Word Division

Q. My question is regarding CMOS 2.12 on paragraph format—specifically, the directive to “let the word processor determine the breaks at the ends of lines.” This rule is for manuscripts, but I would like to know if it applies to websites. Are there exceptions?

A. Whether your document is a manuscript in Microsoft Word or an article published online as reflowable text, it’s usually best to let lines break where they will. But there are some exceptions in both contexts.

If you use Chicago-style spaced ellipses in your manuscript . . . like that, you’ll want to put a nonbreaking space before and after the middle dot. It isn’t mandatory at the manuscript stage—ellipses are usually formatted by whoever prepares a text for publication—but broken ellipses look bad.

In the published version of a document—as in an e-book or other reflowable format—there are some additional places where nonbreaking spaces may be added for publication. Some are optional:

  • Between initials in names like E. B. White
  • Between a parenthetical enumerator—e.g., (1) and (2) or (a) and (b)—and the word that follows
  • Between a numeral and an abbreviated unit of measure (e.g., 1 kg)

Others, like the nonbreaking spaces in spaced ellipses, would be required:

  • Between groups of digits in SI-style numerals like 33 333,33 (for 33,333.33), as described in CMOS 9.55
  • Between consecutive single and double quotation marks separated by a space, as described in CMOS 6.11 and in a related post at Shop Talk

For some additional considerations, start with CMOS 6.121 and 7.36.