Usage and Grammar

Q. Do you need to use two indefinite articles with coordinate nouns when one noun begins with a vowel sound and the other begins with a consonant sound? For example, “walking the halls of an elementary or [a] secondary school.” Is the a before secondary required? Would the same be true for coordinate adjectives? For example, “including a relatable and [an] encouraging teacher”? Is the an required?

Q. Hi there—I’m working on a brochure for a cruise line in which we are describing Mayan ruins and Mayan civilization. The client keeps changing Mayan to Maya, which looks strange to me outside the realm of academia. Does Chicago have a preference on this? Thanks!

Q. Lie down on your stomach or lay down on your stomach? M-W.com suggests “lie down” is preferable to “lay down.” Please clarify.

Q. Help! Can you please tell me which is correct: “if one or more component is ineffective,” “if one or more components is ineffective,” or “if one or more components are ineffective.” The document I’m reviewing uses all three constructions, and I haven’t been able to find any solid guidance on which is correct.

Q. I’m having an argument with my English teachers over what I think is a grammatical mistake in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet. The sentence in question is: “The Daily News observed that there was no doubt as to the crime being a political one.” Since I’m fairly certain “being a political one” is a gerund and not a participial phrase, I think that crime should be changed to crime’s, but multiple English teachers have told me I am incorrect (yet the arguments they presented do not make sense to me whatsoever). Is the sentence correct as is, or did Doyle make a grammatical mistake?

Q. Hello, Chicago. I am slightly confused about what the difference between “compare with” and “compare to” is. Paragraph 5.195 seems to suggest that it’s a matter of whether one is making a “literal comparison” or a “poetic or metaphorical comparison,” whereas 5.250 says it’s a matter of whether one is identifying “both similarities and differences” or “primarily similarities.” What’s the rundown?

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 . . .”?