New Questions and Answers

Q. I was asked how to refer to more than one of a specific numbered form. For example, do you say “IRS Form 1040s” or “IRS Forms 1040”?

A. That depends. To refer to more than one copy of a form, add an s to the number—as in “three Form 1040s” or “five Form 1040-NRs.” To refer to two different forms, use plural “Forms”—as in “IRS Forms 1040 and 1040-NR.” The phrase “IRS Forms 1040” by itself would refer to multiple iterations of Form 1040 (e.g., Forms 1040, 1040-NR, and 1040-SR).

Q. Would it be “the Cherokee Nation” or “the Cherokee nation”?

A. For an answer to this question, we refer you to the indispensable Elements of Indigenous Style, by Gregory Younging (Brush, 2018). Younging’s book is written from a Canadian perspective, but much of its advice related to capitalization applies equally to usage in the United States:

Nation: This term has become widely accepted by Indigenous Peoples to describe separate Indigenous groups as political entities. . . . Nation is usually embedded in the name of a particular Indigenous People, and as such is capitalized—for example, Six Nations of the Grand River, the Métis Nation of Alberta, and Bigstone Cree Nation. (p. 68)

So refer to the Cherokee Nation with a capital N. The entry quoted above goes on to note that lowercase nation would be appropriate in general contexts (as in the plural): “the nations of North America before contact with Europeans” (p. 68). For nation in non-Indigenous contexts, where it is usually lowercase, see this Q&A.

Q. In my office we have noticed a trend in Merriam-Webster to show previously closed compound words as hyphenated, such as “antiracist” and “antilabor.” CMOS clearly has a spare hyphenation style and lists prefixes as usually closed. Which should we follow when the two sources disagree? I would lean toward continuing to close compounds like “antiracist” and “antilabor” and use CMOS as our source, but we have been going in circles for a year now on this debate. Please help.

A. What you are noticing is the result of Merriam-Webster’s decision to create individual entries for a whole bunch of compounds that in earlier versions of its dictionaries—both the one at Merriam-Webster.com and the printed Collegiate—were simply listed under the applicable prefixes. These entries were added after the publication of CMOS 17.

In the earlier lists, most of these terms were closed, clearly as a matter of editorial principle rather than (as for the main dictionary entries) common usage. For example, if you consult a first printing of the Collegiate (11th ed., 2003), you’ll find, under the prefix anti-, “antifur” and “antiwar”—along with “antiracist” and “antilabor” and dozens of other closed compounds. Only a term like “anti-immigration” (double i) or “anti-Soviet” (capital S) merits a hyphen. Under non- and pre-, hyphenation is strictly limited to terms with capital letters (e.g., “nonnews” but “non-Marxist” and “preelectric” but “pre-Christmas”).

And though the majority of compounds formed with prefixes remain closed in Merriam-Webster, all but one of the unhyphenated examples mentioned above are now hyphenated, either as a main entry or as a variant (“antifur” is the sole exception).

Going forward, there are some definite advantages to following the editorial approach described in section 4 of the hyphenation guide at CMOS 7.89. It’s easier than looking up each term in Merriam-Webster, and the results will be more consistent. Plus, you can invoke rule no. 3 (in the intro to section 4) and add a hyphen to a compound like “antifur,” which is awkward without one, despite what the dictionary might have. Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster can continue to act as arbiter in any remaining cases of doubt.

For some additional perspective, see our Shop Talk post on this subject.

Q. How would I cite a CV located on a university website professor bio page?

A. A curriculum vitae, like other such informal documents, can usually be cited in the text or in a note rather than in a bibliography or reference list. Because CVs are typically updated from time to time, it can be helpful to frame your mention with a date: “As of April 2021, Professor Smith’s CV listed more than thirty publications in peer-reviewed journals.” In other cases, a date may be unnecessary: “According to her CV, she taught at a high school (Gymnasium) in Göttingen.”

In either case, provide any additional details that readers would need in order to find the document, as in the following note:

1. “Faculty Profiles,” Department of Art History, University of Chicago, URL.

If, however, a teacher or publisher requires a more formal citation, adapt the following examples to suit:

Bibliography:

Smith, Joan. Curriculum Vitae. “Faculty Profiles,” Department of Art History, University of Chicago. Accessed April 6, 2021. URL.

Reference list (author-date):

Smith, Joan. n.d. Curriculum Vitae. “Faculty Profiles,” Department of Art History, University of Chicago. Accessed April 6, 2021. URL.

For access dates, which Chicago requires only for sources without a date of publication or revision, see CMOS 14.12. For the use of “n.d.” (no date) in author-date style, see CMOS 15.50.

Q. As a copyeditor, I’m starting to see papers where the authors cite presentations from virtual conferences and meetings. According to CMOS 14.217, the location of the meeting is to be included in the citation. What would you suggest as far as wording and style? (I was thinking maybe “[Virtual]” would work in place of the location.) Thank you in advance!

