New Questions and Answers

Q. Merriam-Webster lists “fact-check” as a verb (with a hyphen). But what about when it’s used as a noun—as in, “Oh no, not another fact check!” My guess is that it’s not hyphenated, but I would like to see an entry on this. Thank you.

A. We agree with your guess, so we turned to the OED for confirmation. That dictionary includes an entry for “fact-check” as a verb (with a hyphen) and another for “fact check” as a noun (no hyphen).

Interestingly, the noun and verb forms both first appeared in 1965, but in separate publications (according to the quotations in the OED entries). The verb appeared in a classified ad in the Chicago Tribune on February 7: “Loop encyclopedia needs science-oriented person to fact-check manuscripts”; the noun showed up in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (vol. 113, no. 8, p. 1175): “Where more than a superficial fact check is required, the type of data typically provided in a presentence report is what might be desired.”

That job opening in the Loop sounds intriguing. If we had more time, we might do a fact check to find out which encyclopedia that was.

Q. I was taught to exclusively use third person in academic writing, especially in research papers. Now that I’m in university, I have seen increasing use of first person in essays and papers. I couldn’t find anything on this in CMOS or on the website. Is there any sort of guideline on when to use different perspectives? Or does choosing first, second, and third person in writing have little impact as long as a sense of professionalism is maintained?

A. The ninth edition of A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations—known as Turabian and intended as a CMOS for students—includes a section on first-person pronouns that begins as follows: “Almost everyone has heard the advice to avoid using I or we in academic writing. In fact, opinions differ on this point. Some teachers tell students never to use I, because it makes their writing ‘subjective.’ Others encourage using I as a way to make writing more lively and personal” (§ 11.1.7, p. 120).

Turabian then offers some guidelines: For example, try to avoid beginning your sentences with I believe or I think (which go without saying). And resist the temptation to provide a running commentary on your research (First I did this . . . Then I did this . . .). You should also avoid using the royal we to refer to yourself and the generic we to refer to people in general.

But the occasional use of first person—for example, to describe something that you in fact did or plan to do—can make writing sound less dogmatic. For more details (including why researchers avoid the first person to describe actions that must be replicated by other researchers), see § 11.1.7.

Q. With the rise of verbs that have specific connotations in social media (like, follow, comment, etc.), how should they be styled? In this case, it’s important to specify the user take an action on a specific social media platform. My instinct is to capitalize: “Give the post a Like. Leave a Comment. Make sure to Follow the account.” Should I be using scare quotes instead, or are these terms ubiquitous enough that lowercase will be clear in an instructional sense? Thanks for your help!

A. In most types of prose, you can like, unlike, follow, friend, unfriend, and so on, no quotation marks, italics, or initial caps required. The same goes for nouns, whether you give a post a like (or a heart) or leave a comment. But if, as your question suggests, you’re writing instructions (as on a Help page), then we agree with your initial capitals, though not for everything.

We’d use capitalization only for direct references to the interface:

To react favorably to a post, click Like or Love.

To share, use the Share button.

To leave a comment, use the “Add a comment . . .” text box.


To leave a Comment, use the Add a comment . . . text box.

The capitalized words in the first three examples reflect how those terms appear in either Facebook or Instagram. But we’ve used quotation marks in the third example to enclose text that’s capitalized like a sentence; without the quotation marks, that phrase wouldn’t stand out from the surrounding text. Terms from other platforms will vary. For some related advice, see CMOS 7.79.

Q. How do you form a possessive of a “one of the” phrase? For example, a shout belonging to “one of the guards.” Placing the apostrophe at the end of “guards” seems to make multiple guards possess the shout. “Guard’s” seems to make it one of the shouts of a single guard. But if there are multiple guards, and one is shouting . . . where does the apostrophe go?

A. Our recommendation would be to rephrase to avoid the possessive—for example, by referring to “a shout from one of the guards.” Because you’re right, an apostrophe by itself won’t convey your intended meaning.

For example, you could write this: “One of the guards’ shouts could be heard above the din.” Restating that sentence reveals its meaning: “Of the guards’ shouts, one could be heard above the din.” There are multiple shouts from multiple guards (plural possessive), and one of these shouts in particular could be heard above the din—which is not, judging from your question, what you intend to say.

And you’re right about the version with apostrophe s, as in “one of the guard’s shouts.” As you say, that would suggest one shout from a single guard who is shouting—or maybe, depending on context, the shouts belonging to one of the guards. These are also not what you mean.

Again, rephrasing to avoid the possessive is your best bet. For a related scenario involving the phrase one of and verb agreement, see CMOS 5.62.

Q. Are English translations of Native American terms for place-names treated like proper nouns and capitalized? For example, would you refer to Dook’o’oosłííd (Diné for Gleaming Summit)? Or should it be Dook’o’oosłííd (Diné for gleaming summit).

