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


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.

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!)

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | September 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of September 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. I wrote a report at work, and whenever I wrote a sentence such as “Most businesses pay taxes monthly, however, some small businesses pay taxes quarterly,” the sentence was changed to “Most businesses pay taxes monthly. However, some small businesses pay taxes quarterly.” Is this correct?

A. It’s fine to use however in the middle of a sentence (“In the morning, however, I like to have coffee”). But you used however to join two sentences: (1) “Most businesses pay taxes monthly” and (2) “some small businesses pay taxes quarterly.” Your editor was correct to separate them properly. The editor could also have chosen to join your sentences with a semicolon or dash: “Most businesses pay taxes monthly; however, some small businesses pay taxes quarterly.” Please see CMOS 5.207 and 6.55.

Q. When tables are double enumerated (3.1, 3.2, etc.) is a full stop placed after the number and before the space separating it from the table title?

A. This is usually a design decision rather than an editorial one. You can see examples of it with and without the period at CMOS 3.52 (“Table titles”).

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | August 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of August 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. In “Who shall I say is calling?” is who the object of say (and therefore whom would also be acceptable), or is who the subject of is (and therefore whom is wrong)? I always thought one rearranged the order of the sentence to check (“I shall say whom”).

A. Who is the subject of is. When you rearranged the order to check, you stopped too soon: “I shall say who is calling.” I is the main subject, and shall say is the main verb. The entire phrase “who is calling” is the direct object of the main verb, shall say. (If you don’t trust your ear regarding who/whom, switch to a different pronoun and it may become clear whether to use the subject or object form: “I shall say she [not her] is calling.”)

Q. We have a debate going on about the following sentence. Should there be a comma after the word states or not? Following rule 6.28 about commas before independent clauses joined by conjunctions, I believe it would. Thoughts? “The company operates in DC and all states except AK, ME, NH, NY, and RI.”

A. “Except AK, ME, etc.” is not actually an independent clause; it is a prepositional phrase. So there should be no comma after states.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | July 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of July 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. Our marketing people want to know which is correct: The buyer(s) purchase a policy or the buyer(s) purchases a policy.

A. Neither is correct. The optional plural doesn’t work as the subject of a sentence; it works only as an object: “The title, along with the name(s) of the editor(s), appears on page 3.” One solution is to spell out your meaning and make the verb agree with the nearer subject: The buyer or buyers purchase a policy.

Q. Is it okay to capitalize Modernist when speaking of the twentieth-century movement in English literature? Many sources favor the lowercase, but I’ve always done the opposite.

A. Either way is acceptable. Chicago style prefers the lowercase, but an editor should defer if possible to a writer who has reason to depart from style.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | June 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of June 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. The following wording seems problematic to me: “Additional software may be required to use the fingerprint reader.” This could be interpreted to mean that the software might have to use the fingerprint reader. Your thoughts?

A. There is certainly room for misunderstanding. Transposing into the active voice might help: The fingerprint reader may require additional software.

Q. My company has a handbook called The Standards and Expectations Handbook. We intend to call it “the handbook” for short. When written, should “the Handbook” be capitalized to denote that we’re talking about the specific book, or should it be lowercase?

A. You can do it either way. Here we write “the Manual” when referring to CMOS (italic, because it’s a shortened italic title), but it wouldn’t be wrong to call it “the manual.”

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | May 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of May 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. How does one, using a word processor, make an em dash/en dash distinguishable from a hyphen?

A. You might have noticed that when you type two hyphens with no spaces around them in MS Word, your computer turns them into an em dash if your automatic formatting settings are on. (If you type spaces around the hyphens, Word supplies an en dash.) You can type an em dash on purpose using the keystrokes Control+Alt+Minus (the Minus key is on the numeric keypad). To type an en dash, try Control+Minus. Or go to Insert > Symbol  > More Symbols, and click on the Special Characters tab to find both of these marks and others. For Mac applications and those other than Word, search online for “type [punctuation mark] in [your application].”

Q. I’m proofreading a manuscript and would like to know what the rule is for formatting a drop initial cap if the remaining text is in italics because it’s an exhibition title. The title is in italics, but the starting letter is a drop cap and is in roman. Is that OK, or should the cap be in italics as well?

A. Truly, there is no rule. A graphic designer might be the best person to rule on the aesthetics of roman versus italics in this case, since a happy result depends largely on the typeface, size, and position of the drop cap.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | April 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of April 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. Is it safe to assume that the Chicago Manual of Style itself is written in Chicago style? Sometimes I can’t find a specific answer, but the word or phrase itself is actually used somewhere therein.

A. Yes, you can assume that the Manual is written in Chicago style. Be aware, however, that the figures may depart from Chicago style in some details, since they are taken from actual manuscripts and published books or journals. Often during editing, a given detail of house style may be tweaked or even ignored to honor common practice in that writer’s discipline. For that reason, each figure should be regarded as an illustration of the point being made in that section, rather than as exemplifying Chicago style in every detail.

Q. I am teaching my students CMOS notes and bibliography type for all of their academic papers. When using footnotes on a paper the student did the full bibliographic citation on page 1. Then on page 2 there was a reference to the same source. Is it correct to allow the student to simply use author-date for that subsequent citation? Or is it more correct for the student to repeat the full bibliographic citation?

A. Chicago prefers shortened citations after the first full mention. Section 14.18 of CMOS will give you a solid overview of notes/bibliography style that will help you teach your students. Our Citation Quick Guide includes examples of such shortened citations (author, title, page). In addition, our Shop Talk blog has a great deal of free information geared toward helping students learn Chicago style and good citation and paper-writing practices.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | March 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of March 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.


Q. I can’t find any reference in CMOS 16 to how odds should be punctuated.

A. Odds are ratios. Ratios may be expressed in numerals with a colon and no spaces (CMOS 6.60) or with numbers spelled out or not according to the guidelines at 9.2:

The odds are 451:1.
The odds are 3:2.
The odds are 451 to 1.
The odds are three to two.

Q. In a dialogue tag after a question or an exclamation (e.g., “What did you say?” she asked), should the initial letter of the tag be capitalized (“What did you say?” She asked) or should it remain lowercase?

A. Because the tag comes in the middle of the sentence, it should be lowercased. It should be capped if it begins a new sentence. For example,

“What did you say?” She asked the question in a tone that made my blood freeze.

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | January 2016

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of January 2016. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html.

Q. Hello! Is the following sentence grammatically correct? “Good news is, at Microsoft we are here to help!”

A. Your sentence is casual—almost slangy—because it leaves out words for the listener/reader to fill in: “The good news is that at Microsoft we are here to help!” Although your sentence is technically grammatical, it doesn’t reflect formal English grammar. Of course, in advertising not many people expect formal English grammar.

Q. My 15th edition (7.18) cites “Kansas’s legislature” as an example, whereas 7.19 has “the United States’ role” as another. Am I correct to use “Paris’s sights,” “Philippines’ sights,” and “Seychelles’ sights” under 7.19? Could I also conclude that 7.18 is used mainly for states (like Kansas and Texas) in a country (like the US) and 7.19 strictly for countries?

A. The distinction is not between states and countries, but between names with a singular form (Paris, Kansas, Cyprus, Barbados) and nouns that take a plural form although they are singular in meaning (United States, Seychelles, Chicago Heights, Philippines). The singular forms make the possessive with the addition of an apostrophe and an s (Paris’s, Kansas’s, Cyprus’s, Barbados’s); for nouns with a plural form, add only the apostrophe for the possessive (United States’, Seychelles’, Philippines’).