase “Friday-afternoon lecture.” But isn’t this an overly rigid application of the phrasal adjective hyphenation rule in a case where it doesn’t apply? “Friday afternoon” is not a true phrasal adjective, but a temporal phrase. “Join me for Sunday morning brunch” is the same as saying, “Join me for brunch (on) Sunday morning.” Interested in your view on which is correct, and why.

A. “Noun + noun” phrases like “Friday morning,” where the first noun modifies the second noun, do qualify as phrasal adjectives. A hyphen increases readability, since Friday followed by a noun is not always part of a phrasal adjective: a Friday golf outing; a Friday birthday party. See section 2 of CMOS 16, 7.85 (“noun + noun, single function”).

Q. In CMOS (16th ed.), fig. 1.1, the ISBN is followed by a format designator in parentheses—the example given is “(cloth).” What are Chicago’s other standard format labels for other types of binding?

A. We use cloth, paper, and e-book.

Q. I am editing a work that refers many times to music recordings (albums). When using notes and bibliography style, I assume that the full citation to the album should be put in the first footnote, and in subsequent footnotes a short form is called for. What components are needed for a shortened citation for a record album?

A. CMOS is silent, so choose the elements that make the most sense to you. Performer and title, orchestra and title, composer and title, conductor and title—it needn’t be the same choice for every citation. Note that the first element in a short citation should be the element it’s listed under in your bibliography.

Q. In 14.181 (16th ed.) you only have “No volume number or date only,” but what about no issue number but volume only? What is the correct way of reference? Ecological Economics 82, 23-32 or Ecological Economics 82: 23-32?

A. A colon is more clear. In some cases the numbers in the citation would be confusing with a comma.

Journal Title 18, 23–32.
Journal Title 18, 6, 12.

Journal Title 18:23–32.
Journal Title 18:6, 12.

Q. If I am writing out foreign book titles followed by the English title in parentheses, should the English titles appear in italics or quotations?  

A. Chicago style writes the translation in plain text, no italics or quotes, no headline caps. Please see CMOS 16, 14.108:

Koniec sojuszu trzech cesarzy [The end of the Three Emperors’ League]

If the book was published under an English title, however, then put the English title in italics as you would any other published book (CMOS 16, 14.109):

Furet, François. Le passé d’une illusion. Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1995. Translated by Deborah Furet as The Passing of an Illusion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

Q. I’m writing a book with hundreds of direct quotations. One guy keeps saying “24/7.” Looks strange to write it “twenty-four/seven,” but that would be the standard CMOS rule, would it not?

A. Another CMOS rule is “if it looks odd, don’t do it.”

Q. Some compound adjectives are always hyphenated, even after the verb. Is worry-free hyphenated after the verb, as in this sentence: Audit trails and compliance tools make the process worry-free?

A. A compound formed with free as the second element is hyphenated both before and after the noun it refers to. (Whether such a phrase follows a verb is irrelevant.)  Please see CMOS 16, 7.85, section 3, under the word free:

toll-free number
accident-free driver
the number is toll-free
the driver is accident-free

Q. We published a book in 2014 and did not think it would need a second printing. The book has since sold out, and now we plan to issue a second printing in 2017. Is it overkill to include an impression line on the copyright page? We do not plan a third printing, but, of course, we were wrong the first time. We would have something like

17    2

in the second. Is it ever appropriate to indicate the second printing in a narrative form?

A. There are probably many editors who have found themselves in this position. It’s never inappropriate to add helpful information. “Second printing” or “2nd printing” would be crystal clear, but if you prefer to have an impression line, “17    2” would baffle most readers. To make a traditional second-impression line for a book published in 2017, write something like

21 20 19 18 17    2 3 4

Q. In Chicago style after how many words do you use a block quote?

A. Please see CMOS 16, 13.10 (“Choosing between Run-In and Block Quotations”): “In deciding whether to run in or set off a quotation, length is usually the deciding factor. In general, a short quotation, especially one that is not a full sentence, should be run in. A hundred words or more (at least six to eight lines of text in a typical manuscript) can generally be set off as a block quotation.”

