New Questions and Answers

Q. Dear Chicago experts, do we italicize a ship’s name in quoted dialogue? My client says it should be italicized generally, but not in dialogue.

A. Although CMOS is silent on this issue, it makes sense to use italics within dialogue in the same way you use them in the rest of the text. Italics for titles prevents the words from being mistaken as part of the main syntax; styling them the same way in both text and dialogue will prevent confusion.

Q. Help! Can you please tell me which is correct: “if one or more component is ineffective,” “if one or more components is ineffective,” or “if one or more components are ineffective.” The document I’m reviewing uses all three constructions, and I haven’t been able to find any solid guidance on which is correct.

A. Go with the last one. The adjective nearest the noun normally signals the number of the noun (e.g., “one or two components”; “one or more components”), so the plural components is the noun you want. And a plural subject requires a plural verb (are). Please see CMOS 17, section 5.138 (“Agreement in Person and Number”).

Q. What size font do footnotes need to be if the text is 12 pt. in an essay?

A. For student papers, Chicago style is covered in detail in Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th ed.). Turabian advises, “In general, use at least ten-point and preferably twelve-point type for the body of the text. [Note that 10 pt. Arial and 12 pt. Times New Roman are roughly the same size and are good candidates.] Footnotes or endnotes, headings, and other elements might require other type sizes; check your local guidelines.” Turabian contains several illustrations of student papers and their formatting.

Q. Hello CMS. A quick one, please. Can a book have two dedication pages? One for “To someone” and one for “For someone.”

A. In a book with more than one author it could make sense to have two separate dedication pages, but for a book by a single writer it seems awkward—especially if they are on consecutive recto pages, which might look as though a page from someone else’s book accidentally ended up in yours. Alternatives include putting the dedications on the same page, on facing pages, or back to back. A good graphic designer should be able to suggest an ideal solution.

Q. I’m having an argument with my English teachers over what I think is a grammatical mistake in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet. The sentence in question is: “The Daily News observed that there was no doubt as to the crime being a political one.” Since I’m fairly certain “being a political one” is a gerund and not a participial phrase, I think that crime should be changed to crime’s, but multiple English teachers have told me I am incorrect (yet the arguments they presented do not make sense to me whatsoever). Is the sentence correct as is, or did Doyle make a grammatical mistake?

A. We are in awe of your perseverance, not merely in investigating this controversial construction, but in doubting the advice of multiple English teachers. But when such a noun (crime) follows a preposition (as to), the possessive with a gerund is optional. Please see CMOS 17, 5.114 (on “fused participles”) as well as the last part of 7.28, for examples.

Q. I’m proofreading a math textbook that ends a sentence with “25 in.” followed by a superscript 2, denoting square inches. (Our math textbooks do not use “sq. in.”) There is a period after “in” and then another period after the superscript: 25 in.2. My gut says to eliminate the second period. What say you?

A. CMOS is silent on the issue of punctuation after a superscript following a period, and it doesn’t seem to be addressed in the science-related reference books at hand here, so assuming your house style is in. and in.2 (with the period), you could look at the situation in two different ways in order to choose your own style:

(1) You could see it as similar to when an abbreviation appears at the end of a parenthesis that ends a sentence, in which case a period appears both at the end of the abbreviation and at the end of the sentence:

Parenthesis style: The answer is doubled (25 in.2).
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2.

(2) Or you could see it as similar to when an abbreviation ends a quotation, in which case only one period appears at the end:

Quotation mark style: The answer is “25 in.2
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2

A math professor we consulted on campus who is also the author of a geometry textbook had not run into this issue before, but she thought both suggestions were reasonable.

Q. I’m working on an edited collection that includes many articles originally published in online sources. These articles often include live links that serve as citations, leading readers to a specific article or resource under discussion. In a traditional print publication, these items would almost certainly be cited in endnotes that we would then include in our volume. Following this logic, it seems that we should incorporate the citations in our print-only volume. Do you have any recommendations on how best to handle them? By creating an endnote structure not native to the original publication? Or through author-date citations, which would likely be even more disruptive but are appropriate for our book’s formatting?