A. In your example, we would use lowercase and quotation marks for the translated term in parentheses (see also CMOS 11.5): Dook’o’oosłííd (Diné for “gleaming summit”). We’d capitalize it (and drop the quotation marks) only if the place is known in English by the translated name. For example, you might refer to Firenze (Italian for Florence).

Or, drawing on information from the US Forest Service (which translates Dook’o’oosłííd as “the summit which never melts” or “the mountain which peak never thaws”), you could refer to Dook’o’oosłííd (the Diné name for the San Francisco Peaks) or to the San Francisco Peaks (Dook’o’oosłííd in Diné).

Q. When referring to the title of an article that incorrectly uses single quotation marks around the name of a movie or book, is it OK to silently change those to italics (in text, bib, and notes)? Thanks!

A. Quotation marks within an article title are normally retained when that title is mentioned or cited. For example, you might refer to the New Yorker article by Lauren Michele Jackson that was published online on March 26, 2024, with the following title:

Screenshot of a New Yorker article title. The title is in all caps, and the words “Huckleberry Finn” are in quotation marks.

We’d refer to this title by putting the whole thing in double quotation marks: “Percival Everett’s Philosophical Reply to ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ”

Note that we’ve made two adjustments in our version of the title: (1) the all caps of the original have been changed to initial caps according to the rules outlined in CMOS 8.159, and (2) the double quotation marks, which follow New Yorker style for setting off the title of a novel (where Chicago specifies italics), have been changed to single—but we didn’t delete them.

And in some cases, quotation marks are added to a title within a title—even for titles of books and movies and the like, which would normally get italics in Chicago style. For example, a title page in a book might read as follows:

Title of a Book on Shakespeare’s Hamlet

But when mentioning or citing this title, we’d do this (see CMOS 14.94):

Title of a Book on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”

In sum, don’t assume quotation marks are always wrong for the title of a book or the like, even in Chicago style. See also CMOS 6.11.

Q. Sorry I’m so confused, but what is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?

A. Generally speaking, a bibliography and a reference list are the same thing: a list of sources that appears at the end of an article or a book or at the end of a chapter or other component in a book or other work.

But we reserve the term reference list for sources that have been cited using Chicago’s author-date style; each source in a reference list corresponds to at least one parenthetical reference in the text.

Text (parenthetical citation plus page number):

The study concluded that the example was nonliteral, or “for illustration only” (Smith 2024, 33).

Reference list entry (note the position of the date):

Smith, Emily. 2024. A Mock Guide to Invented Prose. City, ST: Big Name University Press.

Sources listed in a bibliography are like the sources in a reference list, but they’re in notes-bibliography style, not author-date.

Bibliography entry (again, note the position of the date):

Smith, Emily. A Mock Guide to Invented Prose. City, ST: Big Name University Press, 2024.

The text will typically cite that same source in a footnote or endnote (or in the text itself). If the citation is in shortened form, readers can consult the alphabetically arranged bibliography for the full form of the citation.

Text and note:

The study concluded that the example was nonliteral, or “for illustration purposes only.”1

1. Smith, A Mock Guide, 33.

Another difference is that bibliographies may list sources that haven’t been directly cited in the text; conversely, sources cited in the text don’t always need to be included in a bibliography. For more details on this subject, see chapters 14 and 15, starting with paragraph 14.2.

March Q&A

Q. I’m pretty certain CMOS said to omit the “of” in month-year references (“he graduated in May 1999,” not “he graduated in May of 1999”), but I can’t for the life of me find this in the 17th edition. Is there a reason it is no longer covered? And do you have guidance?

A. We haven’t been able to find such a rule in earlier editions of CMOS, but according to Bryan Garner (author of CMOS chapter 5), it’s best to leave out “of”: “February 2010 is better than February of 2010”; see Garner’s Modern English Usage, 5th ed. (Oxford, 2022), under “Dates. B. Month and Year.”

That advice is presumably directed at writers and editors. In speech, adding an “of” between month and year is relatively common—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so. Similarly, Chicago style is to write “July 5,” whereas people typically say “July 5th.” Rules intended for writing, which tend to favor precision, don’t always translate to speech.

[Editor’s update: It turns out that Garner’s advice is in the Manual after all. See the entry for of in the usage glossary at CMOS 5.250: “Avoid using this word needlessly after all, off, inside, and outside. Also, prefer June 2015 over June of 2015. To improve your style, try removing every of-phrase that you reasonably can.” Our focus on CMOS’s coverage of dates led us astray. Thank you to a reader for kindly bringing this to our attention.]

