New Questions and Answers

Q. When did Chicago Manual of Style first state that ending a sentence with a preposition is not wrong (section 5.180 in current CMOS)?

A. CMOS has never prohibited a preposition at the end of a sentence in any of its versions and editions since 1906. The first edition to state positively that a preposition may end a sentence was the 15th, in 2003, the first edition of the Manual to contain a chapter on grammar.

Q. Dear CMOS, in one of the articles I’m editing, the authors have a list of documents, where each document title is followed by a descriptive phrase. The title and phrase are separated by a colon. (1) Should the first word in the phrase be lowercase? The authors tend to capitalize it, but I think it should be lowercase (unless it’s a proper noun). (2) Would it be more appropriate to use an em dash instead of a colon? Here’s an example:

Guide: Step-by-step instructions to fill out
Best Practices: Frequently asked questions about best practices
Dedicated Observations: Information on dedicated background exposures

A. Although this isn’t a glossary, it behaves like one, so the guidelines for glossaries would probably serve you well. CMOS 2.23 (“Format for Glossaries and Lists of Abbreviations”) suggests a period, colon, or em dash after the entry. CMOS also suggests beginning the definition with a capital letter. (In a list of abbreviations, however, the definition should be uppercased or lowercased according to the meaning of the abbreviation.) Given that there is flexibility, accommodate the writers’ preference if you can.

Q. I can’t find any consensus on this: does “quarter century” require a hyphen? Merriam-Webster’s doesn’t even have the term in its dictionary! (The nerve.) It seems that other online dictionaries do (and they also have a hyphen with “half-century”), but I thought it was odd that I couldn’t find “quarter century” referred to as a noun in either CMOS or MW. Thanks!

A. Although “quarter century” doesn’t appear in CMOS, “quarter hour” turns up at 9.37 without a hyphen. When Merriam-Webster’s doesn’t include a phrase, you can assume that it doesn’t recognize it as a compound, and spelling it open is recommended.

Q. If a book is not published yet but is under contract, with the manuscript in the copyediting process, and has a publication date and ISBN assigned by the publisher on their website, how is this referenced? Putting “forthcoming” in place of the year ignores the fact that a publication date has been set, and it also applies to books that are less far along, and “in press” seems premature. Is there some terminology between these two?

A. Knowing how often the pitfalls of publishing can delay a book project, Chicago prefers to recommend forthcoming. It’s safer to be vague than to publish a citation that turns out to be wrong. If the stage of publication is important to the topic under discussion, you can always explain in the text or a note rather than try to indicate it in the citation.

Q. I use a software called Zotero to cite my work in graduate school. Zotero has three options for CMOS citations: (1) Author-Date, (2) Full Note with Bibliography, and (3) Note with Bibliography. Which one of these is the best for a thesis paper instructed to be per Chicago/Turabian?

A. They are all fine for a Chicago/Turabian paper. If your instructor didn’t express a preference, pick whichever one you like best. Usually notes-bibliography styles are used in the humanities, author-date in the sciences and social sciences.

Q. OK, so the one-space-between-sentences debate has been beaten to death. However, are there any instances where putting two spaces between two things is appropriate?

A. Nope! Not in Chicago style. One of the steps our editors include in their final manuscript cleanup before typesetting is to run a macro that changes every instance of two spaces to one. Where extra space is needed (such as for indentations), it is created with tabs or paragraph settings, not by entering multiple spaces. Sometimes a writer uses spaces to create complex content (such as poetry or “word pictures”) that the editor wants to preserve. In that case, the editor must send special instructions to prevent the typesetters from messing everything up with their own macros. 

Q. In the author-date format, are multiple references divided by commas or semicolons?

A. Use semicolons to separate references. If there are also locators, put a comma between the year and locator.

(Armstrong and Malacinski 1989; Beigl 1989; Pickett and White 1985)
(Wong 1999, 328; 2000, 475; García 1998, 67)

Q. What does CMoS 17 say about names of pets? I can’t find it in the index or the section on names.

A. Chicago has no special rules for names of pets; treat them like the names of people.

Q. I think there’s a contradiction in your examples of the correct use of apostrophes. Section 7.20 states that in the case of a place-name ending with “s,” the “s’s” formation is not used; e.g., the United States’. However, 7.17 uses Kansas’s as an example of proper usage. Is that correct?

