Q. Is it safe to assume that the Chicago Manual of Style itself is written in Chicago style? Sometimes I can’t find a specific answer, but the word or phrase itself is actually used somewhere therein.
A. Yes, you can assume that the Manual is written in Chicago style. Be aware, however, that the figures may depart from Chicago style in some details, since they are taken from actual manuscripts and published books or journals. Often during editing, a given detail of house style may be tweaked or even ignored to honor common practice in that writer’s discipline. For that reason, each figure should be regarded as an illustration of the point being made in that section, rather than as exemplifying Chicago style in every detail.
Q. Some authors use italics for unspoken thoughts. What is appropriate when the thought contains the name of a book (which is also italicized)? For example: I wonder where I can get hold of a copy of Julius Caesar. Do I italicize “Julius Caesar,” or do I toggle and make “Julius Caesar” roman type?
A. You can put “Julius Caesar” in roman type (reverse italics) or in quotation marks. This is one reason why putting thoughts into italics is awkward, however. Chicago recommends either no treatment or quotation marks for unspoken discourse. Please see CMOS 13.43.
Q. I have noticed that many newly published books have no indentation for the first paragraph of chapters or sections of chapters. Is this now the accepted form or is this something some publishing companies use in their style forms?
A. It doesn’t seem to be new (in my 1965 Fowler’s Modern English Usage, for instance, all the first paragraphs begin flush left), and yes, it’s an accepted format. Often the indentation of opening paragraphs is decided by the book’s designer.
Q. I have a moral dilemma. I’m a contract editor for a consulting company whose client is a federal agency. Recently I recast the phrase “on which it depends” to “which it depends on.” An agency reviewer reversed my edit and commented “horrible grammar!” I want to keep my client and their client happy, but I also don’t want to compromise good editing principles. I quoted CMOS 5.180 to my client but got no response. How far should a diligent editor pursue an issue such as this?
A. Put your mind at rest. As an editor, you’ve done your job; the client gets the last word in matters that are negotiable. (After all, the original is not incorrect.) Second, even though the client didn’t reply, it’s likely that the strong wording of paragraph 5.180 had some effect. (“The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is an unnecessary and pedantic restriction. . . . Today many grammarians use the dismissive term pied-piping for this phenomenon.”) The next time the issue arises, your clued-in client might not object to being edited.
Q. We are writing an invitation for a New Year’s Eve party which will take place on December 31, 2015. Would it be referred to as New Year’s Eve 2016 or New Year’s Eve 2015? I’ve seen it both ways but can’t seem to find an authoritative answer. Thanks!
A. Since New Year’s Eve is December 31, there should be no doubt which year it is in. However, your own confusion suggests that it is not a good idea to write “New Year’s Eve [year].” If you’re afraid your guests will show up a year late, clarify by adding month, day, and year to your invitation.
Q. Where can I find the guidelines for punctuation and capitalization in a sentence with numbered parts? Take the following for instance: There were two main viewpoints presented: 1) All people lie, and 2) Only certain people lie.
A. You can find this at CMOS 6.129. Here’s your example in Chicago style: There were two main viewpoints presented: (1) all people lie, and (2) only certain people lie.
Q. How to get better at shooting in lacrosse?
A. Spend more time practicing and less time annoying grown-ups online.
Q. I work at a major children’s book publisher and have recently noticed a trend in creating books without any blanks at the end of the book. I would like to know if there is a rule on how many back-of-book blank pages are permissible in standard works of fiction (young-adult and middle-grade novels). At various adult publishers, I was taught that up to six pages is acceptable and that having at least a couple of blanks is actually preferable in order to allow for potential changes and additions during pass stages. But I can’t seem to find anything online or in CMS to support that. Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this.
A. In conventional offset printing, large sheets of paper are folded into “signatures” of usually 16 or 32 pages (sometimes 8, or even 48) that are bound together and trimmed to make a book. For this reason, books have a page count that is a multiple of at least 8, and usually 16. Children’s picture books have long been paged at 24, 32, 48, or 64 pages. Middle-grade books page out at larger multiples. Having blank pages in a book isn’t a goal; it is simply unavoidable if the text and illustrations can’t fill all the available space. And since it’s expensive to tear out extra pages by hand, publishers turn a blind eye to the blanks. Digital printing doesn’t involve these large sheets of paper, so if you are seeing a lot of self-published or print-on-demand books, they probably won’t have any leftover pages.
Q. Is there a preferred way to refer in text to a specific column or row in a table? I tend to reuse the text in the column heading or stub entry rather than a number, just because I think it’s clearer that way. For example, “See ‘Countries’ column” rather than “See column 4.” Is that wrong?
A. Not at all. Some tables have numbered rows and columns, in which case “See column 4” is a perfect way to refer to the column. But a reference to a column number when the column heading is a word or phrase would not always be clear (e.g., which is column 1: the table stub or the first column after the stub?), and in a table with many columns, the reader would be forced to count the columns to find the data.
Q. In CMOS 16.10 it says that “an entry that requires more than five or six locators (page or paragraph numbers) is usually broken up into subentries to spare readers unnecessary excursions.” (1) Does that mean five or does it mean six? I use your style manual in order not to make such decisions myself. (2) Do you have a similar criterion for the number of subentries that should be broken down into subsubs?
A. (1) For the general reader, “five or six” means “anytime you feel that the number of undifferentiated locators is becoming unhelpful.” For you, it means “five.”
(2) Yes; see answer (1).