A. We like your suggestion, which we would style as in the following note:

1. Jaime Smith, “Title of Presentation” (ABCD Annual Conference, April 6, 2021, virtual).

Note that there’s no need to indicate the platform (Zoom etc.); if that’s somehow relevant to the discussion, authors can mention it in the text.

Q. When citing an essay that predates the anthology book in which it is featured, is the original year of the essay included in the citation in addition to the anthology publication year?

A. It’s optional. Normally, if you’ve mentioned the original year in your text—or provided some idea of the period during which the essay was composed or published—you won’t need to also include it in the citation. Moreover, it’s not always easy to pin down the exact date of an original essay—particularly if there were several published versions or if it hadn’t been published at all.

But if you do know the date and want to add it for additional context, here’s how you might style it:

Numbered note and bibliography entry:

1. W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of the Coming of John,” in The Making of the American Essay, ed. John D’Agata (1903; Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2016).

Du Bois, W. E. B. 2016. “Of the Coming of John.” In The Making of the American Essay, edited by John D’Agata, 253–68. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press. Originally published as chapter 13 in The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903).

Reference list entry and parenthetical citation (author-date):

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903) 2016. “Of the Coming of John.” In The Making of the American Essay, edited by John D’Agata, 253–68. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press.

(Du Bois [1903] 2016)

For more examples, see CMOS 14.114 (notes and bibliography) and CMOS 15.40 (author-date).

Q. Hello CMOS. Per your style, for phrasal adjectives including units of measurement, I’ve used the singular form of the unit in, for example, “100-foot-long boat” (instead of “100-feet-long boat”). An author has rejected my edits that revise “feet” to “foot”; telling him that this is incorrect because of a style guide has not convinced him to revert them back to the singular. Why, exactly, should the singular be used? I’m accustomed to it, but I’m unable to come up with a compelling reason.

A. Though it can depend as much on personal idiom as on logic, an argument in favor of “foot” rather than “feet” would be based on the fact that nouns used attributively are usually singular rather than plural. For example, a doctor who treats feet would be called a foot doctor, not a feet doctor. Or, to use an example that’s analogous to yours, plumbing that’s 100 years old would be 100-year-old plumbing, not 100-years-old plumbing. By the same token, you would refer to a 100-foot-long boat or, if the dimension goes without saying, a 100-foot boat. Whatever you do, stay dry.

March Q&A

Q. If a word is not capitalized in the dictionary but is capitalized in the author’s book manuscript, should I capitalize or not? The specific word in question is “cosmos.” Thanks.

A. You might start by asking if the author has any objection to lowercase, preferably before editing has begun. Maybe point out that words and phrases for vast, seemingly limitless spaces—from “cosmos” and “universe” to “nature” and “world”—are generally lowercase, so readers might be puzzled by an initial capital. Even “internet,” once almost always spelled with a capital I, now gets a lowercase i in CMOS and other stylebooks—not a demotion but rather a recognition of its stature as a virtual universe. If the author nonetheless insists, don’t worry. Each book is a world unto itself, and in the end a consistent approach is what matters most.

Q. How should we refer to the variants of the coronavirus? I see “a new variant of the coronavirus,” and I see “a new variant of COVID-19.” Which is correct?

A. The variants are of the virus itself, not the disease it causes, so they are properly referred to as variants of SARS-CoV-2 (an abbreviation for “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”), the virus that causes COVID-19 (which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019”). So “a new variant of the coronavirus” would be preferable to “a new variant of COVID-19.”

For summaries from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, see “Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants” (updated January 28, 2021), and “About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19” (updated February 12, 2021). These headlines alone demonstrate proper usage.

Last April we posted a brief guide to such terms—“Styling COVID-19 and Related Terms.” At that time we weren’t yet concerned with variants, but the advice relative to nomenclature continues to apply.

Q. When citing a lengthy web page without page numbers in a footnote, other than listing the paragraph number or a section title, is there another way to indicate where on the page a quote is being used?

A. One approach would be to add a portion of the quoted text to a note where a page number or other locator would usually go. For example, let’s quote and cite the following sentence from a post on CMOS Shop Talk: “A serif is a small projecting line or wedge on the main stroke of a letter.”1

1. “Key Terms Every Editor Should Know,” CMOS Shop Talk, November 10, 2020, at “A serif is . . . ,” https://​cmosshoptalk​.com​/2020​/11​/10​/key-terms-every-editor-should-know/.

Users who follow the link should be able to use the Find feature in any browser to get to the cited text (i.e., by searching for the words before the ellipsis). For this example, we’ve used the first three words rather than the whole sentence, after testing to make sure those three words are unique on that page.

