New Questions and Answers
Q. What is Chicago’s view on “all of the sudden”?
A. CMOS is silent on the issue, but “all of the sudden” is not idiomatic and normally would be edited to “all of a sudden.” You can compare the frequency and longevity of these two expressions in published books at Ngram Viewer. You aren’t the only one to have noticed the new popularity of “all of the sudden,” by the way. You can read one discussion of the phenomenon here.
Q. Sometimes, in spiritual circles, people like to capitalize words like Love or Truth or Divine. For example, “that which is ultimately beyond the mind itself, but is what I call the Divine” or “this deep Love that resides within you at this moment.” My feeling is that capitalizing these “concept” words gives them an air of importance and sacredness, and they are quite often written with this intention. But they really aren’t proper nouns. Are there any guidelines for using such capitalizations? And even more important, what about using both capital and lowercase throughout a book-length manuscript with some policy of consistency?
A. We like consistency, but the problem is that even in a book with spiritual content, not every use of Truth or Love will merit caps: sometimes the terms will have a generic meaning. Writers and editors of such content must work mindfully when they uppercase and lowercase so as not to confuse readers. There will naturally be gray areas where either styling would do. In many documents, the safe choice (and Chicago style) is to simply lowercase everywhere, since uppercasing everywhere would almost certainly lead to inappropriate capping in some cases.
Q. Is it correct to say $3–5 million? Or should it be $3 to $5 million? Or $3 million to $5 million?
A. These are all acceptable ways to express the same thing. With regard to the $ symbol with inclusive numbers, in Chicago style an abbreviation or symbol is repeated if it is closed up to a number but not if it is separated by a space: $3–$5 million, but 2 × 5 in. (See CMOS 9.17.)
Q. My colleagues and I are debating a grammar issue. We read the grammar rules, but we are still unclear. Here is the sentence: “Your employees are the business’s most valuable assets.” Business is singular but it could be interpreted as plural. Which of the following is correct?
Your employees are the business’ most valuable assets.
Your employees are the business’s most valuable assets.
A. “The business’s most valuable assets” is correct because business is singular. (Businesses is the plural of business.) Actually, your other sentence is also technically correct (“Your employees are the business’ most valuable assets”), because in a practice that Chicago does not recommend, singular words that end in s are sometimes made possessive by adding only an apostrophe, without another s: James’ hat. (Please see CMOS 7.21.) CMOS recommends adding the s: your business’s assets, James’s hat.
Q. Does the following sentence require a comma after says? The person who says “I no longer get anything out of reading” has stopped running up against questions to think about as he or she reads.
A. Commas commonly appear before quotation marks—for instance, there is a strong convention of using a comma after expressions like “He said” or “She asked.” There may be a widespread belief that the comma is required before a quotation, although there isn’t necessarily a grammatical reason for one. If a quotation is short or if a comma would interrupt needlessly, you probably don’t need one. In your sentence, the quoted material is a direct object within a dependent clause; a comma would do little to help clarify that.
Q. Hi CMOS—I have a question about sentences using either/neither. For example, “They neither discussed the case nor the suspect.” This sounds fine and a reader will understand what is meant. But almost always, people tend to apply strict grammar and transpose the verb: “They discussed neither the case nor the suspect.” Is this really necessary? I mean, I don’t see any room for confusion in the original sentence. Thanks!
A. I agree that it’s a fine point and that the first sentence can pass the reading test. However, in sentences more complex than yours, the incorrect placement of neither can cause ambiguity:
The police neither caught the suspect after he robbed the bank nor the little old lady bystander packing a stun gun.
Does that mean that neither the police nor the old lady caught the suspect, or that the police caught neither the suspect nor the old lady? For clarity, we recommend using proper parallel structure, especially in formal writing.
Q. Sentence: Only 1 in 66 households [has/have] received this letter. Is it has or have? I presume that because 1 in 66 is the lowest common denominator of a larger group it should be have.
A. If literally only one household received the letter, using the singular has would be the intuitive (and correct) choice. But normally this construction expresses a ratio with a plural numerator, as you suggest, so that “1 in 66” might actually stand for, e.g., “200 out of 13,200.” Perversely, the singular verb is still recommended by many, perhaps because the word one is the subject regardless of its implied meaning in such expressions.
