New Questions and Answers

Q. Can I use the ellipsis character in my manuscript? Or do I need to use Chicago’s spaced periods?

A. Either way is OK as long as you’re consistent. If you use the ellipsis character, put a space before and after it … like that. At the end of a sentence, it follows a period and a space, like this. … If a comma or other punctuation follows, close it up to the ellipsis …, like that. A publisher (or copyeditor) following Chicago style can search for this special character (Unicode 2026) and replace it with Chicago’s spaced periods . . . like that or, at the end of a sentence, like this. . . . Where a comma, semicolon, colon, question mark, or exclamation point follows the ellipsis, it is preceded by a space, like this . . . ; an exception is made for marks that come in pairs, including a quotation mark, “like this . . .”—and a dash . . .—like that (and a parenthesis [or bracket], like this . . .). To keep each ellipsis (and any mark of punctuation that follows) on the same line, nonbreaking spaces will need to be applied for publication (as we’ve done here). An ellipsis can begin a new line, so there is no need to precede an ellipsis by a nonbreaking space.

Q. Do you capitalize both words in “happy birthday”?

A. Not always. To describe the act of wishing someone a happy birthday, neither term is capitalized. To name the traditional song, both words are capitalized: “Happy Birthday to You,” or “Happy Birthday.” In dialogue (as in a published novel or story), the first term would normally be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence: “Happy birthday, Rhoda!” But in a personal greeting, you can style it however you wish: Happy Birthday! 🎈🎈🎈 (birthday-themed emoji optional).

Q. Regarding spelling out round numbers over one hundred—how should we handle numbers like 1,500? It’s more round than a number like 1,543, but it’s also less round than a number like one thousand. And if it should be spelled out, which is preferred, “one thousand five hundred” or “fifteen hundred”? Thanks!

A. According to CMOS 9.4,“The whole numbers one through one hundred followed by hundred, thousand, or hundred thousand are usually spelled out.” The spelled-out form “fifteen hundred” qualifies. But the hybrid form “one thousand five hundred” does not. Paragraph 9.4 is intended to encourage spelling out round numbers like three hundred thousand, not awkward forms like “three hundred thousand six hundred”—or, for that matter, something like “thirty-three hundred thousand,” which would be better expressed as “3.3 million” (see CMOS 9.8). So write “fifteen hundred” or “1,500,” depending on context. (For example, if numerals are otherwise rare in your text, opt for the former.)

Q. I edited a travel book for children, and I would love to know your response to this comment from an Amazon reviewer: “U.S. is spelled US throughout the book; D.C. is also spelled without the accurate punctuation. That sort of inattention to accuracy is inexcusable.” The author has asked me to write a response to this for Amazon. This reviewer seems to think Chicago style is teaching kids bad punctuation habits. Thanks for your help.

A. “DC” (no periods) is the official postal abbreviation, in use since October 1963, when the US Post Office Department (now the US Postal Service) introduced its list of two-letter abbreviations for states and territories (and the District of Columbia). The Chicago Manual of Style now recommends these familiar two-letter forms over the traditional abbreviations. So we recommend not only “DC” rather than “D.C.” but also, for example, “IL” rather than “Ill.” Chicago’s preference for “US,” on the other hand, accords with established usage for other countries (the UK, the former USSR, the PRC) and for most other initialisms and acronyms that take full capitals (NASA, UN, DNA). It is true that many publications still favor the more traditional forms with periods, and those are not wrong. But it would be wrong to suggest that kids can’t learn to appreciate the details that make reading (and editing) so interesting.

Q. I frequently quote material that includes existing footnotes within it. If I don’t want to include the footnote in my own writing, can I insert [footnote omitted] in superscript in place of the footnote number to the original text?

A. The note number can simply be deleted. It adds no meaningful content and risks leading the reader on a wild goose chase for a note in your own text that doesn’t exist. Nor is it helpful to readers to know that you’ve deleted the number; such numbers are a distraction even in the original text, and many books are published without note reference numbers for that very reason (notes are instead listed at the end of the book by page number and key phrase in the text). If, on the other hand, you also want to include the text of the note, use a block quotation, preserve the note number, and present the numbered note below the quotation, preferably in a smaller font size. See CMOS 13.7 for more, including how to handle parenthetical text references.

Q. CMOS 8.154 covers lowercase and CamelCase trade names, but it doesn’t specify how to deal with wordmarks that are partly in italics. I would prefer to set them the same way as any other word, but I would also love an official ruling on this!

A. Italics, like other such typographic treatments in trademarked names (including boldface and color), can usually be ignored. For example, EBSCOhost becomes EBSCOhost; whereas the capital letters are meaningful (“EBSCO” is an acronym based on the founder’s name plus the abbreviation for “Company”), the italics as such are not. You could refer to these as vanity italics, which, like vanity lowercase (e.g., adidas or intel), are intended to support the latest branding efforts by a corporation in service of its product but are less helpful to those of us who write about such things.

Q. What is the proper way to write the commonly used speech abbreviation “twenty-four seven” (meaning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)? Would one write “24-7” or “24/7” or something else?

