New Questions and Answers
Q. My sister-in-law recently claimed that the card we get from the DMV that allows us to legally drive is supposed to be referred to as a “driver license” instead of a “driver’s license.” I would love to hear your input as this has been bothering me for a few weeks now!
A. In about thirty US states, from Alabama to Nevada to Wyoming, the term printed on the license itself is “driver license.” In about twenty others, from Arkansas to Maryland to West Virginia, it’s “driver’s license.” (The term is usually, but not always, in all capital letters.) But according to the entry in Merriam-Webster, each of these would be a “driver’s license.”
Incidentally, the DMVs in some of the states that issue a “driver license” refer to it on their websites as a “driver’s license”—and vice versa. Our editors would default to “driver’s license” in each case—including for Indiana, where the card itself says “operator license.” This advice isn’t universal, however. In the UK, for example, it’s usually called a “driving licence”—according to Merriam Webster, the OED, and GOV.UK.
Q. Hi! I have a manuscript that mentions several Super Bowl games. I know AP style says pro football Super Bowls should be identified by the year, not the roman numerals (“1969 Super Bowl,” not “Super Bowl III”), but does Chicago have a guideline for the best way to identify the games? Is it wrong to use arabic numerals instead of roman? Thank you!
A. AP style makes sense for reporters, who often need to achieve clarity in the fewest possible words. And for those of us who haven’t memorized the chronological sequence of NFL championship games, “1969 Super Bowl” is more meaningful than “Super Bowl III.” However, both are correct, and you can use the latter when you’re not following AP style. As for the number, you could always refer to “the third Super Bowl,” but to reflect how the game is generally known, you wouldn’t write “Super Bowl 3”—in spite of what AP might say—any more than you would describe Joe Namath (the winning quarterback in that contest) as having worn number XII (or even number twelve) on his jersey. In other words, it’s Super Bowl III (and number 12).
Q. When writing a bibliography, is it acceptable for the entry to be split between pages? Or should I insert a page break before the entry to keep it all together?
A. Please, whatever you do, do not insert a page break before the entry; if you do, then any changes you make to the document before that page break could easily result in the page just before the manual break running short. In other words, the document will no longer automatically reflow across the page break at that point. (One of a copyeditor’s many jobs is to find and eliminate such problems.)
To prevent an entry from breaking across pages, the proper way to do it is to tell your word processor to keep those lines together. First, put your cursor in the entry. Then, in Microsoft Word, go to Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks and check the box next to “Keep lines together”:
In Google Docs, the setting is under Format > Line & paragraph spacing > Keep lines together. By the way, it’s okay if a bibliography entry breaks across two pages. But note that widow/orphan control is on by default in both Word and Docs. That feature, by preventing the first or last line of a paragraph from being stranded at the bottom or top of a page, respectively, will also thereby prevent any paragraph of three lines or less—including a bibliography entry—from breaking over a page.
Q. I work on science textbooks and science trade books (I wonder why I’ve never needed to ask this question before) and have this question: Does one capitalize “sp.” (or “spp.”) in titles? For example: “Dinarda Spp.: The Sneaky Thief.” Unabbreviated, the word “species” would be capitalized. However, were it the actual species name, it would be lowercased. It does look odd capitalized, since it is never so in text, but I’m leaning toward capitalization as being correct. Possibly the answer to this question lies within (within CMOS, that is), but if so I’ve not been able to find it. What say you?
A. CMOS comes close to answering this question. According to paragraph 8.159, which outlines the principles of headline-style capitalization (a.k.a. title case), the second part of a species name is always lowercase in a title, even if it’s the last word in the title or subtitle. So,
“Dinarda dentata: A Sneaky Thief”
“Dinarda maerkelii: Another Sneaky Thief”
And though we don’t quite say this in CMOS, more than one species of the genus Dinarda would follow the same pattern, even when the abbreviation “spp.” (species, plural) stands in for the names:
“Dinarda spp.: The Sneaky Thief”
In sum, use lowercase for “spp.” (and for the singular “sp.”) wherever it occurs in a title or heading. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to clarify our rule.
Q. In the phrase “today, tomorrow, & always” should the comma before the ampersand be removed?
A. Though the serial comma has officially been Chicago style since 1906 (when the first edition of the Manual was published), we prefer to omit it before an ampersand (see CMOS 6.21). The serial comma—the one before the conjunction in a series of three or more (it’s also known as the Oxford comma)—suggests thoroughness (some consider it to be unnecessary); the ampersand, by contrast, is an abbreviation (derived from the Latin word et, or “and”). The two together, then, make for an odd pairing of the thorough and the minimal. Either remove the comma or spell out the word “and.”
Q. How does one cite the place of publication of an older book issued in a city whose name or nation has since changed? For example, a book might describe itself on its title page as having been published in Pressburg (now Bratislava) or in Straßburg, Germany (now Strasbourg, France). Should I give the place as it existed when the book was published or as it exists now?
