The Art of Ellipses

The bit of punctuation that trips up the most people seems to be the ellipsis, the series of dots that indicate either a long pause or that text is missing. The use of ellipses depends on a few contingencies, first of which is the genre.

In fiction or more creative work, ellipses are used to indicate speech trailing off:

She looked appalled. “I can’t believe it. He just . . .”

In nonfiction work, ellipses are used to show that text has been removed to shorten quotes.

The second contingency is whether to use three dots or four. Really, it’s the same method, but the fourth dot is simply the closing period of a sentence before the ellipsis.

In his speech, Martin Luther King Jr. states, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. . . . Now is the time to rise . . . to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

In the first instance of ellipsis, we deleted text after a completed sentence, thus using four dots: a period and an ellipsis. In the second instance, we cut text from the middle of a sentence, thus using just the ellipsis.

Note that in nonfiction, ellipses should not begin or end a quote. The reader will assume that the quoted text is taken from a larger work.

When using ellipses with other punctuation, be sure to leave a space:

. . . ?

, . . .

. . . :

and so on.

The placement of the ellipsis in regard to the other punctuation is based on where you are cutting text. For instance, if the text is before the question mark, the ellipsis also comes before the question mark.

Enjoy the pause this punctuation brings!

The Publishing Process

So how are books made?

Well, when a girl book and a boy book . . . No, wait. That’s not how it goes.

Anyone unfamiliar with the inner workings of the publishing industry might be confused about how a raw manuscript gets put in one end of the machine and a fancy book (often in hardback, paperback, and ebook formats) comes out the other end. Honestly, sometimes it’s confusing even if you do know the inner workings of the industry.

Today, we’ll try to clarify that process a bit, with the caveat that each publisher approaches bookmaking in a slightly different way.



The acquisitions team both fields unsolicited submissions and requests submissions from chosen writers. As we’ve mentioned before, each publisher has specialty areas within which they publish. If a publisher has a strong paleontology list, an acquisitions editor at that firm would be contacting lead paleontologists for book ideas.

This team takes the raw manuscript and works with the author to lay the foundation. They make sure the book is ready for copyediting (which means any developmental editing is taken care of), all art is in house and of good quality, and all permissions are secured. At major publishers, the cover is often completed during this stage as well, so that marketing can get a head start on selling the forthcoming book. Continue reading “The Publishing Process”

Word Showdown: Immigrate vs. Emigrate

Today’s contestants on Word Showdown are words that have shown up in the news a lot lately: immigrate and emigrate. As homophones, they sound alike, but the correct usage depends on your point of view in the situation. Are you coming or going?

If you are moving to a new country, you are immigrating. If you are leaving your birth country,  you are emigrating. Here’s a trick to help you remember: If you’re going in, you’re immigrating. If you are exiting, you are emigrating. 

So let’s test this newfound knowledge!

A. Nazir is immigrating/emigrating to the United States.

B. Nazir is immigrating/emigrating from Pakistan.

C. Maria is an immigrant/emigrant from Mexico.

D. Maria is an immigrant/emigrant in Costa Rica.





Drumroll, please!

A. immigrating

B. emigrating

C. emigrant

D. immigrant

How’d you do?

Don’t forget to send in your love stories to our Modern Love Challenge! We’ll start posting next week!

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | December 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of December 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit

Q. I’m wondering how to style a webinar series name and the title of an episode in that series. Should the series name be italicized and the episode title be in quotes?

A. CMOS is silent, but your suggestion is one possibility. Or you could make the series title roman like book series titles and titles of academic courses.

Q. A sentence in a manuscript: In a landmark collection of essays, The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of “King Lear,” a range of scholars made the case . . . The book title is of course in italics—but then how does one treat that comma after Lear, and then the quote mark after the comma? Would the comma be in roman, and then the quote mark in italics?

