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Q. Greetings! I edit a lot of romance novels, which generally have a light, informal tone, but the publisher I work with likes to stick to strict Chicago style unless an author objects. I often struggle with constructions like this one, which I found in the Chicago forum: “My wife’s, Deb’s, father passed away on Sunday.” I would write/edit that as “My wife Deb’s father passed away on Sunday,” although the publisher would likely object because strict Chicago style says to put commas around “wife.” But I think that would sound awful. I would appreciate if you could weigh in on this. Thanks!
A. First, direct your publisher to CMOS 6.28, which says that Chicago doesn’t allow a construction like “My wife’s, Deb’s, father.” Then, point them to our recent (December 2020) analysis of the subject at CMOS Shop Talk: “Your Dog[,] Smurf: Understanding Commas with Appositives.” According to that post, so-called spousal commas can be omitted wherever they seem awkward or unnecessary. In sum, if your inclination is to write “My wife Deb’s father,” you have Chicago’s blessing.