A. Kansas’s is indeed correct. The tricky part of section 7.20 says to omit the extra s from place-names ending in s “with a plural form,” and Kansas doesn’t qualify as a plural form, even though it happens to end in s (singular Kansas; plural Kansases; there is no singular Kansa). The form of States, in contrast, is plural (singular state; plural states), even though the proper noun United States is singular. Plural forms ending in s take an apostrophe without a second s, whether the word is singular or plural: the United States’ reputation. But singular forms like Kansas take that second s, and thus it’s Kansas’s.

Q. When the publication date appearing at the top of the copyright page (identical with the copyright) differs from the date appearing in the Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) data at the bottom of the page, which is preferable to use for purposes of documentation? I have found that the CIP date is often, or at least occasionally, one year earlier than the publication date appearing as copyright (e.g., 2011 and 2012).

A. Use the information provided by the publisher, not the CIP. As you say, the actual publication of a book may be delayed significantly after CIP was applied for, and publishers don’t always file a correction. In fact, many publications don’t list CIP data or aren’t eligible for the program, which is metadata for librarians.

Q. I frequently use the acronym GAAP, which stands for generally accepted accounting principles. Would the acronym be considered a collective noun? Would I treat GAAP as a singular subject when using the acronym but as a plural subject when spelling it out? What if I do both (spell it out and then put the acronym in parentheses)?

A. Browsing online reveals that the initialism GAAP is treated as a singular, and the spelled-out version is treated as a plural, but as you sense, that’s awkward. The most thoughtful and professional solution I saw was to avoid ever using the acronym as the subject of a sentence. Instead, the writers used it either as an adjective (GAAP pronouncements, GAAP terminology, GAAP model) or as an object (according to GAAP, who came up with GAAP, history of GAAP). That seems like a good plan.

Q. Lie down on your stomach or lay down on your stomach? suggests “lie down” is preferable to “lay down.” Please clarify.

A. Merriam-Webster dictionaries ought to know: “lie down on your stomach” is correct. “Laying down” requires an object: you can lay down your burdens, your money, or the law. You can even lay your body down, as long as body is included as the object. However, “lay down” has now become so popular for any and all constructions that it’s hard to call it incorrect, although major dictionaries and usage manuals do not yet accept it.

Q. For a dissertation being submitted for defense should block quotes be double or single spaced? There seems to be some disagreement on this point between different writing centers.

A. If your instructor and dissertation office have no preference, either choice is fine, but Chicago/Turabian always defers to a student’s local guidelines.

Q. When, if ever, is it acceptable to use the abbreviation for To Whom It May Concern (TWIMC) in a letter?

A. As a form of address? Let’s say never.

February Q&A

Q. Dear Chicago experts, do we italicize a ship’s name in quoted dialogue? My client says it should be italicized generally, but not in dialogue.

A. Although CMOS is silent on this issue, it makes sense to use italics within dialogue in the same way you use them in the rest of the text. Italics for titles prevents the words from being mistaken as part of the main syntax; styling them the same way in both text and dialogue will prevent confusion.

Q. Help! Can you please tell me which is correct: “if one or more component is ineffective,” “if one or more components is ineffective,” or “if one or more components are ineffective.” The document I’m reviewing uses all three constructions, and I haven’t been able to find any solid guidance on which is correct.

A. Go with the last one. The adjective nearest the noun normally signals the number of the noun (e.g., “one or two components”; “one or more components”), so the plural components is the noun you want. And a plural subject requires a plural verb (are). Please see CMOS 17, section 5.138 (“Agreement in Person and Number”).

Q. What size font do footnotes need to be if the text is 12 pt. in an essay?

A. For student papers, Chicago style is covered in detail in Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th ed.). Turabian advises, “In general, use at least ten-point and preferably twelve-point type for the body of the text. [Note that 10 pt. Arial and 12 pt. Times New Roman are roughly the same size and are good candidates.] Footnotes or endnotes, headings, and other elements might require other type sizes; check your local guidelines.” Turabian contains several illustrations of student papers and their formatting.

Q. Hello CMS. A quick one, please. Can a book have two dedication pages? One for “To someone” and one for “For someone.”

A. In a book with more than one author it could make sense to have two separate dedication pages, but for a book by a single writer it seems awkward—especially if they are on consecutive recto pages, which might look as though a page from someone else’s book accidentally ended up in yours. Alternatives include putting the dedications on the same page, on facing pages, or back to back. A good graphic designer should be able to suggest an ideal solution.

