New Questions and Answers

Q. “Flyer” vs. “flier.” Please take a stand. Thanks!

A. For anyone or anything that flies, use flier. For the advertising circular, which isn’t usually circular (the name is related to circulation), use flyer.

Q. You wouldn’t write “lineeditor,” so why “copyeditor”? Please help before my head explodes!

A. We know our preference for copyeditor isn’t popular with everyone, but judging from other copy words, it’s not all that weird. In American English, copy tends to form closed compounds, as this snippet from the 2003 first printing of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) shows:*

Part of a scanned page from the first printing of the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, showing the entries for "copybook" through "copywriter."

With the sole exception of copy editor, each of those terms is closed up: copybook; copyboy; copycat, copycatted, copycatting; copydesk; copyedit; copyhold; copyholder; copyreader, copyread; copyright, copyrightable; copywriter. (Copyist is also one word, but it’s not a compound.)

One of them—copyrightable—even has the same number of syllables as copy editor, stressed in the same pattern.

Merriam-Webster has since added one-word copyeditor as a less common variant for the noun and two-word copy edit as a second-listed equal variant for the verb. Our preference splits the difference, favoring consistency with other copy words over the common usage reflected in the dictionary entry.

As for line editor, those two consecutive e’s preclude a move toward one word (à la linebacker or lineman), though we’d hyphenate the -ing and -ed participles as preceding modifiers, as in “line-edited manuscripts.”

We hope our answer has reached you in time.

* Note that those dots in the dictionary entries are called division markers. Not to be confused with actual hyphens, they show where hyphens may be added to words that need to be broken at the end of a line of text.

Q. Would it be correct to use an en dash instead of a hyphen in a compound like “singer-songwriter”? What about a slash?

A. En dashes may be used in compounds referring to two different people:

Epstein–Barr virus (a virus named for two people)

Ali–Frazier fight (a boxing match between two people)

a singer–songwriter duo (referring to two people)

but

Albers-Schönberg disease (a disease named for one person)

Though Chicago doesn’t require an en dash in those first three examples, some style guides do (notably in the sciences and in British English).

But when a compound refers to only one person or thing, as in the compound nouns singer-songwriter and city-state, most styles (including Chicago) would recommend using a hyphen.

As for a slash, that’s usually reserved for alternatives, where the slash means “or” rather than “and” (as in and/or but not singer/songwriter).

Q. I recently became aware that many sources insist one absolutely must use a comma after “said” to punctuate sentences like this one: She looked up and said, “Hi.” Is this really a universal rule? The more I look into it, the more I feel I’ve slipped into an alternate universe.

A. According to CMOS 13.40, common one-word utterances can usually be introduced without the help of a comma—and without quotation marks or an initial capital:

She looked up and said hi.

We told her no.

Don’t ask me why.

But when such words are presented as direct discourse—as in the dialogue of a novel or story—they are usually placed in quotation marks and set off by a comma, like any other quoted words of dialogue:

She looked up and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” I replied, a little embarrassed by the echo.

This convention suggests that the word or words in quotation marks were literally spoken as written. But it can be awkward to put the speaker ahead of the quotation. To smooth things out, try reversing the order:

“Hi,” she said, looking up.

For some additional considerations, see “Is a Comma Needed to Introduce Dialogue” in Fiction+ at CMOS Shop Talk.

Q. Hello, I would like to know how to handle citations to books that list a subsequent printing date. Some books will say, for example, “Copyright 1975” and elsewhere on the copyright page will list the various printing dates, such as “2nd printing 1979, 3rd printing 1985, 4th printing 1992.”

Should my references point to the original copyright date, or the subsequent printing date? I have searched in vain to find a definitive answer to this or any concrete examples. Thank you very much for the help!

A. Use the copyright date as the publication date in your citation. Printings after the first may include minor corrections but are otherwise intended by publishers to be substantially the same as earlier printings.

