Q. I am unclear on whether you always use brackets for ellipses that the author quoting the material has inserted. For example, in this quote, the quoting author has inserted ellipses. Would every instance of ellipses therefore be bracketed? “Make manifest the nature of the Moral-Mental-Physical Conflict; . . . discern a Pattern for Successful Operations; . . . help generalize Tactics and Strategy; . . . find a basis for Grand Strategy.”
A. It depends. In a work where all the ellipses mean that the writer has omitted a part of the original when quoting, readers will understand what’s going on and there’s no need for brackets. It gets tricky if the same document quotes from an original that has an ellipsis in it. That means there are two kinds of ellipses, and they need to be distinguished somehow. And that’s when brackets are used for the author’s own ellipses. (Sometimes it’s a good idea to explain this method to your readers.) An alternative is to skip the brackets and write “(ellipsis in original)” when needed.
Q. I’m a copyeditor, and I’m currently working on a company newsletter that highlights a new section of our internal style guide. I’m quoting two sentences of some existing material for an example, but I don’t want to include the entire second sentence. Right now, I have this: “For example: ‘Our new software makes managing information effortless. The software allows users to . . .’ ” Should there be a period at the end of that quote? Inside the quotation marks or outside? I’ve been staring at it for far too long and have come to no conclusion.
A. No period; just use the ellipsis. This is covered at CMOS 13.55 (“Ellipses at the Ends of Deliberately Incomplete Sentences”).
Q. I’m proofreading a math textbook that ends a sentence with “25 in.” followed by a superscript 2, denoting square inches. (Our math textbooks do not use “sq. in.”) There is a period after “in” and then another period after the superscript: 25 in.2. My gut says to eliminate the second period. What say you?
A. CMOS is silent on the issue of punctuation after a superscript following a period, and it doesn’t seem to be addressed in the science-related reference books at hand here, so assuming your house style is in. and in.2 (with the period), you could look at the situation in two different ways in order to choose your own style:
(1) You could see it as similar to when an abbreviation appears at the end of a parenthesis that ends a sentence, in which case a period appears both at the end of the abbreviation and at the end of the sentence:
Parenthesis style: The answer is doubled (25 in.2).
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2.
(2) Or you could see it as similar to when an abbreviation ends a quotation, in which case only one period appears at the end:
Quotation mark style: The answer is “25 in.2”
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2
A math professor we consulted on campus who is also the author of a geometry textbook had not run into this issue before, but she thought both suggestions were reasonable.
Q. I’m editing a transcript, and our department’s lead editor is giving me some trouble. We’re suffering over the word so. Under what circumstances can one put a comma after so? For example, in this transcript, a woman says: “So great answer.” Is so functioning conjunctively here, or can it be treated as an interjection? And what, if anything, does that mean for comma placement?
A. Is there a recording, or did someone actually hear the woman speak? To deduce the part of speech, you have to know the intonation and pacing. Was the speaker referring to a “so great answer” with no break between so and great? Or did she say “so, [pause] great answer!”? The first use is adverbial (so modifies great) and would not take a comma, whereas the second is a kind of conjunction (an introductory particle) after which a comma would be helpful in indicating a pause. An ellipsis or dash might be even better. But if you don’t have a recording, there’s no way to decide the punctuation, unless you can guess from the context.
Q. The most common paragraph in a scientific paper’s introduction is the last one: “The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section 1 will . . . ; section 2 will . . . ,” etc. Is it correct not to use a colon after follows, but rather a period? Using a period would allow us to change this long sentence into four or five sentences to cover all the remaining sections.
A. Although it’s not incorrect to use a period, a colon is conventionally used after “as follows.” Please see CMOS 6.64 (“Colons with ‘As Follows’ ”). Further, a colon may introduce a series of sentences instead of just one phrase or clause (6.63, “Lowercase or Capital Letter after a Colon”).
Q. My writer frequently writes a sentence with several points, each of which is denoted by a number inside parentheses. Sometimes these points are preceded by a comma or semicolon, and sometimes there is no punctuation to distinguish between each part other than the aforementioned (#)s. Which way is correct? Should these points be preceded by some punctuation, and if so, what kind?
A. Write the sentence with whatever punctuation would be appropriate if there were no inserted numbers. That is, (1) you should be able to remove the numbers, and (2) afterward, you should be left with a correct sentence.
Q. I can’t find anywhere in CMOS the correct procedure for punctuation at the end of rhetorical questions. A question mark seems out of place and an exclamation point, which CMOS does mention, seems gratuitous. Here are two such rhetorical questions from my forthcoming book:
The question for any owner or manager was, however, how much revenue are those live commercials bringing into the station.
The bigger question would be, could Crist and Johnson hold on to the station.
Will a period suffice for those?
A. CMOS 6.69 (“Direct and Indirect Questions”) is probably what you’re looking for. Your sentences do require question marks, but it might be better to reword them as statements with periods:
The question for any owner or manager was, however, how much revenue those live commercials are bringing into the station.
The bigger question would be whether Crist and Johnson could hold on to the station.
See CMOS 6.42 for related advice.
Q. Searching for a guideline for “is known as” turns up two possible punctuation choices for the term/terms that follow. Sometimes the term is enclosed within double quotes; sometimes it lacks any punctuation. How does one decide?
A. Both styles are commonly used. Quotation marks are especially appropriate when the term is a play on words (e.g., the intersection known as “Hollywood & Wine”) or when it might not otherwise be clear where the term begins (e.g., the insect known as the “pleasing fungus beetle”).
Q. After reading your rule about not putting two periods one after the other, I wonder about a parenthesis as serving to break up this rule. How would you punctuate the following?
Option 1: Contact all departments (Finance, Compliance, Information Management, etc.)
Option 2: Contact all departments (Finance, Compliance, Information Management, etc.).
Or is there a third option?
A. Option 2 is correct; two periods are definitely required in the case of an abbreviation within a parenthetical like this that closes a sentence. Two periods one after the other—never.
Q. Hi there! Which of the following is correct? (1) “Here you go, dear” or (2) “Here you go dear”? The way I see it, a comma should not precede dear because dear is an adjective and not an interjection. “Here you go dear” is not the same as “Here you go, sir [or Stan].”
A. Dear is actually a noun here, since it stands for a person’s name, and grammatically “Here you go, dear” is exactly the same as “Here you go, sir [or Stan].” In direct address, a comma prevents misreading. A popular example demonstrating this is “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat Grandma!”