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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Following up on Chicago Style Q&A: December Update

I few days ago I posted an item about the Chicago Manual of Style and its Q&A feature. That update included some sample questions and answers from the November issue of the Q&A.

Well, on Monday I got an email through my subscription with Chicago about the December update. You also can sign up for the free Q&A alerts and submit questions to Chicago.  BTW, you're also welcome to ask me questions about writing in the comments section of my blog or send me questions through email at garbltoo (at) 

Here are some sample questions from the latest Chicago update:

Q. A client asked CMOS about capitalizing coach when it was used as a nickname. They got the following in reply:
Yes, it’s conventional to cap words like Coach or Captain or Auntie when they stand in for a person’s name. If you refer to “a coach” or “the coach” or “my aunt” or “the captain of the ship” in a sentence, however, it is lowercased.
I would have thought that Captain would be considered a title and come under the general rules in 8.18 and not be capitalized other than in direct address—likewise Auntie ought to come under the kinship exception in 8.35 and would be capitalized. As coach is a title, and includes no name, I was lowercasing it other than in direct address. Please advise if this is incorrect.
A. Your client’s information is correct. If a person is called Coach in place of his or her name, then anytime the wordcoach is substituted for that name it should be capped. To decide, see whether an actual name would fit in the same sentence. If it fits, cap coach as a name:
“Hi, Coach!” / “Hi, Jim!” (The name works as a substitute, so cap Coach.)
I saw the coach smile and wave / I saw the Jim smile and wave. (The name does not work as a substitute, so lowercase coach.)
I saw Captain Smith smile and wave / I saw Sally Smith smile and wave. (The name works, so cap Captain.)
I think her aunt is a bookie / I think her June is a bookie. (Lowercase aunt.)
It doesn’t matter what the word is: captain, coach, aunt, joker, brain. If it’s used in place of a name, cap it.
Q. I seem to find conflicting information, and I can’t figure out the following: is it OK or not to introduce a block quotation with an incomplete sentence (such as “The passage states”) followed by a colon? Or does the sentence have to be a complete sentence?
A. Either way is fine. (In fact, “The passage states” is complete—or independent—on its own. “The passage states that” is incomplete.) Independent clauses usually require some end punctuation; incomplete ones often do not. Please see the examples at CMOS 13.11–21.
Q. Is it proper writing to start a sentence using a coordinating conjunction in a quotation? “Her dress is ugly,” said Jane. “But please don’t tell her I said that.”
A. Of course—as long as it reflects the intention of the writer. Your construction indicates a firm pause in Jane’s speech, with the effect that the second half reads like an afterthought. Using a comma and lowercasing “but” could leave open the possibility that Jane spoke without a significant pause, in which case the second half would come across as Jane’s main point: “Her dress is ugly,” said Jane, “but please don’t tell her I said that.”

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