A. This situation is a sticky wicket. The quotation marks must be italic, since they are both part of an italic book title. But the comma doesn’t belong to the title. According to Chicago’s preference for putting punctuation into the same font as the “surrounding text” (6.5), the comma would be roman. But this comma is “surrounded” by italics! If only we could use “logical punctuation,” whereby the comma would go outside the quotation marks, to render the issue moot. But that would be un-American. Editors here disagree on the best solution, so style the comma as you wish with the hope that its tiny size will allow readers to ignore it.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | November 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of November 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit

Q. Do I cite the transcript of a radio broadcast differently from the radio broadcast? I read the transcript and did not access the broadcast itself.

A. Yes—it’s important to cite the transcript if that’s where you got your information. Please see CMOS 14.277 (“Recordings of literature, lectures, and such”) for an example.

Q. I’m confused why there is a comma before “as well as” in 6.18, “The team fielded one Mazda, two Corvettes, and three Bugattis, as well as a battered Plymouth Belvedere.” If “as well as” was replaced with “and,” there would not be a comma. I can’t find anything else about this in the Manual. Can you please explain?

A. The comma tells us to read the Belvedere as an afterthought—it hints that the battered car is in a different league from the other cars. A search of the Manual for the phrase “as well as” reveals that it is sometimes introduced by a comma and sometimes not, depending on context and meaning.

To Be or Not to Be Shakespeare: Author’s Voice

Putative portrait of Christopher Marlowe (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).
Putative portrait of Christopher Marlowe (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).

This week, Oxford University Press announced it was listing Christopher Marlowe as coauthor of the three Shakespeare Henry VI plays. While the authorship of Shakespeare’s works has been subject to scrutiny for years, this is the first time Marlowe has been named a coauthor by a major publishing house. (Lesley is totally a Marlowe fan girl and is super excited about this.)

How did the research team come to this decision? They analyzed vocabulary and phrasing in the Henry VI plays and compared them to other works attributed to Shakespeare and Marlowe: “Much of the authorship analysis is quite technical because it involves analyzing every word of entire plays, looking for patterns and clues.” Thus, figuring out authorship is its own kind of puzzle.

Each author has his or her own voice when writing. The cadence, the word choice, and the overall style can be like fingerprints. While certainly influenced by what the author has read and what the author likes, the author’s voice still has a sound of its own.

As editors, we have to be very careful to improve the flow and grammar while also maintaining the author’s voice. Keeping in as many of the original words as possible is one good technique for this. Another is to really listen while you read so you internalize the author’s rhythm. Some writers prefer choppier text, while others have rambling sentences. Editors must know when to allow choppiness or rambling prose for the betterment of the manuscript and when to adjust it for the reader’s ease.

As ever, editors should always have a specific rule or a reason for an exception in their heads before making an edit. Each edit should have a clear purpose.

Do you have tips on keeping an author’s voice while editing? If so, share them with us!

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | October 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of October 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit

Q. Can you use ’80s when referring to the 1880s? Thanks.

A. Yes. But if you want people to know what you’re talking about, and your context hasn’t already made it clear which century you’re in, then no.

Q. While copyediting several scientific research papers in different fields (mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, etc.), we encounter some uncountable nouns used in countable forms (with plural s and preceded by an or a). Some of these words may be used across the paper more than a hundred times, and correcting these may require rephrasing some parts. The authors of the papers complain that this is how they use these terms. Is it possible to use these uncountable nouns in the countable forms if this is how they are used in the scientific field? Also, should I question every single noun used in the research paper and check whether it is countable or uncountable?

A. Without examples, it’s difficult to know how to advise you, but normally it is the copyeditor’s job to render prose in standard English and query unfamiliar usages, especially if they dominate in a given text. (It’s the unglamorous side of editing!)

Word Showdown: That vs. Which

Today we’re starting a new series, Word Showdown, in which we will explore the correct usage of words that often get confused. Today’s topic: that vs. which.

This set of words confounds many people. In fact, it is an issue we correct in nearly every project we work on. While many folks have the impression that which is just a fancier version of that, the two words actually have very different purposes that affect a sentence’s meaning.


On the left side of the ring, we have that. On the right, we have whichContinue reading “Word Showdown: That vs. Which”