New Questions and Answers

Q. If I were to address multiple friends, would it be more appropriate to begin with “Does any of y’all . . .” or “Do any of y’all . . .”? I would have thought the former was correct because “any” could be singular (as in “any one of my interlocutors”), but my partner thinks the latter is correct. I’m willing to be wrong, but I want to know why! Can CMOS weigh in?

A. According to Bryan Garner’s Modern English Usage (5th ed., 2022), under “any (B)”: “Any may take either a singular or a plural verb. The singular use is fairly rare.” And when it’s treated as singular despite being followed by “of” plus a plural noun, “any is elliptical for any one; the sentence often reads better if one is retained.”

So if you want to make sure others understand your use as singular, don’t be elliptical about things. In other words, retain one: “Does any one of y’all . . .” Otherwise, treat any as plural: “Do any of y’all . . .” And note that any one is two words in this context. Compare “Does anyone know . . .”—where the indefinite pronoun anyone is one word (and, like any one, singular).

In sum, you’re both right, but your partner’s version, which doesn’t rely on reading “any” as elliptical for “any one,” is best.

Q. CMOS 14.195 explains how to include the headline names of regular columns or features in a footnote citation, but how should they appear if mentioned in the main text: italicized, in quotes, or roman? Thanks!

A. Use roman and initial caps in both contexts—for example, when you mention or cite the article “My Spectacular Betrayal” in the Modern Love column in the New York Times.1 The lack of quotation marks helps keep the name of the column distinct from the article title. See also CMOS 8.177.


1. Samantha Silva, “My Spectacular Betrayal,” Modern Love, New York Times, May 19, 2023.

Q. Hi. How do you write out grade levels? For example, would it be “third grade” or “3rd grade”? “Grade three” or “grade 3”? I cannot find the answer in CMOS 17; did I miss it? Thanks in advance!

A. Write “third grade” and “grade 3.” In Chicago style, the numbers zero through one hundred (CMOS 9.2) or, alternatively, zero through nine (9.3) are spelled out. This applies whether the number is a cardinal (“one”) or an ordinal (“first”). But numerals are preferred in many expressions where the number follows the noun. For example, we’d refer to page 3, act 7, room 9, and Highway 2. Examples like these appear throughout CMOS, but none with grade levels. We’ll try to add some in a future edition.

Q. How do I abbreviate the word “number”?

A. Avoid num., which is normally reserved for “numeral,” and n., which in Chicago style usually means “note.” For casual prose, the number sign # is common. But even though “number sign” is its Unicode name, that symbol has a number (sorry) of other uses, including as a hashtag and in URLs that point to a specific part of a page.

In most contexts, the best choice is no.—a common form that abbreviates the Latin word numero. That’s what we prefer in source citations for journal articles, as in Critical Inquiry 49, no. 3, which refers to volume 49 (we omit the abbreviation “vol.” in this context), issue number 3, of that journal.

Q. I’m having a difficult time finding a rule that governs afterthoughts. For example: “I told him I would pay my respects another time, if necessary.” Comma before “if”? Seems like there should be.

A. Anything intended as an afterthought should be preceded by a comma, or by some other mark of punctuation—a dash, for example (or parentheses). A period could also work. In your example, the comma before “if” is the only thing that tells readers that “if necessary” is an afterthought. So keep it, assuming that’s what you intended.

Q. How should I cite a classic film on YouTube? For example, Mist (Angae), directed by Kim Soo-yong, aired July 21, 2014, by Korean Classic Film on YouTube,

A. Your description would form the basis of a good citation, as in this note:

1. Kim Soo-yong, dir., Mist (Angae), posted July 21, 2014, Korean Classic Film, YouTube, 1 hr., 19 min.,

But whenever you cite something posted on YouTube, it’s important to consider the source itself in addition to whatever the text on YouTube says about it below the video.

