Usage and Grammar

Q. This may sound existential, but is the appropriate word be or is in the following sentence: In the end, it is actual life, whether it be easy or difficult.

Q. Please let me know your thoughts on using compete as follows: “The grants are competed annually.” I’m inclined to rewrite the sentence.

Q. Is it appropriate to delete man or woman from chair when presenting someone’s official job title? For example, would you recommend saying “Joe Schmo, chair of company A” even if that person’s title is listed as chairman on the company’s website?

Q. How do you feel about lastly, as in, “Lastly, a study of cancer patients . . .”?

Q. I’m unable to find in CMOS, 17th ed., whether the following sentence is acceptable or needs to be rewritten, as it has both a past and future time but only a future verb: Three main planets have, or soon will, change to new signs.

Q. I just read this line in an AP news article: “Spanish stocks sunk as the country grappled with its most serious national crisis in decades.” Then I looked up sunk in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary to find that they define the word as both the past tense and past participle of sink! Please tell me CMOS is not adopting this form of language erosion. I contend that sank is the past tense of sink in the same way that shrank is the past tense of shrink. It seems that understanding of past participles versus past tense is quickly vanishing.

Q. CMOS Editors, which way does Chicago lean—singular or plural verb in “One in ten people is/are affected”?

Q. Is there a general rule on how to interpret a sentence like “The box must be A and B or C”? Does it mean the box must be A, and also either B or C? Or does it mean the box must be either both A and B, or just C?

Q. Is it acceptable to use the “from . . . to” and the “between . . . and” constructions interchangeably when referring to inclusive numbers and years? For example, “from 1900 to 1910” and “between 1900 and 1910” mean two different things to me. The first one is inclusive of the years 1900 and 1910, while the second one is not inclusive, literally meaning “from 1901 to 1909.” Others disagree with me on this.

Q. I am a copy editor for an academic press, and I have noticed that many authors elide the “also” in the correlative conjunction “not only / but also” (regardless of whether the following clause is dependent or independent). Example: “These publications formed a body of not only opinion but aspiration.” This seems incorrect to me, but I have been advised not to correct it in page proofs. What is CMOS’s position on this?