Q. Is it okay to use a quotation as a chapter title without enclosing the title in quotation marks or otherwise distinguishing it from other chapter titles that are not quotations? If so, must the quotation be explained, that is, associated with a source, in the text?
A. A quotation that has reached the status of cliché may go without quotation marks or attribution in a title: To Be or Not to Be; Practice Makes Perfect. Other quotations should be quoted. Although it’s standard practice not to attach source notes to display type like book or chapter titles, whenever readers would benefit from knowing the source of a quotation, the writer should explain either in the text or in a note.
Q. While copyediting a scholarly manuscript, I’m having trouble with the author’s very frequent use of key terms (which he puts in quotation marks and I then change to italics). I know the rule is to put the word in roman after first mention. The MS is nearly 500 pages, and I’m wondering if there are instances in which I should reintroduce the key term—that is, put it back in italic—if it has been quite a number of pages since its last mention. Also, in a similar vein: Some of the terms, if not italicized, don’t fit semantically into the sentence. So, should I put them in italic even after first mention (and despite the amount of space since last mention) if it will help clarify meaning for the reader? I have only a few weeks left to finish this book, and I’m agonizing over how long it’s going to take me to go back and fix places in which I might’ve been remiss.
A. There is no rule that a term must be put in roman every time after its first occurrence. And even if there were, it is wrong to enforce any rule when the result is confusing for the reader. Although it’s a good idea to put key terms in roman after the first occurrence because repeated italics can become annoying, italics should be used whenever they are helpful. Please read CMOS 7.54 and 7.58 for more guidance.
Q. If a phrase is possessive in the first instance it is used, is the abbreviation possessive as well? For example, should it be “Student Psychological Help Line’s (SPHL) 24/7 assistance center” or “Student Psychological Help Line’s (SPHL’s) 24/7 assistance center”? I know that you answered this question already. However, your answer was to avoid that type of phrase. In my case, I work for a company in which the possessive phrase, which gets abbreviated, is part of a larger phrase. (The above example is real.) Hence, I need to know what to do if you absolutely have to use this sort of wording.
A. If you can’t avoid it, you get to choose. You have the power! Use it well.
Q. The author of a journal article argues that the terms listed below should be capitalized because they are “descriptive units.” The terms are descriptive of the patterns seen on Native American rock art. However, they are not considered to be types of rock art and are capitalized unpredictably in published works. Should these terms be capitalized or not? Cross, Split Shield, Midpoint Band, Patterned Lines, Perching Crow, Teeth, Eyes, Face.
A. Capping is probably a good idea. Since many of the terms consist of common words, caps will aid comprehension of them as names of patterns and prevent the reader from taking the words in their common meaning. And if the manuscript was prepared with caps for all these names, retaining them will save work and lessen the possibility that you will miss a few and end up with inconsistency.
Q. Good day! I want to inquire about your rule in 6.114 about “smart” apostrophes at the beginning of a word. How come the apostrophe is the same character as the right single quotation mark? What is the implication of an incorrect (character for) apostrophe? Thank you very much.
A. Good day to you! The implication of the incorrect apostrophe symbol is that somebody goofed. The implication of the correct symbol at the beginning of a word is that one or more letters have been omitted: ’tis. An apostrophe is identical in appearance to a right single quotation mark (Unicode U+2019). Please refer to the Unicode.org Code Chart for General Punctuation, which tells us that U+2019 is “the preferred character to use for apostrophe.” A common error in typing an apostrophe is to type a left single quotation mark (or not to notice when Microsoft Word does it for you!).
Q. My question concerns line spacing in footnotes and endnotes in student papers. The CMS is clear that manuscripts submitted for publication should be double-spaced throughout to allow for copyediting, but I can’t see any specific instructions about how to space notes in papers submitted for coursework. Searching has revealed some academic quick guides (based on Chicago) that say to “single-space footnotes and bibliographies, leaving a blank line between entries,” which is the format that I believe to be correct. Is it?
A. Sort of. It’s important to understand that in matters like this the “correct” style is the one required by your teacher or thesis committee or by whatever style guide you have chosen to follow. That said, the quick guides you found are probably following Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, which is a standard student reference. (Turabian is based on Chicago style. CMOS is aimed more at scholars who are preparing journal articles and book manuscripts for publication.) Turabian is available in all large bookstores and many school libraries.
