Usage and Grammar

Q. One of my authors uses “as noted by” and “as is noted by” frequently. I assume they are the same. However, my copyeditor changes some of the “as is noted by” to “as noted by” but not all of them. Are there differences between the two phrases? I read the sentences over and over again, and I can’t see the difference in meaning before and after the change. If there is no difference in meaning, why change it?

Q. I have a friend who insists the use of the word “littler” is acceptable because it’s in the dictionary. I searched through CMOS but found no mention. What is your position on the use of this word?

Q. Editor’s update: Last month two questions arrived a few hours apart, from two different people, each asking whether the day of the month is capped when spelled out, and both used the second of January as the example. We hoped to learn whether the writers were acquainted and had written independently to settle a dispute, or whether the nearly identical queries were simply a romantic coincidence on the part of writers unknown to each other.

Q. Grammarians Strunk and White say in their book, The Elements of Style, that you shouldn’t start a sentence with “however” when you mean “nevertheless.” I think this classic advice is unreasonable in modern times. What’s your take?

Q. I edit documents in a corporate environment, and I have ongoing arguments with authors over the extensive use of and/or. I’m not convinced it should be used anywhere. What does CMOS think about it?

Q. If an author uses a rare word like “prevaricators” when “liars” would be more clear, should an editor change it? The author’s audience is college graduates, not necessarily English or journalism majors.

Q. My projects include a lot of descriptions of real property. The author, the reviewer, and I are butting heads about using “a rectangularly shaped parcel” instead of “a rectangular shaped parcel.” I say if they wouldn’t use “squarely shaped parcel”—which they don’t—they should stick with “rectangular shaped.” And now that I’m typing this, I’m thinking “rectangle shaped parcel” may be even better.

Q. I am editing a short story about Rosa Parks. Should “blacks” be used instead of “African Americans”? My Australian colleague seems to think that “blacks” is more socially accepted, but I totally disagree.

Q. Can you advise what part of speech is “cowering” in the following sentence: “They discovered that she was no cowering little simpleton”? Is it possibly an adjective?

Q. In a school application would it be correct to say “At UPenn, I will participate in XYZ club” or “At UPenn, I would participate in XYZ club”? For an applicant who doesn’t yet know whether he will be admitted, the latter seems correct. Please advise. Thanks.