Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. Greetings, Wise Ones—House style at our university press is to omit the period after contractions such as Dr or Mrs and omit periods in abbreviated names of countries, organizations, etc. Question: When faced with a careless author whose transcriptions of source material cannot be easily verified, do we let these inconsistencies in quoted material stand or impose house style and omit periods throughout? Does this fall under the umbrella of permissible silent changes?

A. Explain the issue and ask the writer to check the original quotations for accuracy. If this is impossible, an editor must be very careful in changing quotations. We would not recommend editing all quotations to conform to house style. If you were to impose an unusual style like removing all periods from quotations, discerning readers would immediately sense that the quotations had been tampered with. Rather, if the style in a given quotation is inconsistent in a minor way and can’t be checked, the prevailing style in that quote (not house style) could be followed in making a silent change or two to correct what are probably typos. If the inconsistencies are extensive or notable in any way, however, the use of sic or a comment on the issues might be more appropriate than silently correcting them.