A. It’s important to include the writers’ sources in your collection, and any of your suggestions would work. Book editors usually decide how to handle source citations based on the type of book, expectations and tolerances of the intended reader, production costs (e.g., page count), etc. It is not necessary to follow the endnote structure in the original publication, but be sure to include a note explaining your method.

Q. I am wondering about line spacing for block quotes and lines of dialogue. If the rest of my article is double-spaced, should my block quotes be single-spaced (so they are more legible as someone else’s words)? I have seen block quotes indented and single-spaced in journals, but I am not sure if that is a CMOS guideline.

A. In a typed manuscript, prose extracts should be indented and have the same line spacing as the surrounding text (see CMOS 17, 2.82.19); they do not need to appear in a smaller font. When the extracts are printed in a book or journal, they will be styled according to that publication’s design template, which almost certainly will be single-spaced and possibly in a smaller text size.

Q. Hello, Chicago. I am slightly confused about what the difference between “compare with” and “compare to” is. Paragraph 5.195 seems to suggest that it’s a matter of whether one is making a “literal comparison” or a “poetic or metaphorical comparison,” whereas 5.250 says it’s a matter of whether one is identifying “both similarities and differences” or “primarily similarities.” What’s the rundown?

A. The two paragraphs of CMOS use different ways to describe the same thing. Strictly speaking, to “compare with” is to investigate the similarities and differences between things, such as when you make an actual (literal) comparison between wine and apples, perhaps noting that they both are fruity (similarities), but that one is liquid and one solid (differences). To “compare to” is to note that one thing is like another, but not necessarily literally. Saying that the flavor of a wine is like apples or someone’s cheeks are like roses (similarities) involves more metaphorical or poetic comparisons. Of course, actual usage of those prepositions does not always distinguish so finely.

Q. When writing a novel, if you label someone in a quote (e.g.) “You Mad Little Bugger,” is it capitalized?

A. Oh my goodness no. That would look as though the speaker were giving the person an award or an official title. Stick with lowercase.

January Q&A

Q. I read in one of the questions on the website that it is acceptable to begin a sentence with an acronym. If the acronym is not a common one, NASA for example, wouldn’t it be appropriate to instead begin the sentence with the word The and then the acronym? I am having a difficult time with beginning a sentence with acronyms.

A. The use of the definite article with an acronym isn’t determined by the acronym’s position in a sentence but by the acronym’s part of speech. In general, omit the article unless the acronym is used as a singular adjective: 

NASA was in charge of their training. 
Training was held at NASA. 
The NASA facility was impressive. 
They met at the NASA facility.

Q. Forgive me for what might be an obvious and maybe annoying question, but what do you recommend when your advice seems to differ from M-W Collegiate when it comes to hyphenation of prefixes?

A. Here at CMOS we follow our own hyphenation advice. That’s more or less the point of coming up with it. Merriam-Webster’s is the backup dictionary we use when CMOS doesn’t state a specific style.

Q. When you start a sentence with so should it be followed by a comma? Example: So, let’s write one.

A. Because so serves different purposes, it’s not wise to make a rule that there should always or never be a comma after it. Try to hear the meaning in your sentence. If there’s a pause, consider using a comma while keeping in mind that other punctuation—or no punctuation—might make the meaning more clear than a comma.

So . . . let’s write one.
So! Let’s write one.
So—let’s write one.
So, let’s write one.
So let’s write one.
etc.

Q. This may sound existential, but is the appropriate word be or is in the following sentence: In the end, it is actual life, whether it be easy or difficult.

A. Both are correct; is is indicative; be is subjunctive. You can read about the subjunctive at CMOS 17, 5.123–27.

Q. Please let me know your thoughts on using compete as follows: “The grants are competed annually.” I’m inclined to rewrite the sentence.

A. That looks like jargon. Since you aren’t sure, don’t rewrite without querying the writer. If the document you’re editing is written for a group that uses the word that way, you should leave it.

Q. Do YouTube video blogs that are made by everyday people (i.e., not mainstream corporate companies) need to be cited in the bibliography? Or do they just need a note? If so, what is the style format?

