New Questions and Answers

Q. I have scoured the CMOS website and searched online, but I am stymied. I have quoted someone’s Twitter bio. How do I cite it?? Please help.

A. In most contexts, it’s enough simply to mention the bio in the text. Twitter bios are subject to change without notice, so add a date:

As of August 1, 2022, Mindy Kaling’s Twitter bio (@mindykaling) consisted of just two words: “new money.”

If you are expected (as for a school paper) to include a more formal citation, it may be styled as follows (as in a footnote):

1. Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling), “new money,” Twitter bio, accessed August 1, 2022, https://twitter.com/mindykaling.

Note, however, that a Twitter bio isn’t worth adding to a bibliography; a tweet, however, might be, as some will consist of an extended thread that approaches the level of a news article or blog post. For more details and an example, see CMOS 14.209.

Q. Should there be a space on either side of an ellipsis in the middle of a line when using the Unicode ellipsis rather than three spaced periods? Example: Should there be a … space … like this? I’ve read CMOS 13.50, which says that authors can use the ellipsis character in their manuscripts instead of spaced ellipses, “usually with a space on either side.” But several authors disagree with me as an editor. Most authors insist on no…spaces…like this. Several have them like this… with a space on the right side only, before the clause continues. Thank you for your help!

A. Any of the approaches you mention can be valid when used consistently. But when you’re using an ellipsis character (or unspaced periods, which are similar) rather than three spaced periods in a manuscript that’s otherwise in Chicago style, put a space on either side of the ellipsis except immediately before another mark of punctuation:

This ellipsis … is in the middle of a sentence.
This one is at the end. … Note the space after the period.
This ellipsis is preceded by a comma, … with similar spacing.
What do you mean? … More of the same.
But when punctuation follows …, close it up to the ellipsis.
Is that wise …? We think so.

Do this whether you’re using the ellipsis to stand in for an omission (as in quoted text) or to signal a faltering or hesitation (as in fictional narrative or dialogue). But note that in fiction, periods and commas aren’t typically used next to an ellipsis (see this recent Q&A for more details).

An editor following Chicago style would then replace each instance of “…” with “. . .”—making sure to include a nonbreaking space before and after the middle period and between the last period and any comma or other mark of punctuation (except for a parenthesis or quotation mark) that immediately follows the third period.

Usage outside Chicago varies, as you suggest. AP, for example, recommends unspaced periods used similarly to the examples above. BuzzFeed’s advice depends on whether the ellipsis indicates a pause or an omission. Whatever you end up doing, apply it consistently (and according to a consistent logic).

Q. How would you style the past tense of “green-light”—“green-lighted” or “greenlit”?

A. Although Merriam-Webster.com’s dictionary includes the verb “green-light” as a subentry under its entry for the noun form “green light,” it doesn’t conjugate it. But you could consult that same dictionary’s entry for “light” as a verb and choose the first-listed form of the past tense there: “lit” (“lighted” is an equal variant). You might also take a look at Merriam-Webster’s usage note on the subject, which explains that “green-lighted,” once the dominant past-tense form, has recently been losing out to the one-word “greenlit.”

If you’re comfortable getting ahead of recent trends, you could greenlight “greenlit.” If you’re not ready for that, retain the hyphens in the verb forms (“green-light,” “green-lit”). Until Merriam-Webster removes the hyphen from its entry for “green-light” as a verb, that’s what we’d probably do.

Q. Should sounds made by animals or objects be italicized when they aren’t part of dialogue (e.g., “quack,” “choo choo,” etc.)?

A. Though not required, such italics might have their place. Italics are common in fiction for unspoken discourse (as for a narrator’s thoughts). Such italics signal to readers that the words come from somewhere other than the narrative or dialogue. Consider also the convention used by many video captioners of italicizing words spoken off-screen. Meow. (Sorry, our editorial assistant must be hungry again.) If you do end up deciding that italics would work for you, try not to overuse them.

Q. Hi. I am editing a text and would like to know whether the following sentence should have a comma after the word “so”: “So let’s think about how to understand the chemical diversity of the 20 amino acids.”

A. The conjunction “so” can normally begin a sentence without the help of a comma—as can an introductory “and” or “but.” But that doesn’t rule out a comma in every case. Compare these two sentences:

“So where do you want to go next?”
“So, where do you want to go next?”

The comma after “so” in the second example puts the emphasis on that word, making it read as a sort of interjection. In fiction and related genres—particularly in dialogue—this distinction can be important. (See “ ‘Erg, no kidding?’ Interjections in Creative Writing” at CMOS Shop Talk.) In more ordinary prose, however (including your example), such a comma can usually be omitted.

