February Q&A

Q. Seeking your expert advice on the following problem, now that I’ve run into it for about the dozenth time: When the names of brand collaborations use an “x” between the two entities, what’s the best way to style the “x”? For example, a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama. Should it be a capital X? Lowercase x? A multiplication sign?

A. We’d vote for the multiplication sign, ×. This character is the norm in horticultural contexts—for example, to indicate the crossing of two plant species, as in Magnolia denudata × M. liliiflora, the hybrid tree commonly known as the saucer magnolia (see CMOS 8.125).

By writing “Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama,” you are suggesting something similar. And though not everyone will pick up on the metaphor (in which art imitates nature), a garden-variety X or x might strike those of us who know a thing or two about typography as a cheap imitation. (For more on ×, see this related Q&A.)

Q. Are reverse italics [i.e., roman text in an otherwise italic context] used when a legal case includes names of newspapers that would normally be italicized on their own? Thank you!

A. The name of a newspaper or other periodical would be italicized in the name of a court case—just like the name of any other entity. The Bluebook, a widely used citation guide that we recommend for citing court cases and the like (see CMOS 14.269), includes a relevant example: Seattle Times v. Univ. of Wash. (see section B10.1.1 in the 21st ed. of The Bluebook [2020]).

That Bluebook example is intended to illustrate two principles: (1) an initial The in the name of a party to a cited case can be omitted (a rule that applies to both names in the Seattle Times case), and (2) abbreviations can be used for certain terms, including state names and words like “University.”

And though that example isn’t supposed to show the use of italics for case names (which in Bluebook usage depends on context), it does suggest that a newspaper name within the name of a court case doesn’t merit any special typographic treatment. That’s probably because the name “Seattle Times” is, in this context, that of a publishing company rather than a publication (publications don’t argue cases, but their publishers do).

Q. If an index subentry starts with a full name, do you alphabetize by last name or first? Here is an example: “. . . Menachem Begin visit to (1948), 67–69; Biltmore Conference in (1942), 27, 220n44; . . .” I was told to move the Begin entry to come before the Biltmore Conference entry. It was originally alphabetized under “M.” But it seems like a weird choice.

A. It may seem odd in any one entry, but when a full name appears in an index entry without being inverted—as in a subentry like yours that’s been run in to the main entry (with the help of semicolons rather than new lines and indents)—it’s still usually alphabetized by last name. Alphabetic order isn’t all that important in subentries (which are typically limited to a small block of text), but some readers will appreciate that the logic for names, inverted and not, is consistent across the index.

Q. In a recent Q&A, you discussed how to style the title of a musical group, Rage Against the Machine. But couldn’t you just look up what the original source uses?

A. You could do that, but there’s a limit to that approach. For example, you wouldn’t use a typewriter font and all lowercase letters with no italics when referring to the band’s self-titled debut album. Likewise, you wouldn’t write “Rage Against The Machine” (capital T in The), as the band’s name tends to be styled at their website—when it isn’t in all caps (as of February 4, 2024).

Such choices—whether creative or stylistic—are almost always overridden to match the style of the surrounding text. Even a name like boygenius, as that band styles its name, would be adjusted in Chicago style (in this case, to get a capital B).

Q. A vertical list lettered with “a.,” “b.,” “c.,” etc. (using periods after each letter) is provided in a document. Later on in the write-up, I reference this list with the sentence, “[Name] has managed projects that cover items a through f.” Do “a” and “f” require some kind of punctuation or special treatment?

A. To refer to a lettered list item, you can normally use italics regardless of how the letters are punctuated in the list itself. For example, you could refer to item a or, if the letters in the list are capitals, item A. This is an application of the rule about using italics to refer to letters as letters (see CMOS 7.64). To refer to a number, on the other hand, use regular type regardless of whether the numerals are arabic or roman: item 1, item I, item i.

But if the letters or numbers in the list are in parentheses, then you can use parentheses in the text: item (a), item (i). One advantage of this approach is that lowercase letters and roman numerals in particular are easier to read when placed in parentheses. Whichever choice you make, be consistent.

Q. Hi there! CMOS defines a website as a set of publicly available pages. I need to cite a site that is restricted to users but is not private communication. How would one go about this? Do we need to signify to our readers that the URL is blocked to users only? Thanks!

A. Any site that could be accessed by anyone can usually be cited without comment. For example, you might use a footnote to cite an article on the piano at Grove Music Online:

1. Grove Music Online, “Piano [pianoforte; fortepiano],” by Cynthia Adams Hoover and Edwin M. Good, January 31, 2014, https://​doi​.org​/10​.1093​/gmo​/9781561592630​.article​.A2257895.

That URL is based on a DOI, a persistent identifier designed to return information about a source even when full access is denied. In this case, access will be denied to anyone who doesn’t have a subscription to Grove Music Online or who isn’t logging in at a library or other institution with a subscription:

Screenshot from Grove Music Online showing title and author of piano article, DOI, and publication dates for print and online. Also includes a red padlock and a note saying: "You do not currently have access to this article."

If you want readers to know that the page wasn’t freely available at the time you cited it, you can add “(requires subscription)” after the URL. But there’s no need to add anything unless the page is entirely unavailable to the public, via subscription or otherwise (see CMOS 14.207 for an example).

Q. How does one cite a footnote on a page that is numbered with roman numerals? For example, a reference to a footnote 1 on page xxii, adapting the example citation in CMOS 14.147, would look rather clunky this way: Jerome Kagan, “Introduction to the Tenth-Anniversary Edition,” in The Nature of the Child (New York: Basic Books, 1994), xxiin1.

A. We’d advise adding a space between page number and note number: xxii n1. To ensure the expression stays together on one line, make it a nonbreaking space (as we’ve done here; see CMOS 6.121).