In the rare case that you are relying on a portion of the text that’s changed from one printing to another—and you happen to notice the discrepancy—​mention the situation in your text or in a note. For example, “This citation relies on the fourth printing of Smith’s book; the first three printings refer, incorrectly, to the British Museum rather than the British Library.”

Note that a numbered printing (or impression) isn’t the same as a numbered edition, the latter of which must always be cited (see CMOS 1.26 and 14.113).

Q. An index I’m editing has the entry “The Dalles, OR.” Would it be correct to change the entry to “Dalles, The, OR”? Or would it be less awkward to leave that as “The Dalles, OR”?

A. Index “The Dalles” under “Dalles, The, OR,” on the principle that most readers will know not to look for a term under an article, whether definite (the) or indefinite (a, an).

CMOS users: Don’t forget about search. Even those of you who are using the printed book and don’t have a subscription to CMOS Online can benefit from it. For example, if you enter “The Dalles” or “Dalles” (that’s an es, not an as!) in the search box, you’ll be directed to paragraph 16.91, which answers the question above.

Q. In “People in chef’s coats were being shepherded from room to room,” should it be written as “chef’s coats,” “chefs coats,” or “chefs’ coats”? I’m guessing that it’s the former, since it is a single, standardized coat that all the chefs are wearing, but I’m not sure.

A. You are correct: the plural of “chef’s coat” is “chef’s coats.” There are a bunch of nouns like that one. For example,

batter’s box (sing.), batter’s boxes (pl.)

buyer’s or seller’s market (sing.), buyer’s or seller’s markets (pl.)

lady’s slipper (sing.), lady’s slippers (pl.)

teacher’s pet (sing.), teacher’s pets (pl.)

So, for example, you might refer to a teacher’s pet in one classroom or to several teacher’s pets in one or more classrooms.

But if, instead of model students, you were referring to two or more teachers and their cats or dogs (or other such animals), you’d write “teachers’ pets” (note the placement of the apostrophe).

December Q&A

Q. What is the correct way to write “four o’clock” as a book title?

A. Treat the contracting apostrophe in “o’clock” as if it were a hyphen and write Four O’Clock—capital O and C. The O is capitalized as the first word in a compound term, and the C because clock is a noun. If it helps, think of the title as short for “Four Of-the-Clock” (rather than “Four of the Clock”—​though the latter is how the term would normally be spelled out).

See also CMOS 8.161, which explains Chicago’s rules for capitalizing hyphenated compounds in titles.

Q. Hello! I know that spellings are always preserved in proper names. For example, in a book written in American English, “Globe Theatre” would not become “Globe Theater.” Does this extend to punctuation? In “St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School” (in London) does it stay “St” or become “St.” when mentioned in a book in American style?

A. British-style punctuation, unlike spelling, can usually be adjusted to conform to the style used in the surrounding text. This includes moving periods and commas inside closing quotation marks (and changing single quotation marks to double), replacing spaced en dashes with unspaced em dashes, and adding periods to abbreviations like “St.”—which, as a form of contraction (the first and last letters of the term are retained), isn’t normally punctuated in British style (see also CMOS 10.4).

Note, however, that the advice relative to periods does not apply to direct quotations from written sources (or, by extension, to titles of works), which should record “St Thomas’s” or “St. Thomas’s” as it appears in the source. See CMOS 13.7 for permissible changes to quotations and 8.165 for permissible changes to titles of works.

Q. Do you place a comma between a book or article title and the word “by”? For example: “Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, was published in 1813.” Some editors delete those commas, but to me they make sense. The author’s name often isn’t needed to identify the work, and the pause there feels natural to me. Please guide me with your editorial wisdom.

A. Commas are correct unless an author’s name is being used restrictively, as it is in both instances in the second of the following two examples:

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, has gone through many printings.

but

Now that I’ve finally managed to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I’m ready to tackle Great Expectations by Kathy Acker.