Q. I am editing an article that has sports terminology in it, and I wanted to verify whether a player’s jersey number would fall under the general rule of numbers or would be a special case in which the jersey number would be written as a numeral. And if it is to be written as a numeral, would an octothorpe/hashtag be used (for example, #24)?

A. Jersey numbers (like page numbers and a few other categories) are best expressed as numerals to reflect the way they normally appear in real life: Upon his much-anticipated return to the court, he wore number 45.* Usually, the word “number” can be spelled out; if you need to abbreviate it, we’d recommend using “No.”† instead of the number sign‡ (i.e., No. 45).

* Hint: The year was 1995, when CMOS was in its fourteenth edition.

† For the capital N, see this Q&A on a related matter (the No. 2 pencil).

‡ “Number sign” is Unicode’s name for # (U+0023); the code chart for that symbol also lists pound sign, hashtag, hash, crosshatch, and octothorpe as what it calls informative aliases (which are preceded by equals signs in the charts; see “Key to the Unicode Code Charts” at Unicode’s Help and Links page).

Q. Many of my clients (graduate students and researchers) want to use the term “post COVID” to mean “after the COVID-19 pandemic,” as in “Returning from Remote Work post COVID.” I believe this would make “post” a preposition, and that’s not one of the parts of speech for “post” listed in Merriam-Webster. The dictionary gives examples of “post” as a prefix for verbs, nouns, and adjectives. So “post-COVID symptoms” is fine, of course. It appears that using “post COVID” to mean “after the pandemic” has become installed in our everyday language due to the familiarity of “post-COVID” as a compound adjective. That doesn’t mean it can be used as a preposition, does it? You couldn’t say, for example, “I’m going jogging post breakfast.” So I think “I’m going back to the gym post COVID” is equally incorrect. What is your take on this? Thank you very much!

A. We agree that the prefix post- functions as a preposition when you remove the hyphen. But we also agree that it’s a little early to declare a post-post-as-prefix world, at least in edited prose intended for publication—though the OED does include the prepositional sense for post, dating it to 1965.

Instead, we’d advise keeping the hyphen and treating the compound as an adverb: “Returning from Remote Work Post-COVID.” Without the hyphen, Post is subject to a momentary misreading (possibly as a noun), and because it isn’t a typical preposition, lowercase “post” might look odd.

For what it’s worth, the OED’s examples of prepositional post seem relatively casual and potentially ambiguous (e.g., “Now, post the increase . . .”; “Post the Geneva meeting of Opec . . .”).* The term will be more familiar as a prefix, and you can keep the capital P.†

* In British style, it’s normal to spell acronyms with an initial cap (as in Opec for OPEC—or Covid for COVID).

† The OED records several post- adjectives that, like “Post-COVID” in the example headline above, can also be used as adverbs. Most of our readers would probably be familiar with the adverb post-publication. If not, get back to us post-lunch (another OED entry). (Chicago style would normally call for postpublication and postlunch, though some editors would retain a hyphen in one or both of those terms for the sake of clarity. For more on this subject, see “Prefixes: A Nonissue, or a Non-Issue?” at CMOS Shop Talk.)

Q. Should “cotton gin maker” have a hyphen? Does “cotton gin” here serve as an adjective, necessitating the hyphen? I’ve consulted CMOS and am still not quite sure. Thanks!

A. Good question! According to the hyphenation guide at CMOS 7.89 (see section 2, under “noun + noun, single function”), when a phrase like “cotton gin,” in which one noun (“cotton”) modifies another noun (“gin”), is used to modify a third noun (“cotton gin” modifies “maker”), the phrase would normally be hyphenated: cotton-gin maker.

That said, some editors would omit the hyphen. Not only is “cotton gin” entered as an unhyphenated noun in Merriam-Webster (with no adjective form, hyphenated or not, listed with it), but unless the surrounding context isn’t obviously relevant to cotton gins as opposed to some kind of process for making gin with cotton (whatever that would be), there isn’t much chance of confusion without the hyphen.

In sum, add the hyphen to be on the safe side, knowing that you can instead leave it out if that’s your strong preference (provided you’re consistent). In other words, this is a gray area (like the spelling of gray).

Q. In your follow-up answer to the question about capitalization for Rage Against the Machine, do you mean “eponymous” when you say “self-titled”? Arguably all albums are self-titled.

A. “Eponymous” and “self-titled” are related, but the latter has a specific sense that can apply to something like Rage Against the Machine (the album).

According to Merriam-Webster, something is eponymous when it is named for someone (or something), and that person (or thing) can also be said to be eponymous. For example, Rudolf Diesel was the eponymous inventor of the eponymous diesel engine. And yes, you could also say that Rage Against the Machine is Rage Against the Machine’s eponymous debut album.