Note that a comma is always omitted when the initial “so” is used as an ordinary conjunction in the sense of “with the result that” or “in order that” rather than as a purely introductory word:

So I wouldn’t miss my stop, I closed my book.

Q. When a vertical list is introduced by a phrase (rather than a complete sentence), how is it punctuated?

A. Chicago recommends punctuating a phrase that introduces a list as if the list were a continuation of a sentence begun by the introductory phrase. This holds true whether the list is run into the text or presented vertically:

The items included bananas, pears, and grapes.

or

The items included

bananas
pears
grapes

Many writers would add a colon after “included”—especially in the example with the vertical list, whose structure seems to warrant it. But a colon would separate the verb “include” from the objects it introduces.

To avoid that problem, add “the following” or otherwise reword the introduction so that it becomes an independent clause:

The items included the following:

or, for example,

The bag included three varieties of fruit:

See CMOS 6.130 for more examples and information.

Q. In a parenthetical citation that includes volume and page number, what’s the correct way to style subsequent, nonconsecutive page numbers from the same volume? Should the volume be stated only once, like so: (Barnes 1998, 2:354–55, 370, 381)? Or should the volume number be repeated at the start of each page number, like so: (Barnes 1998, 2:354–55, 2:370, 2:381)? I’m unable to find an example like this in the Manual. Guidance much appreciated!

A. In your first example, it seems clear that pages 370 and 381 belong, like pages 354 and 355, to volume 2. Not only is it unlikely that they’d instead be taken to belong to volume 1, but repeating the volume numbers (as in your second example) doesn’t seem to make the citation any easier to read. The same principle would apply to citing consecutive page locations from the same volume in a note. (We’ve made a note to consider adding some examples of these scenarios to a future edition of CMOS.)

July Q&A

Q. Should the common name of a species from a non-English language be treated as a foreign word and italicized, or should it be left in roman type? I’m thinking of the bird known as a po‘ouli in Hawaii, which is elsewhere called the black-faced honeycreeper. Should po‘ouli be italicized?

A. Though it’s not listed in Merriam-Webster (as of July 5, 2022), the name po‘ouli seems to be relatively well established in recent English-language publications that discuss that bird (sadly reported extinct in 2021); in fact, a Google search for “black-faced honeycreeper” brings up “po‘ouli” first, suggesting it’s more common now than the common English name. So you shouldn’t need italics to refer to a po‘ouli except when using the name as a word (as in the first sentence above and the last sentence in your question).

But if you were to refer to, for example, a Deutscher Schäferhund—the German name for a German shepherd—italics would help signal that the German name would not normally be used in an English-language context (except, for example, to let readers know what that name is).

In sum, sometimes it’s necessary to go beyond the dictionary as a rough gauge of a term’s familiarity in English contexts. For the glottal stop (or ‘okina) in po‘ouli, see CMOS 11.70 (under “Hawaiian”). For advice on capitalizing dog breeds, see this Q&A.

Q. Should there be a comma after “also” when it begins a sentence?

A. Yes, an introductory “also” would normally be followed by a comma. The relevant rule is the one that applies to an introductory adverb like the word yes in the previous sentence (see CMOS 6.34). Note, however, that after an introductory adverbial phrase rather than a single word, the comma can often be omitted, particularly if the phrase is short (see CMOS 6.31). So,

As of late 1999 our Y2K fears still seemed warranted.

but

Also, many of us were new to computers back then.

Q. Hi. I’m working on a label for an image in a printed brochure. The entire label is “bison shoulder blade hoe.” How would you punctuate that—with an en dash (“bison–shoulder blade hoe”)? Or hyphens (“bison-shoulder-blade hoe” or “bison shoulder-blade hoe”)? I was thinking that technically an en dash would be correct according to CMOS 6.80, but that seems too formal and, as CMOS states, unlikely to be noticed by most. There is no room to reword it. Thank you!

Q. Regarding open compounds, would an en dash be correct in “Mr. Potato Head–like head” and “rubbing alcohol–soaked cotton”? Thank you!

A. See CMOS 7.85: “With the exception of proper nouns (such as United States) and compounds formed by an adverb ending in ly plus an adjective (see 7.86), it is never incorrect to hyphenate adjectival compounds before a noun.” The goal of adding such hyphens is to clarify the meaning of the text.

To start with the bison, that example refers to a hoe fashioned from a bison’s shoulder blade. The three relevant terms are bison, shoulder blade, and hoe, so the clearest version is the last: “bison shoulder-blade hoe.”

