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Q. CMOS recommends spelling out terms on first mention in each chapter. I’m considering spelling out my commission’s name on first mention in each section and subsection. Do you think that’s overkill? I’m thinking about spelling it out in sections that stand out, such as text boxes or highlighted bullets, because I think the reader would be better served to see the whole name in such isolated cases. We have about a hundred mentions of this long name, so I do want to abbreviate as much as possible.
A. You are smart to consider whether this might be overkill. The Chicago guideline is to spell out a name at the first mention in each chapter because most scholarly books have long chapters, and such a name might appear only once or twice in a book, with a lot of pages in between. Readers will appreciate being reminded. However, if your sections are short, the long name appears a hundred times, and you demand that the name appear in full at every first mention—even if it was spelled out in the section just before—I doubt that readers will find it helpful. In fact, they might wonder if the writer thinks they’re witless. The idea is to provide the full name whenever you think readers need a reminder. If you think some readers will skim through just looking at bullet points and text boxes, spell it out there as well, if there is room.