May Q&A

Q. Hello. I am alphabetizing something according to the word-by-word system and am curious about whether conjunctions are taken into account. Or are they disregarded as they would be at the beginning of an entry? For example, would the correct alphabetical order be (1) animal experiments, (2) animal and human bond (conjunction ignored), or (1) animal and human bond, (2) animal experiments (conjunction considered)? Thanks for your assistance.

A. In Chicago style, any word occurring in the middle of an entry, including a conjunction, counts in alphabetization (whether word by word or letter by letter), so your second ordering is correct (the a in “and” precedes the e in “experiments”). A conjunction would also count at the beginning of an entry, with one notable exception: index subentries. For example, here’s what an entry for “hyphenation” might look like in a book index:

hyphenation: of compound modifiers, 147; and line breaks, 108; in Microsoft Word, 148

Not only is “and” ignored in the second subentry, but so are “of” and “in” in the first and third subentries; like conjunctions, prepositions are ignored at the beginning of index subentries, as are articles (see CMOS 16.68). But at the beginning of main index entries—and, by extension, any ordinary list—only articles (a, an, and the) are ignored. To make it easier for readers to find things, entries with articles are inverted:

“And I Love Her” (Beatles)
“Day in the Life, A” (Beatles)
Invisible Man (Ellison)
Invisible Man, The (Wells)
On the Origin of Species (Darwin)
Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas (Raff)

Note that the “And” in the first item counts; if it didn’t, “And I Love Her” would be listed second. Note also that if you were to disregard “On the,” Darwin would follow Raff. See also CMOS 16.56 and 16.144.

Q. In the following sentence, should the word “point” be singular or plural? “The type should be no larger than 11 point.”

A. It should be “points,” plural, but it would become singular “point” if used as a modifier:

the type is 11 points
but
11-point type

All this changes if you use an abbreviation:

the type is 11 pt.
and
11 pt. type

Not only is “pt.” preferred for both singular and plural, but “11 pt. type” has no hyphen. For the first convention, see CMOS 10.65. For the second, see the hyphenation guide at CMOS 7.89, section 1, “number + abbreviation.”

Q. Can the running heads in a multivolume set of books be the title of that particular volume rather than the overall title of all the volumes in the set?

A. Yes. Where running heads are concerned, there are few rules per se, only some useful conventions that depend on the book: “The choice of running heads . . . is governed chiefly by the structure and nature of the book” (see CMOS 1.12, which lists some common configurations). Consider the reader, and if your choice makes more sense than the alternatives, run with it.

Q. When an author publishes a work that violates Chicago’s headline capitalization style, should we convert the citation to Chicago style or leave it as the author designated? Is this discussed anywhere in CMOS?

A. It’s not uncommon for the title of a book, article, or other work to use a capitalization style that’s different from the one recommended by Chicago. In (almost) all cases, Chicago style (or whatever style you follow) would take precedence when such a title is mentioned in the text. Most advise applying some variation of headline style (a.k.a. title case).

For example, both the cover and title page for Finding Me, the memoir by Viola Davis (HarperOne, 2022), feature all caps: FINDING ME. Chicago style, as we’ve just seen, would apply title case (and italics).

Or there’s The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor—the Truth and the Turmoil, by Tina Brown (Crown, 2022). On that book’s cover and title page, the main title is in all caps, and the subtitle is in title case. There’s no colon between title and subtitle. Chicago style imposes title case for the main title and adds a colon (see CMOS 8.165).

Not that we’d never make an exception. For example, Chicago style would normally call for Star Trek: Into Darkness as the title of that 2013 film. Both the movie posters and the title screen itself feature all-caps “STAR TREK” on its own line; “INTO DARKNESS” is on the line below that, in a type size that differentiates it from the line above. CMOS would therefore treat “Star Trek” as the main title and “Into Darkness” as the subtitle—adding a colon between the two.

But we know that—after much debate—the world seems to have settled on Star Trek Into Darkness (capital I, no colon). The preposition “into” wouldn’t normally merit a capital I without the colon, and the absence of a colon does seem a little odd, but we’d allow both exceptions in the spirit of maintaining intergalactic harmony.

Q. In CMOS 9.48, on numbered places of worship, shouldn’t the example “Twenty-First Church of Christ” read as “Twenty-first Church of Christ”? Why is the second number uppercase?

A. The word “first” in “twenty-first” is an adjective, so it gets a capital F as the second part of a hyphenated compound in the name of an organization or the title of a work—or in a street name or whatever else would normally be capitalized. See CMOS 8.161, which also says specifically to capitalize the second element in a hyphenated spelled-out number. This advice was new to the 16th ed. (2010); until then, CMOS would have advised “Twenty-first,” but our editors agreed that the convention for lowercase wasn’t strong enough to continue to allow for an exception to the rule about adjectives. “Twenty-first” isn’t wrong, then, but it’s no longer Chicago style.

Q. When the word “coke” is used as a generic term to refer to any kind of soda, should it be capitalized?

A. The word “Coke” is a trademark, and it’s a noun—so it doesn’t fit the pattern of a wildly successful trademarked name that acquires a generic (lowercase) sense as a verb in common usage (e.g., Google > googled). It’s best therefore either to capitalize it or to use a generic word like “soda” or “cola,” depending on which is meant (apparently, it can vary by region).

If you’re writing or editing a novel, you might consider another alternative. For example, you could use context to let the reader know that the speaker doesn’t literally mean Coca-Cola:

“I’ll have a Coke,” he said. They served only Pepsi, but he wasn’t the type to make such distinctions.

Or, yes, you could lowercase the term and hope readers will understand that a lowercase c means the term is being used generically. But unless your style is to lowercase things that are normally capped, “Coke” with a capital C is still probably the best option. For more on this issue, see “Can I Put an iPhone in My Novel?” at CMOS Shop Talk.

Q. I have a question about author-date citation style in a sentence that mentions both the author’s name and the title of the work in question: “As philosopher Helen Small argues in The Long Life, there is a general ‘hiddenness’ of aging and becoming older in the history of Western philosophy.” Is it necessary to include a narrative citation here—“As philosopher Helen Small (2007) argues . . .”—or is the sentence as it originally stands enough?

A. The parenthetical date signals to readers that they will find more bibliographic details in the reference list. But there is some flexibility in author-date style. If you wish to avoid the awkwardness of appearing to attach a date to a person rather than a source, it’s acceptable to move the date to follow the title: “As philosopher Helen Small argues in The Long Life (2007), . . .” Likewise, a date alone may follow a quotation if the author has been identified in the lead-in to the quoted text. See also CMOS 15.26.