We agree that an en dash wouldn’t work all that well; in “bison–shoulder blade hoe,” readers would need to recognize “shoulder blade” as a distinct compound before “hoe.” You’d be better off leaving the words open (“bison shoulder blade hoe”), trusting readers to sort out the modifiers without the help of hyphens or dashes. Or you could use two hyphens (“bison-shoulder-blade hoe”), but that doesn’t single out “shoulder blade” either, so the uncluttered open version is better.

As for the second question, it would be hard to improve on “Mr. Potato Head–like head,” where the en dash provides a perfect illustration of the principles covered in CMOS 6.80. And though the en dash is technically correct also in “rubbing alcohol–soaked cotton,” we’d advise rephrasing: “cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol.” Readers then won’t have to mentally sort out the string of modifiers to identify “rubbing alcohol,” a compound that, like “shoulder blade” in the bison example, lacks Mr. Potato Head’s prominent initial caps. Nor would “rubbing-alcohol soaked cotton” work; participles like “soaked” always require a hyphen in that position (see the hyphenation guide at CMOS 7.89, sec. 2, under “noun + participle”).

Q. With a compound subject, does the verb number change when the conjunction “and” is replaced by “and then”? For example: “Swimming in the ocean and then running a marathon require/requires great endurance.” I’m told CMOS 5.138 applies and the verb should be plural (“require”). But it seems to me “and then” has combined the two actions into a sequence (as one) which would take the singular “requires.”

A. Two subjects joined by and can sometimes be considered singular. The test is whether the subjects express a single idea or more than one. In your example, what requires endurance is the combined action of swimming in the ocean and running a marathon—a continuous feat of athletic activity. The adverb “then” makes this clear.

But adding “then” won’t always make a plural compound subject singular. Consider the following sentence, in which the subjects clearly take a plural verb: “A bandage and then an ice pack were placed on the wound.” On the other hand, you can write a sentence with a compound-but-singular subject without the help of “then.” For example, “Peanut butter and jelly is the best thing to happen to sandwiches since sliced bread.”

So it’s best to consider such sentences on a case-by-case basis.

Q. In a book with multiple authors, if I cite different chapters (different authors) do I need to repeat the book’s full publication details each time?

A. Not usually. In a work with footnotes or endnotes but no bibliography, for example, you could give the full details for the book the first time it’s cited in a note but shorten them thereafter:

1. Hilton Als, “Homecoming,” in Best American Essays 2021, ed. Kathryn Schulz (Boston: Mariner Books, 2021), 11.

2. Als, “Homecoming,” 15–16.

3. Beth Nguyen, “Apparent,” in Schulz, Best American Essays 2021, 155.

In a work that also has a full bibliography, you could use a shortened citation to refer to the book in the notes even the first time one of its essays is cited. Here’s what the bibliography entry would look like (and note the optional info for the series editor; see also CMOS 14.123):

Schulz, Kathryn, ed. Best American Essays 2021. Series edited by Robert Atwan. Boston: Mariner Books, 2021.

Readers who come across the shortened reference to Schulz, Best American Essays 2021, could consult the bibliography if they needed more details; if there’s no bibliography, they’ll have to track down the initial note (the one with the full details). In either case, the shortened citation gives readers who are in a hurry enough info to locate the source (e.g., via Google or a library).

And though you’re not obligated to cite the individual chapters directly in the bibliography, you could do so using a similar approach. For example, to cite the Als essay—assuming the book is listed in full under Schulz (as shown above)—you could do this:

Als, Hilton. “Homecoming.” In Schulz, Best American Essays 2021, 9–21.

If Schulz is not listed also, you would need to add the full details:

Als, Hilton. “Homecoming.” In Best American Essays 2021, edited by Kathryn Schulz, 9–21. Series edited by Robert Atwan. Boston: Mariner Books, 2021.

Q. For my Chicago author-date reference list following a paper: When listing a journal article, what do I do if there is no page range? I have an article number—does this come into use?

A. To cite an article in a journal that assigns article numbers (also known as citation IDs) in lieu of page numbers—a system that allows for continuous publication of articles independent of a numbered and paginated journal issue—use the number in place of the page range:

Jansuwan, Para, and Kerstin K. Zander. 2022. “Multifunctional Farming as Successful Pathway for the Next Generation of Thai Farmers.” PLOS ONE 17(4): e0267351. https://​doi​.org​/10​.1371​/journal​.pone​.0267351.

The number for that article is e0267351. If you need to cite a specific page number in the article, many online-only journals (including PLOS ONE) offer a PDF version in addition to (and sometimes instead of) the full-text HTML. The PDF is typically paginated—but starting over at page 1 for each article. You’d cite something on page 8 like this:

(Jansuwan and Zander 2022, 8)

For more details, see CMOS 1.82 and 14.174.