But it’s also a self-titled album, which means that a musical group or other entity named (or titled) the album after itself (though someone else may have suggested the idea). So the terms self-titled and eponymous are related but not equivalent. The diesel engine may be named for Rudolf Diesel, but it wasn’t necessarily named by him; it’s eponymous, but it isn’t self-titled. (Besides, engines don’t have titles; they have names.)

If you need more evidence, the term self-titled is in the OED: “Of an album, CD, etc.: having a title that is the same as the performer’s or group’s name” (self-titled, sense 2). One of the quoted examples refers to “the Ramones’ self-titled [debut] album”—which is how we intended the term.

[Editor’s update: Though Merriam-Webster’s definition and accompanying usage note suggest that eponymous can refer to both a named entity and the source of that name, the term has traditionally referred only to the source—as in Rudolf Diesel (an eponym) but not the engine that bears his name. See Garner’s Modern English Usage, 5th ed. (Oxford, 2022), under “eponym; eponymous.” Thank you to our loyal readers for raising this point.]

Q. I believe there is an errant dash in the example citation at CMOS 14.119, following “1992”: Armstrong, Tenisha, ed. To Save the Soul of America, January 1961–August 1962. Vol. 7 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992–. Huge fan of CMOS!!

A. Though it does look kind of odd, that 1992 followed by an en dash and a period is Chicago style for citing the date of an unfinished project; see CMOS 6.79. And according to the project’s publisher (as of March 5, 2024), volume 7 is only the latest in what is projected to be a fourteen-volume collection of King’s papers; see “King Papers Publications” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute (via Stanford University).

Note that Chicago style doesn’t require a comma before “Jr.,” but we retain one in the project title and the name of the institute to reflect the publisher’s usage. Note also that the citation in the question can be reordered to put the collection before the individual volume, in which case only the year for the volume would be cited (as in the first example at CMOS 14.119).

Q. I’m trying to help my high school students cite primary sources found online for history research papers using notes-bibliography formatting. How would you cite this document, a 1970 memo from Kissinger to Nixon, found on a State Department website: https://​history​.state​.gov​/historical​documents​/frus1969​-76v21​/d190.

I put the website into a citation generator and here is what it produced: “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XXI, Chile, 1969–1973—Office of the Historian,” 2024. https://​history​.state​.gov/historical​documents​/frus1969​-76v21​/d190.

I don’t think this is correct because (a) “” is not an author’s name, (b) “Foreign Relations of the United States” is not the title of the document but the title of the collection, and (c) there should be a period, not a comma, after the title. How should this document be cited?

A. According to CMOS 14.111, letters and other correspondence found in published collections are usually cited by the names of the correspondents (sender first), the date of the correspondence (plus a place if relevant), and the information for the collection. Adapting this advice to your example—after clicking around the site to find out more about the source—we’d cite the memo in a note like this:

1. Henry Kissinger to Richard Nixon, memorandum, Washington, December 18, 1970, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, ed. Adam Howard, vol. 21, Chile, 1969–1973, ed. James McElveen and James Siekmeier (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014), doc. 190, https://​history​.state​.gov​/historical​documents​/frus1969​-76v21​/d190.

See also CMOS 14.120. (And note that the US Government Printing Office became the Government Publishing Office in 2014, but the former name is the one on the vol. 21 title page; see the PDF version based on the original printed edition and offered along with the source.) The same item could be cited again in shortened form like this:

2. Kissinger to Nixon, Washington, December 18, 1970.

The collection and volume (but not usually the individual document) would be added to the bibliography as follows:

Howard, Adam, ed. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976. Vol. 21, Chile, 1969–1973, edited by James McElveen and James Siekmeier. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014. https://​history​.state​.gov/historical​documents​/frus1969​-76v21/.

Alternatively, you could cite the memo like an article on a website, using the title supplied by the publisher that appears in both the collection and on the web page for the document:

1. “Memorandum from the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon,” doc. 190, December 18, 1970, Department of State, Foreign Service Institute, Office of the Historian, https://​history​.state​.gov​/historical​documents/frus1969​-76v21/d190.

Any bibliography entry corresponding to that note would be listed under the name of the organization, and it would make more sense in this case to cite the memo rather than the collection:

US Department of State, Foreign Service Institute. “Memorandum from the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon.” Office of the Historian, doc. 190, December 18, 1970. https://​history​.state​.gov/historical​documents​/frus1969​-76v21/d190.

Citing the memo like an article is a little easier to do, but citing it in terms of the collection adds helpful context. You have some flexibility when it comes to primary sources like these. Note, for example, how editors McElveen and Siekmeier cite the memo (in their source note at the head of the document): as an artifact in a numbered box at the National Archives—or the primary source as it exists in real life.