A. All of the above. According to Merriam-Webster, the expression is spelled out “twenty-four seven” and can be abbreviated either “24-7” or “24/7” (the latter two are equal variants, which M-W separates by “or”). The entries for the spelled-out and abbreviated forms are separate in M-W, so you’ll have to make a choice. If you are spelling out numbers zero through one hundred (per CMOS 9.2), opt for “twenty-four seven”; if you’re spelling out only single-digit numbers (per CMOS 9.3), choose the first-listed abbreviation in M-W and go with that. There’s no harm, of course, in opting for the second-listed equal variant if that’s what you prefer, but whatever you do, be consistent—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

July Q&A

Q. In the world of engineering, “CMOS” is very well known to stand for “complementary metal-oxide semiconductor.” In preparing a style guide for engineering tech writers, what would be the best way to refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, other than to spell it out every time?

A. Try CMoS (lowercase o) or, better yet, Chicago. Chicago style would normally call for italics for the abbreviated and shortened forms of the title of the manual itself. But you might instead opt for Chicago in regular type—as we often do—to refer to both the style and the manual on which it is based. We at the University of Chicago Press face a similar conundrum. To refer specifically to the manual, we prefer CMOS over Chicago because, from where we sit, Chicago is likely also to refer to the publisher, the university, or the city (or, when italicized, the musical). And whereas CMS was once a favorite around here, the growth of content management systems in the 1990s compelled us to reconsider.

Q. Our typesetter applied Chicago’s never-add-a-hyphen-to-a-URL-breaking-over-two-lines rule to hashtags breaking over two lines (specifically “#MeToo”), and the proofreader marked to force them all to one line, which may result in a lot of loose/tight lines since this occurs quite frequently. Would you suggest stetting the original, going with the proofreader’s fix, or hyphenating?

A. We would suggest the following order of preference: (1) prevent the hashtag from breaking (your proofreader’s preference); or (2), where a typefitting problem would be ameliorated only by a break in the hashtag, hyphenate: #Me-/Too. Many URLs contain hyphens; hashtags never do. So whereas it is important never to add a hyphen to a URL, lest it be misinterpreted as part of the string, it’s OK to allow an optional hyphen (also called a soft or discretionary hyphen) in a hashtag at the end of a line—exactly as you might add a hyphen to an ordinary word that would not otherwise include one. Furthermore, whereas a URL that breaks over two lines is usually recognizable as such without the aid of a hyphen (and in printed works, CMOS recommends breaking a URL immediately before an existing hyphen), a hashtag broken at the end of a line without a hyphen is subject to being misread as a hashtag (#Me) followed by a new word (Too).

Q. I have a question regarding an episode my fiction author mentions quite a few times in her story. She’s currently italicizing it: the incident. I think caps would be better: the Incident (“the” not capped). Or would “the” be capped in this case?

A. Italics would work well for the occasional emphasis: “Did you hear about the incident?” But to immortalize an event—especially if the desired effect is irony (or tragicomedy)—we agree that capitalization would be the better choice. As for the initial article, Chicago would normally recommend lowercase “the” for events that occur in real life—for example, the Great Fire of London (see CMOS 8.75)—but the point of a single capital I for a solitary common noun that wouldn’t normally be capitalized risks being lost on readers. To take full advantage of the opportunity for humor (or pathos), you would be justified in making a reasonable departure from Chicago style and referring to The Incident.

Q. Are “ius gentium” and “jus gentium” equally correct, assuming I’m consistent throughout my essay? I’m used to using “jus,” but many of the sources I’m consulting use “ius”; if I quote a passage with this word, may I simply anglicize it to “jus” without comment?

A. The spellings “ius gentium” and “jus gentium” are equally correct, though we, too, would prefer the anglicized form (to follow Merriam-Webster, not to mention the OED and other standard English-language dictionaries). But do not change “ius” to “jus” in direct quotations; readers wishing to follow your work might be confused by such a change (or, worse, prevented from finding the term). At most, provide a parenthetical gloss at first mention:

jus gentium (or ius gentium)

If the first mention is within a quotation, use square brackets:

ius gentium [jus gentium]

Q. Do you hyphenate “student teacher”?

A. We follow Merriam-Webster and leave it open: “student teacher.” The term, in which “student” modifies “teacher,” is analogous to “student nurse,” which appears in section 2 of our hyphenation table (CMOS 7.89) under “noun + noun, single function (first noun modifies second noun).” Compare “writer-director,” in which the nouns represent two separate (and grammatically equal) functions.

Q. In author-date references, for an in-text citation that includes two or more sources—e.g., (Doe 2008; Smith 2013)—would the authors’ names be alphabetized, or is it dependent on the order of references used in the work that the citation correlates to? Thank you!

A. Normally, you can follow either the order in which the material appears in the text or, if the citations all refer to the same material, the relative importance of the sources cited. Where neither of those criteria applies, prefer either alphabetical or chronological order (be consistent). See CMOS 15.30 for some additional considerations.

Q. Does the Manual defend “on a case-by-case basis” over “case by case”?

A. Yes—we would hyphenate. You can deduce this preference from CMOS 7.87: “Multiple hyphens are usually appropriate for such phrases as an over-the-counter drug or a winner-take-all contest.” Hyphens in such phrases aid readability by helping readers to differentiate a modifier of otherwise indeterminate length from the word or words that it modifies. Postscript: As to whether we would defend “on a case-by-case basis” as a phrase, it’s an established idiom and might be preferred in some instances to the more concise “case by case” on that basis alone (so to speak). (Compare “pets will be permitted on a case-by-case basis” to “pets will be permitted case by case.”) But if you’re considering a shipment of beer, you may need to examine it case by case (literally). It’s best to take a case-by-case approach.