A. Privately made videos are just as much copyrighted as those made by corporations, so provide a complete citation in the note. You can find citation formats for website content at the Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide. Putting a video into your bibliography is optional. Consider how important it is in your paper and decide accordingly.

Q. Is it appropriate to delete man or woman from chair when presenting someone’s official job title? For example, would you recommend saying “Joe Schmo, chair of company A” even if that person’s title is listed as chairman on the company’s website?

A. The term chair is useful when gender-neutral language is needed, but if the chairman himself (or his organization) chose the title chairman, it would be overstepping to change it.

Q. I’m editing a book manuscript that requires emphasis on the first letter of specific words throughout. It’s about a self-assessment system based on two acronyms. Assume one of them is ACRONYM, and the words are Ack Crud Retch Omigod No Yikes Mortified. The author treats the words two different ways, neither of which is particularly readable:

  1. Capped, in quotation marks: Take your allotment of “A”ck, align it with your “C”rud, evaluate your “R”etch.
  2. Capped, with the remainder of the word in parentheses: Is your O(migod) serving your N(o) in this enterprise? Will you have enough Y(ikes) to keep you M(ortified)?

Clearly, neither of these is acceptable. How can I make this manuscript readable? I know she will insist on keeping the initial caps, even in the middle of sentences, because the acronym is trademarked. But after I strip out the quotation marks and/or parentheses from these words, how do I make it clear the initial caps aren’t typos? Boldface? Italics?

A. Oh dear. Bolding the initial letter is probably best (if by best we mean “least crappy”).

Q. Consistent with CMOS 2.10, our office does not use full justification for typed materials. Some of my colleagues go a step further to avoid hyphenation across lines, which they believe is distracting to the reader, and use only nonbreaking hyphens. I can’t find any support for this in CMOS (or elsewhere). It seems to me that it could cause the “exceedingly uneven lines” that CMOS 7.47 speaks of (for example, in the event of a several-words-long phrasal adjective). So please settle our debate: should we ordinarily use nonbreaking hyphens, or is it just fine for hyphenated terms to break across ragged-margin lines?

A. CMOS 2.13 (17th ed.) reveals all! “Do not worry if such a hyphen happens to fall at the end of a line or if the right-hand margin is extremely ragged.”

Q. Has Chicago completely eliminated the use of ibid., when quoting more than once from the same source?

A. Not at all. Although Chicago now prefers the use of a short citation, CMOS still covers the use of ibid. at CMOS 17, 14.34, and the new policy is explained in this post at the CMOS Shop Talk blog.

Q. I have read that if you’re using illustrations or figures you should put them in the text as close to where they are mentioned as possible. Also I was wondering how to cite the images. I just want to clarify this for my art history term paper.

A. Yes, it’s a good idea to put the images near where you discuss them—it’s a convenience to the reader. You can find advice on citing images in our blog post “How Do I Cite an Image,” along with a lot of other advice on writing student papers.

Q. I’m editing a novel in which a character stutters on the first word of a sentence. Are both instances capitalized (e.g., “M-My name is” or “M-my name is”)? And do I use a hyphen or an em dash?

A. CMOS is silent on how to write a stutter, but Chicago style tends to favor lowercasing when there’s a choice. Neither style is likely to cause a problem for readers. A hyphen is normally used between letters; an em dash would work if whole words are repeated.

Q. What is the name of the typeface that is used on your website?

A. It’s called Lyon. You can read about it in the colophon of CMOS Online or in the print edition.

Q. In the early 1930s, my grandmother won a citywide crossword puzzle contest in New York City, earning the $1,000 prize at a time when money was tight. The winning word was qobar, a word that no longer appears in even unabridged dictionaries. Once a word is a word, isn’t it always a word?

A. Yes. But so far, there has never been a dictionary that listed all the words. There are too many words! One of the standards that lexicographers use when deciding which words to delete to make way for new ones is whether a word is actually used very often in a meaningful way. At least one online dictionary, Wordnik, has a goal of listing all the words available. Qobar isn’t listed there yet—maybe you should send it!