In the first example, the phrase “by Charles Dickens” is nonrestrictive; omitting it wouldn’t change the meaning of the sentence (though not all readers will know who wrote Great Expectations). In the second example, omitting the authors’ names would obscure the intended meaning.

For more on the use of commas relative to restrictive and nonrestrictive phrases and clauses, see CMOS 6.27–29.

Q. Do you lowercase occupational forms of address like “waiter,” “driver,” “bartender,” and “cook”? It seems that I got different opinions on various websites. Thanks for your input.

A. None of the terms you mention would normally be capitalized in direct address, even when standing in for a name:

Where are you taking me, driver?

Hey, bartender, where’s my drink?

But if the occupation can also be used as a title, capitalization is the norm:

How bad is it, Doctor?

What’s the rush, Captain?

Either convention can be broken, however.

For example, capitalization would make sense for a fictional character known by occupation alone, even if the occupation isn’t also a title—as in the case of the character known as “Driver” in the novels Drive and Driven, by James Sallis (Poisoned Pen Press, 2005 and 2012). And titles that aren’t being used literally are less likely to merit capitalization: What’s up, doc?

For some additional considerations, see CMOS 8.34–37.

Q. What is the plural of “Mercedes”? For example: “The armored Mercedes’ of the oligarchs sped through the streets of Moscow.” “Mercedeses” sounds clunky, but does the final apostrophe adequately convey the plural?

A. An apostrophe can sometimes signal a plural, but it does that only in combination with an s (e.g., three x’s). Mercedes’ doesn’t read as plural.

And though a proper name ending in a pronounced s normally forms the plural by adding es—for example, a family with the surname Jones would be known as the Joneses—we wouldn’t recommend that approach in this case.

A written invitation to lunch at “The Mercedeses” might be strictly correct (for the surname Mercedes), but as you suggest, that would be awkward to pronounce (and just as difficult to read). For the car, allow Mercedes to do double duty as both singular and plural.

One caveat: Unless context makes it clear that Mercedes is being used as a plural, you may have to clarify—for example, by adding a collective noun: The oligarchs’ armored fleet of Mercedes sped through the streets of Moscow.

Q. In CMOS 8.161 (on hyphenated compounds in headline-style titles), the word “Speaking” in the example “Non-English-Speaking Representatives” is capitalized, going against rule 3. Since “non-” is a prefix and cannot stand alone as a word, shouldn’t “speaking” be lowercase? Thank you for your explanation.

A. The point of rule 3 is this: If the unhyphenated form might conceivably be spelled as one word, then use lowercase for subsequent elements:

Are Antihistamines Overprescribed? (lowercase h in “histamines”)

Are Anti-intellectuals Overrated? (lowercase i in “intellectuals”)

But “NonEnglishspeaking” would never be correct, so “Speaking” needs to be capitalized. For hyphens with prefixes, see CMOS 7.89, section 4.

Q. Can a building or other similar place or geographical feature be cited as a source according to CMOS?

A. Anything can be cited. Your cat. Jay Leno’s cars. But there’s no standard bibliographic format for cats or cars—let alone buildings or mountains or the like. Instead, describe the entity in the text or in a note, using as much detail as required to make your point. Then cite the source of any facts or other details that wouldn’t be considered common knowledge:

Construction of the Guangzhou Opera House, designed by Zaha Hadid, was completed in 2010 at a cost of more than $200 million.1

1. Victoria Newhouse, Site and Sound: The Architecture and Acoustics of New Opera Houses and Concert Halls (New York: Monacelli Press, 2012), 194.

If you need a list—for example, of buildings designed by a particular firm or belonging to a certain style or otherwise sharing common features that are relevant to your reason for writing about them—then create one. Listing under the name of the architect or firm would be one approach:

Zaha Hadid Architects. Guangzhou Opera House. Guangzhou, China. Completed in 2010.

Add other details as relevant to your study, and otherwise adjust as needed. But make this a separate list; don’t hide such info in a bibliography, where readers are apt to miss it among books and other cited documents.