But in a case like that—where you’re citing the source of a direct quotation presented verbatim in your own text—repeating a snippet of that text in the note as shown above would be overkill. If, on the other hand, your note doesn’t refer to a direct quote, this strategy could work well, particularly when you need to cite a page with lots of text but no paragraph numbers or section titles.

A promising alternative solution to the problem of getting readers to the right place in an unpaginated document is Text Fragments, introduced for Google’s Chrome browser in 2020. This feature allows you to copy a snippet of text from a web page and append it to the end of that page’s URL. This enhanced URL is designed to return the same page but scrolled to the text fragment (highlighted in yellow). For example, if you paste “A serif is a small projecting line or wedge on the main stroke of a letter” to the end of the URL in the example above (after “#:~:text=”), you’ll get the following link:

https://​​cmosshoptalk​.com​​/2020​​/11​​/10​​/key-terms-every-editor-should-know​/#:~:text=A​​%20serif​​%20is​​%20a​​%20small​​​%20projecting​​%20line​​%20or​​%20wedge​​%20on​​%20the​​%20main​​%20stroke​​%20of​​%20a​​%20letter

There are, however, two problems with this approach: (1) it’s not a good option when you need to express a URL as text rather than as an embedded link (mostly because spaces in URLs are automatically replaced with “%20”), and (2) as of March 2021, this feature is supported only in Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Still, it’s a handy tool to keep in mind for uses other than source citation.

Q. CMOS 8.61 says that words derived from proper nouns like “champagne” are often lowercased when used with a nonliteral meaning. What does “nonliteral” mean when it comes to sparkling wine?

A. The word “champagne” with a lowercase c refers to sparkling wine of any kind, a generic use that is widely accepted; “Champagne” with a capital C, on the other hand, is a proper noun. It literally refers to a specific region in France known for its sparkling wine—or, thanks to industry advocacy, to sparkling wine from that region.

Lowercase “champagne” might be appropriate in a novel or a story—or any casual prose—when the origin of the sparkling wine is unknown or unimportant. If, however, you are writing something like a research paper or a press release, you will want to maintain a clear distinction: write “Champagne” with a capital C to refer to a sparkling wine that it is literally a product of Champagne but “sparkling wine” when it is not (or not necessarily).

The word “Champagne” is closely guarded, but the strictures apply mainly to how the industry labels and markets its products. “Scotch whisky” is similarly protected, and in industry usage, it gets a capital W to go with its capital S. Other such terms tend to be looser—or more general. One example is “swiss cheese”—in which the lowercase s suggests the stuff with the holes, not cheese that’s literally from Switzerland (which might be any number of cheeses, with or without holes).

Think of Chicago style as giving you the option of choosing lowercase for generic, nonliteral mentions. This in itself can be a mark of distinction—not of exclusivity, but of widespread acceptance. And in the case of champagne, it’s a way to keep your options open.

Q. Hi, when a person has a hyphenated first name, such as Zheng-Jun Gao, how would you style their first initials? Would it be “Z.-J. Gao” or “Z. J. Gao”? Thank you.

A. If you’re following Chicago style, keep the hyphen: “Z.-J. Gao” or, inverted (as in a reference list or index), “Gao, Z.-J.” If you’re writing for the sciences, where initials for given names are more common, and where periods and spaces are often omitted from initials, you could follow the lead of the National Library of Medicine, as detailed in Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 2nd ed. According to that guide, hyphens in given names are disregarded when forming initials: “ZJ Gao” or, inverted, “Gao ZJ” (without a comma).

Q. If I have used a machine translator (e.g., DeepL) in a paper, must I give credit to the machine translator? What if the translation needs to be edited?

A. Yes, you generally should give credit to a translator, whether human or machine. This could be done either in the acknowledgments or, for example, in a “Note on Translations” at the beginning of the book. But the easiest option is to footnote the first instance. For example,

1. Except where noted, this and other translations from the original Portuguese into English were generated by DeepL and edited by the author.

Remember also to credit yourself for any translations that you do without help (e.g., “my translation”; see CMOS 11.14).

Q. What is the proper spacing BETWEEN paragraphs? Is it the “space” connected with the font size?

A. In documents published in print, there is usually no extra space between paragraphs. So the space between the last line of one paragraph and the beginning of the next is exactly the same as the space between any two lines of text within a paragraph. For single-spacing this is typically a couple of points more than the font size. New paragraphs are identified by a first-line indent alone.

In documents published online, where space isn’t limited by page size and paper costs, the more common approach (and the typical default in HTML) is to allow the equivalent of a blank line (or a bit less than that) between paragraphs but no first-line indent. If you’re preparing a manuscript for publication or for a class paper, paragraph indents are still the norm; if you use them, then you can set extra space between paragraphs to zero. For more on this topic, see our Shop Talk post on paragraphing in manuscripts; if you’re a student, be sure to check out our paper-formatting Tip Sheets.