In this case, the film is labeled on YouTube with the title “Mist (Angae),” but the film’s title sequence includes “The Foggy Town,” in English (and not as a subtitle added later on), beneath the Korean title (안개). (“Angae” is a direct transliteration of 안개, which can mean “mist” or “fog.”) That detail about the original English title will help readers who follow the link confirm that they’ve landed in the right place:

Screenshot from the title sequence of the Korean-language film Mist (Angae) (1967) on YouTube.

Other details include the original release date (1967) and the fact that the film is based on a novel by Kim Seung-ok, who also adapted the screenplay. This information can be worked into the text or added to a note if relevant.

The original title and release date could be included in a note as follows:

1. Kim Soo-yong, dir., The Foggy Town (안개), 1967, posted July 21, 2014, under the title Mist (Angae), Korean Classic Film, YouTube, 1 hr., 19 min.,

And notice that we’ve used the “share” version of the link in our examples; links shortened through third parties shouldn’t be used in source citations because they hide the original URL (see CMOS 14.10), but YouTube’s own shortened URLs are okay to use.

In sum, you have some flexibility when citing classic content posted to YouTube. But remember to pay attention to the source as the thing you’re primarily citing and describing; YouTube is only the messenger.

Q. How would you handle “early-to-mid” + “century”? “Early to mid-twentieth century”? “Early-to-mid twentieth century”? “Early-to-mid-twentieth century”?

A. When these century phrases are used as nouns, we’d retain only the hyphen after mid: “in the early twentieth century,” “in the mid-twentieth century,” and, by extension, “in the early to mid-twentieth century.” But when they’re used as modifiers before another noun, extra hyphenation would be needed: “early twentieth-century history,” “mid-twentieth-century history,” and “early-to-mid-twentieth-century history.”

Two things to note: (1) It wouldn’t be wrong to refer to “early-twentieth-century history” (with two hyphens), but we think the extra hyphen (after early) is unnecessary (see CMOS 7.87—and note that early is an adjective, not an adverb, and therefore not subject to the -ly exception described in CMOS 7.86). (2) The word mid, unlike early, isn’t an ordinary adjective; instead, it usually combines with any word that it modifies—either with a hyphen (“mid-twentieth”) or without (“midyear”).

See also the hyphenation guide at CMOS 7.89, section 1, under “number + noun”; section 3, under “century”; and section 4, under “mid.”

May Q&A

Q. I understand a space is necessary between a number and a fraction when the fraction symbol is unavailable (e.g., 2 1/2), because the number would be illegible without it. But what if you use the symbol?

A. Fractional quantities expressed as a numeral plus a symbol are normally written without a space, as in 2½ or 5⅞. See CMOS 9.15 for examples.

Whether the symbol is used or not, these are known as “vulgar” fractions. For example, the Unicode name for “⅞” is “vulgar fraction seven eighths.” In this context, “vulgar” means “common.” We can only guess, then, that decimal fractions (e.g., 0.875) would be considered fancy by comparison.

Q. I am having an argument with our law clerks. I do not believe that a comma is needed when referencing a date range—e.g., “The case was active from November 3, 2021 to November 30, 2022.” My law clerks insist that a comma belongs after 2021 (between the dates), and I say that when a date range is preceded by a preposition, a comma is unnecessary. Can you provide me with a definitive answer? Thank you.

A. Most style guides published in North America (where the “Month Day, Year” format is preferred) will tell you to use that second comma (the one after the year). This includes not only CMOS (see paragraph 6.38) but also the guides from the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Associated Press (AP), the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the US Government Publishing Office (GPO). The guides from Microsoft and Apple also support this rule.*

The idea is that the year is parenthetical—November 3 (2021)—and in your example this usage is relatively straightforward. But when the date is used as a modifier before a noun, the result can seem awkward, and some guides—​including CMOS (in paragraph 5.83)—recommend rephrasing if possible:

The January 10, 2023, decision was unexpected.

or, less awkwardly,

The decision of January 10, 2023, was unexpected.

As for legal contexts, The Bluebook (the legal citation guide published by the Harvard Law Review Association) doesn’t seem to specify how to punctuate dates outside of citations (where a comma might follow a year but for other reasons). But we’d be surprised if The Bluebook’s editors didn’t support the additional comma in a sentence like yours. (A look at the Harvard Law Review’s website suggests a preference for the second comma.)