Q. What is “flush-and-hang style”?
A. The normal style for paragraphs indents the first line only. Flush-and-hang style does not indent the first line (and thus the line remains “flush left”), but it does indent all the rest of the lines (“hanging” them). This style is often used for numbered or bulleted lists. You can find more information about flush-and-hang style by looking in the index at the CMOS Online site under F. Or type “flush hang” into the Search box.
Q. I recommended to an author that he should use the word similar (no ly) when it comes before the word to (similar to, rather than similarly to), and should use the word similarly (with an ly) when followed by a comma. I cannot find a rule to cite. Am I correct? Thanks for your help.
Example 1: Similar to the credit crisis in the 1980s . . .
Example 2: Similarly, the recent financial crisis . . .
A. While your examples are correct, oversimplifications like this can go terribly wrong when applied universally or mechanically. Actual usage depends on syntax and context. Similar may be followed by a comma, and similarly to may be perfectly grammatical. For example:
The train runs clockwise, similarly to a clock.
Similar, but not the same, are trains that run counterclockwise.
In fact, no rule is needed, because the uses of the adjective similar and the adverb similarly are dictated by their definitions and parts of speech. When editing, if you need to change one and you feel that an explanation is needed, you can simply say “Adverb needed here” or “Syntax requires adjective.”
Q. Apologies if this is answered somewhere in the Manual; I don’t see it in the section under Place of Publication. My question: when the place of publication no longer exists, because the city has been renamed or has been absorbed into a larger municipality, how should we cite the place of publication? (Similarly, for books that indicate an alternate English version of the city name, should we use the city name as given, or the more modern/contemporary spelling—e.g., Peking vs. Beijing, Canton vs. Guangzhou, Bombay vs. Mumbai)?
A. CMOS recommends citing the city where the work was published (14.135); you can usually find it on the title page or copyright page. You are documenting a historical fact of publication; the subsequent history of that city or variations of its name are irrelevant. Of course, it’s always an option to annotate a citation with information you think readers need or would appreciate. Please see CMOS figure 14.10 for an annotation to a bibliography entry.
Q. What is the correct way to write an endnote where the author has used a quote from a letter that appears in a volume of letters by someone else, and it appears as one of the book’s appendixes? The book is Delius: A Life in Letters, 1862–1908. The editor is Lionel Carley. The letter quoted by the author of the essay I’m editing is from Jelka Delius, Frederick’s wife. I’ve looked in chapter 14 of CMOS, but can’t find anything that quite matches this. The author has put this:
“Jelka Delius: Memories of Frederick Delius,” appendix 7 in Lionel Carley, ed., Delius: A Life in Letters, 1862–1908, vol. 1 (London: Scolar Press, 1983), 408–15.
Is this correct? Should it be
Jelka Delius, “Memories of Frederick Delius,” in . . . ?
I hope I don’t get scolded for submitting a silly query.
A. Your query is certainly not silly! A complex citation calls for thoughtful formatting. The author’s version indicates that the book has an appendix titled “Jelka Delius: Memories of Frederick Delius.” Your version would suggest something different: that the book has an appendix titled “Memories of Frederick Delius” that was written by Jelka Delius. Unless you have the book in front of you to confirm that you are right, you should leave this as the author wrote it.
There is danger in forcing citations into a set style regardless of their meaning. The goals are rather to convey the sources accurately and to tidy the punctuation and styling as much as you can without doing any damage. In Chicago style, your citation would look like this:
“Jelka Delius: Memories of Frederick Delius,” appendix 7 in Frederick Delius, Delius: A Life in Letters, 1862–1908, ed. Lionel Carley (London: Scolar Press, 1983), 1:408–15.
Q. Each of Texas’s 254 counties has a county judge, and the Honorable Sam Biscoe is the county judge of Travis County. The question we need your help with is whether Chicago approves of referring to him in formal writing as “Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe.” One editor objects to “county” being forced to serve double duty, but “Travis County County Judge Sam Biscoe” doesn’t seem like a good solution. Thank you for your sage guidance!
A. One county is probably enough to be understood in most contexts: Travis county judge Sam Biscoe. Add the second county when it’s important to be precise about the title: Travis County county judge Sam Biscoe. (See CMOS 8.20 on the lowercasing of job titles in apposition.) Of course, this could get out of hand if you aren’t careful: if there were a person in charge of appointing the county judges, that person could be called the Travis County county judge judge. And if that person happened to be named Travis Judge, he might be referred to as Travis County county judge judge Travis Judge.