Q. I’m currently copyediting a chapter in a contributed volume, where one of the authors quotes as follows: “that no purely third-person, theoretical proposal or model would suffice to overcome” “the conceptual gap between subjective experience and the brain.” My question concerns the closing double quotations marks and the opening double quotations marks that are placed next to each other. I think this looks rather clumsy. Could I put ellipsis points between two quotes if the latter quote actually comes before the first quote in the original source, as is the case here? Or should ellipsis points only be used if the original order of the quoted parts is retained?

A. Ellipsis points are an option only when quotes are in the correct order and fairly near each other. Putting even a little text between the two quotes would help: “that no purely third-person, theoretical proposal or model would suffice to overcome” the “conceptual gap between subjective experience and the brain.” But it might be best to completely reword or to paraphrase one of the quotes.

Q. What is the distinction between yeah, yea, and yay? Is each confined to a specific usage?

A. Dictionaries are terrific for looking up what words mean. I found all these words at Merriam-Webster’s free online dictionary.

Yay means “hooray”; rhymes with day
Yea means “yes” or “indeed”; familiar to many from translations of the Bible; often used in voting (“yea or nay”); rhymes with day
Yeah means “yes”; famously used by the Beatles (“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”); rhymes with pretty much not anything (bleah?).

Q. You advocate using the serial (Oxford) comma in all applications, correct? If so, I disagree. For your consideration: when omitting the comma does not alter the meaning and, more important, the flow of the sentence, it should be omitted (e.g., I became friends with Jim, Barbara and their aunt).

A. Although Chicago favors the use of the serial comma as a default style and would therefore put a comma after Barbara in your sentence, our guidelines are not meant to be applied “in all applications” without thought to meaning or usefulness. They are meant to be applied with judgment and flexibility. We have stated this in every edition since the first one in 1906, and we hammer on it constantly every chance we get. Sigh.

May Q&A

Q. In a dissertation that includes a lengthy biographical chapter sourced almost entirely by personal interviews, complex ecclesiastical archives (including diocesan newsletters, Vatican documents), and various personal letters, I, as editor, have used in-text referencing throughout except for that one chapter, for which I have used footnotes. Within that chapter, published books are also documented in-text. Is that combination of two methods of referencing acceptable? Or should I simply have used footnotes throughout because the interviews and archival information couldn’t be documented in-text?

A. Usually, a college or university’s dissertation office decides what is acceptable. If they don’t mind your system, we don’t!

Q. How would you punctuate an invented noun? I am editing a theoretical work that uses adjective + -ness to come up with new forms of abstract concepts along the lines of Americanness and pinkness. For both of those words, I would close the suffix and omit the hyphen; my author has them separated with a hyphen (pink-ness). Which is correct style?

A. Chicago style leans the way you do, generally closing up suffixes unless a spelling is awkward. Pinkness and Americanness seem pretty straightforward without hyphens, but that’s an editorial decision rather than a pronouncement that they’re “correct.” If a word isn’t in the dictionary, the writer must decide on a styling, knowing that others might choose differently.

Q. What is the rule for subject-verb agreement when a sentence has a collective noun + prepositional phrase + relative pronoun? For example, should it be “Scientists follow a set of guidelines that include x” (because the antecedent of that is guidelines), or “Scientists follow a set of guidelines that includes x” (because the subject is set)? Or does the answer differ depending on whether the writer wants to emphasize set or guidelines as the subject? And would the answer change if the sentence had “the set” instead of “a set” (as in the rule about mass noun + prepositional phrase)?

A. The verb goes with whichever noun is the subject. Often that will be clear {the box of rocks that was too wide for the door; the box of rocks that were brought back from space}. In your sentence the meaning is nearly the same whichever noun you choose, and that’s often true. The choice of article doesn’t matter {a box of rocks that was too wide; a box of rocks that were brought back from space}.

Q. I am an editor having a debate with some authors over their use of this article title: “Intangible Values of Palliative Nursing Care.” I have told them that it doesn’t make sense because there is no such thing as a value that is tangible, despite the existence of accounting terms such as “tangible value.” I prefer a title such as “Intangible Elements of Palliative Nursing Care.” What is your take on this?

