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Monday, January 7, 2013

January Q&A at The Chicago Manual of Style Online

The Chicago Manual of Style has just published its January Q&A about grammar, editorial style and other writing matters.

I get free email alerts about the monthly Q&As. You can get them too at FREE Q&A alerts.

Here are some sample questions and answers from the latest alert:

Q. If I cannot avoid splitting the word biology at the end of a line, do I really split it between syllables as all the online dictionaries suggest, biol-ogy, and not according to its etymology, bio-logy?

A. That’s right. Words are divided by pronunciation, not etymology. To learn about word division, please see CMOS 7.31–43.

Q. I’m working on a document that has a glossary of terms, and for the first instance of each glossary term in the text there is a footnote saying that the word is defined in the glossary. I find this awkward, especially when there are three glossary terms in one small paragraph—it’s cluttered and distracting. I’d rather drop the footnotes and instead mention in the foreword or overview that the document has a glossary.

A. As you suggest, this method is not only awkward—it’s irritating. Even just the presence of “Glossary” in the table of contents can suffice, although a mention in the foreword is also a good idea.

Q. My boss likes to dictate letters using what I refer to as declarative or emphatic speech: “She did go to the store and she did buy that hat. I did tell her that it was a lovely hat.” I have never seen text typed in this manner and generally edit it to “She went to the store and bought that hat. I told her that it was a lovely hat.” Which is correct?

A. There’s nothing incorrect about your boss’s construction, but even perfect grammar can be distracting and annoying. I've noticed this usage particularly in flight-attendant speech. (“We do expect to be landing shortly.” “We do ask you to return your seat to its upright position.”) You should feel confident editing out the extraneous emphasis.

Q. An editor for a journal using the CMOS 15th edition has changed all of my plural possessives (patients’ suffering, positivists’ project) to, e.g., patients’s suffering, positivists’s project. This is incorrect. The former, not the latter, is correct. Yes?

A. The former is correct—and let’s hope this was just one of those momentary brain misfires that even the best editors occasionally suffer. Please see CMOS 7.15 (7.17 in the 15th edition).
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