A. Record the place of publication as printed in the source itself. The cities you mention are still known in German as Pressburg and Straßburg, so the differences may depend not only on the date of publication but also on the language. If the name of the city as it is officially designated today is relevant in some way to your reason for citing it or might be helpful for your intended audience, you can add it (and any other relevant details) in square brackets: e.g., Pressburg [Bratislava]. But in most cases, the year of publication will supply sufficient context. See also CMOS 6.99 and 14.131.
Q. Dear Chicago editors: What should I do if my source appeared in a newspaper (which I cannot reach today), but is featured on a website? How can I give credit to both the paper and the website? The article is something I found on the website of Columbia journalism professor Samuel Freedman.
A. You would attribute the article to both. For example, here’s how you might cite the article “Don’t Reward Deceitful Writers” (as in a note):
1. Samuel G. Freedman, “Don’t Reward Deceitful Writers,” USA Today, March 24, 2004, on the author’s website, http://www.samuelfreedman.com/articles/ust03242004.html.
That should work for most purposes. But if your research depends on finding the original source—or if you’ve come across the article on some random site rather than, as in this case, a website hosted by the author—it’s best to track down the article itself. For example, if you have access to a library, you might find the article via one of the full-text databases from EBSCOhost:
1. Samuel G. Freedman, “Don’t Reward Deceitful Writers,” USA Today, March 24, 2004, EBSCOhost Newspaper Source.
Note that this citation differs from the automatically generated Chicago-style citation offered with the article by EBSCOhost, which renders it as follows:
Samuel G. Freedman. “Don’t Reward Deceitful Writers.” USA Today. Accessed December 3, 2021. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=J0E355433453204&site=eds-live&scope=site
That citation isn’t a total loss, but it has some problems: (1) The author’s name would be inverted in a bibliography entry (Freedman, Samuel G.). (2) It’s missing the date of publication. (3) Chicago doesn’t require access dates for sources that include a date of publication. (4) The URL is not only littered with ugly syntax, but it’s unhelpful for anyone who isn’t logged into a network with access to EBSCOhost. (5) Finally, a formal bibliography entry isn’t necessarily required for a newspaper article cited in the text or in a note. See also CMOS 14.11 and 14.198.
Q. A lot of people, including me, are confused about the different types of editors. Especially the difference between a copyeditor and a line editor. Is there a list anywhere that defines these terms? Thank you for your help.
A. What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing, edited by Peter Ginna, is a good place to start. It includes a chapter about line editing by George Witte and another on copyediting by Carol Saller; these chapters give detailed overviews of what these levels entail and who is responsible for them. There’s also a glossary at the back of the book that briefly defines the two levels as follows:
line editing. Detailed editing of a manuscript—line by line, as the term suggests—but not necessarily correcting all fine points of grammar, punctuation, or style, which is the task of copyediting.
copyediting. Usually the final editorial stage of preparing a manuscript for publication—a meticulous read for technical errors, style, and internal consistency, along with marking or electronically coding the text to be ready for typesetting.
Chapter 2 in CMOS uses the term “manuscript editing,” which can include both line editing and copyediting. But the advice in that chapter applies mainly to book manuscripts after they’ve been turned over to a publisher’s editing and production staff. At that stage, a manuscript will usually get a thorough copyedit. And though a copyedit will typically involve some line editing also—for example, to fix an awkward sentence—a thorough line edit is best done as a separate step at an earlier stage.
Q. How do I refer to the burgers at McDonald’s, given that the name already has a possessive apostrophe ess in it? If I say “McDonald’s burgers” then that is just burgers belonging to McDonald, but “McDonald’s’s burgers” feels wrong to me.
A. A possessive name like McDonald’s applies not only to the business itself but to anything it produces and anyone it serves. So McDonald’s restaurants sell McDonald’s hamburgers to McDonald’s customers. And though double cheeseburgers are a thing, double possessives are not (except, technically, in a phrase like “a friend of mine”; see CMOS 7.26).
Q. Parenthetical material is usually invisible to the grammar of the rest of the sentence, so should it be “a” or “an” in the phrase “a (appropriate) joke”?
A. Although almost anything can be placed inside them (Is it Friday yet?), parentheses don’t make the words they enclose literally invisible. Readers are still obliged to read what’s inside along with the rest of the text. So write “an (appropriate) joke,” which will spare us from reading “a appropriate joke,” a phrase that, stylistically speaking, would be inappropriate.
Q. Hello! I am wondering about the capitalization of trademarks such as “Dad’s root beer” and “Mack trucks,” where the name includes what I consider to be a generic description. My instinct is to make terms such as “root beer” and “trucks” lowercase, but I’m wondering if that’s correct. The companies’ full names in this case are Mack Trucks Inc. and the Dad’s Root Beer Company LLC. Thanks!
