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 www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


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!)

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