Verdict: Your law clerks aren’t wrong in this case.

* MLA Handbook (9th ed., 2021), 2.13; AP Stylebook (56th ed, 2022), under “comma”; Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed., 2020), 6.3; AMA Manual of Style (11th ed., 2020),; GPO Style Manual (2016 ed.), 8.53; Microsoft Style Guide, “Commas” (June 24, 2022); Apple Style Guide (October 2022 ed.), under “dates.”

Q. I’m curious as to what proper Chicago-style formatting would be for referring to a person’s pronouns. In informal communication I have found it standard to give them in roman and separated by slashes: she/her/hers.

But should the pronouns be italicized because they are being referred to as words? I also wonder whether the slashes are proper Chicago style. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

A. You are right about the italics. Strictly speaking, Chicago style would be she/her/hers. As for the slashes, their main use is to separate alternatives (as described in CMOS 6.106), so they’re the perfect choice here. She, her, and hers are alternative forms of the same word—different grammatical case forms that depend on context.

If you want to go to the next level, apply italics to the pronouns but not to the slashes (as in our example above). Almost no one will notice, but you’ll have the satisfaction of having applied your italics with precision and care.

Q. I received the following instruction from a production editor regarding a manuscript I was assigned for copyediting: “Only one character speaks British English, and unless he’s in dialogue the spelling should be American.”

I’ve always been under the impression that house style rules and spelling style should be maintained even if a character is British in an American text. How should I approach this?

A. We agree with you. For example, if a British character in an American story referred to the “color” of a particular “jumper,” you would leave the text as is:

“Could I try that jumper in a different color?”


“Could I try that jumper in a different colour?”

and not

“Could I try that sweater in a different color?”

The American narrator might refer to that same character’s “sweater,” but generally speaking the principle to follow is this: Retain American spellings for all narrative and dialogue, even for a British character. Vocabulary alone will establish a character’s Britishness or Americanness, as the case may be.

Q. In the following sentence, I would rather omit all but the first article to make the sentence more concise: “It can be a professor, a boss, an adviser, or a coach.” But can I do this even though an “a” would not be used before “adviser”? In other words, would “a professor, boss, adviser, or coach” be correct?

A. Think of the n in “an” as a temporary intervention that’s used only to prevent the glottal stop that would result from saying “a adviser” out loud (or in one’s head). It’s purely a concession to speech, having no grammatical significance; “an” means exactly the same thing as “a.” If you decide to omit the article, there’s no need to worry about that n.

And you can drop the articles in a series after the first, provided they’re all the same type—either definite (the) or indefinite (a, an)—and provided the sentence remains clear without them (as is the case with your example).

Q. How does one quote from an interview in which the interviewee uses the word “hashtag”? For example, “Anyone can do it, hashtag, write your own story,” with the hashtag being #WriteYourOwnStory.

A. The safest approach—one that will make it immediately clear which words belong to the hashtag—is to use quotation marks, as follows:

“Anyone can do it, hashtag ‘write your own story.’ ”

And note that there’s no need for a comma after the word “hashtag.”

Another option is to omit the quotation marks, a simpler but also less literal approach that’s best suited to dialogue in fiction and other creative contexts:

“We’ve been in the car for five hours now, hashtag are we there yet, hashtag I’m hungry.”

For the use of single quotation marks, as in the first example above, see CMOS 6.11 and 13.30.

Q. I’m writing a book about Civil War recipients of the Medal of Honor, about forty of whom had their narratives reproduced in two postwar books published before 1910. These narratives have also appeared in books that were published more recently and remain under copyright. Can I use the numerous accounts (quoted in the men’s own words) from the earlier editions without obtaining the reprint publisher’s permission?

A. As long as you use only those portions of the text that were published in the older editions—both of which would now be long out of copyright—you won’t need permission to reproduce the content (though you should cite the original sources in a footnote or elsewhere). See also CMOS 4.22.