A. Our take is that a good dictionary can prevent many an editorial squabble. Both tangible and intangible have a figurative meaning, which is why “tangible value” makes sense to accountants. In the same way, intangible makes sense in the article title. See Merriam-Webster Unabridged, under intangible (“2 : incapable of being defined or determined with certainty or precision”).

Q. I’m editing a contract with many lists in it. After the recent court case involving the serial comma, I am trying to be even more diligent. I am sure at one point I read that if you have a list with items separated by the word or, you do not need a comma. I have looked through the entire comma, list, and conjunction sections of CMOS, but do not see any guidance. Which is correct? Here’s an example: I will eat pasta or pizza or salad. I will eat pasta, or pizza, or salad. Thank you in advance!

A. You will find what you’re looking for at CMOS 16, 6.18: “In a series whose elements are all joined by conjunctions, no commas are needed unless the elements are long and delimiters would be helpful.” This doesn’t mean that commas are forbidden when the elements are short, however. In some cases where pauses are needed, they may be appropriate.

Q. I see three different treatments for upper right in the Q&A responses: upper right, upper-right, upper right-hand. Are there any guidelines for this term? Is it hyphenated as an adjective and not as a noun? (“In the upper-right corner” vs. “In the upper right”?)

A. Yes: hyphenate the adjective and leave the noun open. Find guidelines for this kind of term and many others at CMOS 16, section 7.85.

Q. Is it OK to hyphenate a word at the end of a line that is already a hyphenated word? It looks really awkward to me, and I always call attention to this double hyphenation when I am editing/copyediting. Am I being too prissy? I can’t find anything about this in Chicago.

A. CMOS 16 covers this at section 2.109: “When it is a question of an intelligible but nonstandard word break for a line that would otherwise be too loose or too tight, the nonstandard break (such as the hyphenation of an already hyphenated term) may be preferred.” In other words, sometimes the ugliness of a double break is preferable to the ugliness of bad spacing.

Q. In your April Q&A, you answered a question about “woman pilot” vs. “female pilot.” I’m surprised that you didn’t address the unspoken aspect of the question: why mention gender at all? I’m guessing no one says “man pilot” or “male pilot,” just as people don’t say “white doctor,” but they do say “black doctor” as if gender and color are only worth noting if the people don’t belong to the dominant demographics. Does Chicago have any thoughts about that?

A. This is absolutely the right question to ask, but there are actually plenty of occasions when it makes sense to specify the gender of a pilot. {How many women pilots asked to join the association this year?} {Are male pilots paid more than women pilots?} {When did the first female pilot make that trip?}. CMOS 16 addresses this issue explicitly at 5.230:

When it is important to mention a characteristic because it will help the reader develop a picture of the person you are writing about, use care. For instance, in the sentence Shirley Chisholm was probably the finest African American woman member of the House of Representatives that New York has ever had, the phrase African American woman may imply to some readers that Chisholm was a great representative “for a woman” but may be surpassed by many or all men, that she stands out only among African American members of Congress, or that it is unusual for a woman or an African American to hold high office. But in Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress and one of New York’s all-time best representatives, the purpose of the phrase African American woman is not likely to be misunderstood.

Q. How does one handle a parenthetical phrase within dialogue? For example, is this correct? “Hi, Tiger (his father’s nickname for him). What are you doing?”

A. Parentheses in speech or dialogue are awkward, because we don’t know whose words they are. If you really need to set off text in this way, square brackets [ ] are the standard way to set off an editorial insertion. But in a case like this, try rewording to avoid the interpolation.

Q. In references to more than one century, is it correct to use century when expressing a range and centuries when expressing a block of time? Is it “from the late eighteenth to early twentieth century” but “during the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries”?

A. Exactly. Please see CMOS 16, section 9.33 (“Centuries”).

Q. Do I not have the hyphenation correct in phrases like “3-D printing” and “2-D projection”? I figure that they feature an abbreviation of the word dimensional being used as an attributive compound adjective, so they do call for hyphenation. I ask because one often encounters the abbreviations styled as 3D and 2D. Am I being overly fussy?

A. Yes! Fussy! Chicago style is 3-D (or three-dimensional), but other style guides and dictionaries are fine with 3D. See, for instance, American Heritage Dictionary, which lists 3D first.