A. We agree with your instinct, though it’s never wrong to capitalize the generic term if the company or brand does so in its own materials (as on a company website). With Dad’s Root Beer, the advantages of the extra capital letters are obvious; without sufficient context, “Dad’s root beer” could easily be mistaken for root beer belonging to somebody’s father. Ambiguity is less likely with Mack trucks, and the lowercase t will allow you to compare Mack trucks to, for example, Ford trucks without appearing to be inconsistent.
Another example like Dad’s Root Beer would be Scotch Tape. A capital T could help readers understand that you’re not merely referring to tape from Scotland. 3M’s trademark, however, extends only to the name “Scotch”—as seen in the placement of the registered trademark symbol in “Scotch® Brand Tapes” at the company’s website. Unambiguous examples would include Kleenex tissues and Nike shoes. Whatever you choose, be consistent, and prefer lowercase for a generic term like “root beer” used alone.
Q. Please explain your recommendation for using one space after a period in light of this article: James Hamblin, “The Scientific Case for Two Spaces after a Period,” The Atlantic, May 11, 2018.
A. As The Atlantic article reports, a small study conducted at Skidmore College found that spacing between sentences does influence how people read and that some people read faster if there are two spaces rather than one. But the results weren’t definitive, as the study’s conclusion admits:
Punctuation spacing had no effect on the likelihood of regressing back to the punctuation region after leaving it, did not affect comprehension, and only increased overall reading speed for participants who already type according to this two-space convention (who only showed a 3% increase in overall reading speed). Thus, while period spacing does influence our processing of text, we should probably be arguing passionately about things that are more important.
See Rebecca L. Johnson, Becky Bui, and Lindsay L. Schmitt, “Are Two Spaces Better than One? The Effect of Spacing following Periods and Commas during Reading,” Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 80 (2018): 1510. We agree with that conclusion—except maybe for the part that discourages passionate arguing about small things. For another look at this issue, including some historical background, see “One Space or Two?,” at CMOS Shop Talk.
Q. CMOS 14.233 calls for URLs to be included in citations of online reference entries. But in the case of the OED (and probably other such premium sources), the URL will not work unless you have either a personal subscription or institutional access via a proxy server. So . . . what to do? Forgo the URL?
A. Include the URL, which will be helpful for some readers and may encourage others to find out if their library has a subscription to the resource that would give them access through their library membership. This isn’t much different from citing a printed book, which readers would usually be expected to find at a library or bookstore.
Q. My students are trying to figure out how to properly cite the Mayflower Compact (1620), and we cannot figure it out! Do you have any insight?
A. For a passing mention, you’ve cited the Mayflower Compact simply by giving it a name and a date; it’s a famous document, and it’s the only one from 1620 known by that title (which you’ve styled correctly; see CMOS 8.80). To cite it more formally, you’d have to specify which version of the text you consulted. The original document was lost, so you’d need to rely on a transcription. The earliest versions were transcribed by William Bradford, a signatory to the original compact who went on to serve as governor of Plymouth Colony. But you don’t have to go that far.
Yale Law School offers a transcription of the Mayflower Compact online. You could cite that page as your source (see CMOS 14.207), but it would be better to consult the source relied on for that text, rather than assume that it’s been transcribed correctly. Fortunately, the source is cited at the bottom of the page: The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, a book compiled by Francis Newton Thorpe and published by the US Government Printing Office in 1909.
Most books by the US government are in the public domain, as are many older books. The Internet Archive and Google Books can be good places to find and consult scanned reproductions of such out-of-copyright works; these can be cited as if you consulted the physical object. A little digging at the Internet Archive for the book cited at the Yale page will reveal that it was published in seven volumes, organized by US states.
The first volume includes a table of contents. There you’ll find, listed under Massachusetts, “Agreement between the settlers at New Plymouth—1620” (the original name of the compact). Massachusetts is covered in volume 3. Click through to page 1841 (the page listed in the table of contents), and there it is:
At the bottom of that page, an asterisked footnote cites “William Bradford’s Plimouth Plantation” as the source of the text; a lettered footnote explains the circumstances under which the compact was written and signed. Again, you don’t need to track down Bradford’s original transcription. Instead, you could stop here and consider your work done. Here’s what the citation would look like:
“Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth—1620.” In The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, compiled and edited by Francis Newton Thorpe, vol. 3, p. 1841. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1909.
Note that we’ve used the abbreviation “p.” (page) to make sure “1841” isn’t mistaken for a year. This is usually unnecessary in a Chicago-style citation, but it’s never wrong to provide clarity where needed. Note also that we’ve added a comma after “Constitutions” in the title of the book; that comma doesn’t appear in the source, but it’s clearly intended (on the book’s title page there’s a line break instead of a comma). See also CMOS 8.165 (for permissible changes to titles) and 14.107 (for citing a contribution to a multiauthor book).