Q. I’m having an argument with my English teachers over what I think is a grammatical mistake in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet. The sentence in question is: “The Daily News observed that there was no doubt as to the crime being a political one.” Since I’m fairly certain “being a political one” is a gerund and not a participial phrase, I think that crime should be changed to crime’s, but multiple English teachers have told me I am incorrect (yet the arguments they presented do not make sense to me whatsoever). Is the sentence correct as is, or did Doyle make a grammatical mistake?

A. We are in awe of your perseverance, not merely in investigating this controversial construction, but in doubting the advice of multiple English teachers. But when such a noun (crime) follows a preposition (as to), the possessive with a gerund is optional. Please see CMOS 17, 5.114 (on “fused participles”) as well as the last part of 7.28, for examples.

Q. I’m proofreading a math textbook that ends a sentence with “25 in.” followed by a superscript 2, denoting square inches. (Our math textbooks do not use “sq. in.”) There is a period after “in” and then another period after the superscript: 25 in.2. My gut says to eliminate the second period. What say you?

A. CMOS is silent on the issue of punctuation after a superscript following a period, and it doesn’t seem to be addressed in the science-related reference books at hand here, so assuming your house style is in. and in.2 (with the period), you could look at the situation in two different ways in order to choose your own style:

(1) You could see it as similar to when an abbreviation appears at the end of a parenthesis that ends a sentence, in which case a period appears both at the end of the abbreviation and at the end of the sentence:

Parenthesis style: The answer is doubled (25 in.2).
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2.

(2) Or you could see it as similar to when an abbreviation ends a quotation, in which case only one period appears at the end:

Quotation mark style: The answer is “25 in.2
Applied to a superscript: The answer is 25 in.2

A math professor we consulted on campus who is also the author of a geometry textbook had not run into this issue before, but she thought both suggestions were reasonable.

Q. I’m working on an edited collection that includes many articles originally published in online sources. These articles often include live links that serve as citations, leading readers to a specific article or resource under discussion. In a traditional print publication, these items would almost certainly be cited in endnotes that we would then include in our volume. Following this logic, it seems that we should incorporate the citations in our print-only volume. Do you have any recommendations on how best to handle them? By creating an endnote structure not native to the original publication? Or through author-date citations, which would likely be even more disruptive but are appropriate for our book’s formatting?

A. It’s important to include the writers’ sources in your collection, and any of your suggestions would work. Book editors usually decide how to handle source citations based on the type of book, expectations and tolerances of the intended reader, production costs (e.g., page count), etc. It is not necessary to follow the endnote structure in the original publication, but be sure to include a note explaining your method.

Q. I am wondering about line spacing for block quotes and lines of dialogue. If the rest of my article is double-spaced, should my block quotes be single-spaced (so they are more legible as someone else’s words)? I have seen block quotes indented and single-spaced in journals, but I am not sure if that is a CMOS guideline.

A. In a typed manuscript, prose extracts should be indented and have the same line spacing as the surrounding text (see CMOS 17, 2.82.19); they do not need to appear in a smaller font. When the extracts are printed in a book or journal, they will be styled according to that publication’s design template, which almost certainly will be single-spaced and possibly in a smaller text size.

Q. Hello, Chicago. I am slightly confused about what the difference between “compare with” and “compare to” is. Paragraph 5.195 seems to suggest that it’s a matter of whether one is making a “literal comparison” or a “poetic or metaphorical comparison,” whereas 5.250 says it’s a matter of whether one is identifying “both similarities and differences” or “primarily similarities.” What’s the rundown?

A. The two paragraphs of CMOS use different ways to describe the same thing. Strictly speaking, to “compare with” is to investigate the similarities and differences between things, such as when you make an actual (literal) comparison between wine and apples, perhaps noting that they both are fruity (similarities), but that one is liquid and one solid (differences). To “compare to” is to note that one thing is like another, but not necessarily literally. Saying that the flavor of a wine is like apples or someone’s cheeks are like roses (similarities) involves more metaphorical or poetic comparisons. Of course, actual usage of those prepositions does not always distinguish so finely.

Q. When writing a novel, if you label someone in a quote (e.g.) “You Mad Little Bugger,” is it capitalized?

A. Oh my goodness no. That would look as though the speaker were giving the person an award or an official title. Stick with lowercase.