Usage and Grammar

Q. I am editing a brief in which the author has used “and/or” multiple times. I know that this term should be avoided, but I’m not exactly sure why. Is it because it’s confusing and ambiguous? What is The Chicago Manual of Style’s stance?

Q. Would you use “less” or “fewer” with “CO₂ emissions”? To me, “emissions” seems like a measurable, uncountable substance, so I would say “less.” However, a quick search on Google Ngrams shows “fewer emissions” is more common. Which is correct? Or should it be “lower” instead? And if so, why?

Q. Hello. Is it appropriate to use ’s for “is”? For example: John’s running every day.

Q. Does “plus” function like “and” in making two nouns a plural subject? For example, would you say, “This idea plus others like it are gaining traction” or “is gaining traction”?

Q. Hi. My question has to do with whether a new entry in the 17th edition was accidental or deliberate. Paragraph 8.185 includes this sentence: “ ‘Aladdin’ is arguably the most well-known tale in A Thousand and One Nights.” I’m curious to know if this sentence simply slipped through or if Chicago defends the use of “most well-known”? I ask because Philip Corbett, standards editor for the New York Times, ran a blog called After Deadline as a teaching tool to point out grammatical and stylistic missteps that made it to print. He often called out writers for using “most well-known” in place of “best-known”: “The superlative form of the adverb ‘well’ is ‘best.’ So there’s no reason to describe something as ‘the most well-known’—make it ‘the best-known’ ” (After Deadline, August 4, 2008).

Q. The emigrate/immigrate distinction has been the subject of differing opinions in our office. Each time a case arises, we consult CMOS 5.250 and come up with different interpretations. Editing the following sentence, for example, we changed “immigrate” to “emigrate”: Justice Abella was born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, and with her family immigrated to Canada in 1950. Several of us argue that it’s “immigrate” because she’s going to Canada; others say “emigrate” because she’s leaving a past home. Please let us know which is correct.

Q. Doesn’t “The US is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter after China” make it sound like the US is actually the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter? I see these formulations, which include [number] plus [superlative] and a direct comparison, often, and they seem confusing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “The US is the largest carbon dioxide emitter after China” or “The US is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter; China is the largest”?

Q. I’m troubled by this sentence: “She combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and was putting on her lipstick when the phone rang.” I think it should be reworded since the list does not have parallel construction. My friend disagrees. Is it correct as is, or is there a simple fix?

Q. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between a predicate adjective and a past-tense verb being used in a passive-voice construction. For example, in “this dish was leftover,” is “leftover” an adjective, or should it be “was left over,” with “left” being a verb and “over” being an adverb?

Q. In the following sentence, “Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for forty days before landing,” is the word “landing” a verb form, or a verbal (gerund)? Why?