Love Letter (of Sorts) to My Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition

 

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Every seven years, The University of Chicago Press releases a new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. As it says on the cover, it is the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers. When I edit a client’s book, this manual is my bible. It’s how I decide where and how to place every period, ellipsis point, italicized letter, hyphen, and en dash. My copy of the new edition came in the mail last night. I have feelings about this.

This is the third edition during my career. The fifteenth edition I only had for a few years, but the sixteenth and I were together for the full seven. That’s almost one-fifth of my lifetime. When it came out, I had only recently met the man who became my husband, and I was still in my twenties (cough). I was a different person with a different life. Now that I’ve gotten to hold the new edition and flip through its pages, I realize how worn the sixteenth had become. The binding is loose. The pages are dog-eared. The dustcover is faded. But the aging was earned. I haven’t kept exact count, but it has helped me copy edit and proofread hundreds books—even a couple of best sellers.

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To be honest, what I’m going to miss most is all of the highlighting. (That’s my cat, Gene Vincent, in the background. He was “helping” me as I took the photo. He’s “helping” me as I write this, too.)

So I thought it fitting to take some time today to memorialize my copy of sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. My copy, in many ways, became like a family bible. My mother and grandmother would stick odds and ends in their bibles–usually papers from funeral and wedding ceremonies—bits that represented important moments in the lives of their loved ones. Mine’s not quite like that, but I do use a piece of the edging of my baby blanket as a bookmark.

This marked the page that explained how to write how tall a person is. I can never remember whether to write “feet” or “foot.”

And I found a flower I had pressed from my mother’s garden in Ohio, plucked during one of my trips home when I had planned a visit but I also, inconveniently, had a deadline.

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The sixteenth edition was also my external brain, holding all of the detailed information I wasn’t able to remember. And I see how I would use anything I had handy to underline and highlight so I could find the answer more easily next time.

Sometimes I actually had a highlighter.

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But other times it was a humble pen I used.

This must have been a rough day. I’m a black ink gal. I imagine I would only use blue in an emergency. A quotation mark emergency this must have been then. We editors can have those.

Apologies to all of the librarians out there (including my mom), but there were times necessity called for me to bend the corners of a page, in hopes the next time I could flip right to that section without consulting the index.

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Bibliography information. What you can’t see in this photo are the faded tear stains on the pages. But a bibliography, when it is formatted correctly and, mostly importantly, finished, is a beautiful thing.

When the seventeenth came in the mail, I was surprised how emotional I was about it. The sixteenth and I had a good ride. (And the highlighting! Oh that beautiful neon ink…how I will miss you.) But I understand our time has come to an end, and I know one day, when it is properly highlighted, the seventeenth will be as good to me, as helpful, and as referential as the sixteenth was.

When the eighteenth edition comes out. I will be forty years old. I imagine my life will be different, just as it was different when the sixteenth was released. What I hope will be the same, though, is that I will be editing books that I love and helping authors reach their dreams—and inserting every missing serial comma along the way.

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Is Is Capitalized in Titles?

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This is my cat, Buff Buff.  He’s in a box!

Is, with just its two lovely letters, seems to confuse many people as they go about capitalizing chapter titles, article titles, subtitles, and so forth.

Should is be capitalized in titles? Let’s find out.

(Okay, if you’re looking for the quick answer, it’s: yes, you should capitalize is in titles. If you want to discover why it should be capitalized, read on. You can also find a full review of how to write titles here.)

First, let’s review which words get capitalized in titles (according to The Chicago Manual of Style).

  1. First and last words
  2. Nouns
  3. Verbs
  4. Pronouns
  5. Adjectives
  6. Adverbs

Is (like pillage, splatter, and giggle) is a verb. So, even though it’s a teeny tiny verb, it still gets the full capitalization treatment.

Let’s check out this example:

The Cat Is in the Box

The verb in this title is is, so it gets capitalized.

Here’s another:

The Cat Is in the Box, and He Looks Confused

Is and Looks are both verbs in this title. They both get capitalized.

And, when in doubt, you can always cheat. There is a handy dandy online tool named Capitalize My Title that will do the work for you. Simply type in the words of your title, and—voilà—it formats it for you in whichever style you wish.

Erin Servais is a freelance book editor and cat fancier. To learn more about her services, visit www.dotanddashllc.com.

Follow through vs. follow-through

follow through (verb): to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion
follow-through (noun): the act or an instance of following through
—Merriam-Webster

These two words can be tricky because one uses a hyphen and one does not. As a verb, follow through is two words with no hyphen. As a noun, follow-through is one word with a hyphen between the two parts.

Here are examples of follow through used as a verb:

The lizard will follow through with his plans of world domination.
Saul followed through with his idea of starting a clothing store for lizards.

Here are examples of follow-through used as a noun:

The lizard has lots of goals, but his follow-through is poor.
Denise’s follow-through earned her a promotion.

Hint: If you are wondering which word to use, look at the role it plays in the sentence. And remember: If it’s a verb, follow through has no hyphen. If it’s a noun, follow-through has a hyphen.

Quiz
Fill in either follow through or follow-through in the blanks. The answers are below.

1. Lizzy has good _______, and her organizational skills help.
2. Sally keeps saying she will start writing her book, but she doesn’t _______.
3. One criterion for the new position is level of _______.
4. Tina wants to become an accountant, and she knows she will ________ on that dream.

Answers:
1. follow-through 2. follow through 3. follow-through 4. follow through

Erin Servais has more than ten years of experience in the publishing industry and a proven record of follow-through. She’s ready to help you with your next writing or editing project. Learn how to hire her at dotanddashllc.com.

 

 

Quotation marks within quotation marks

Today Hannibal Lecter is going to teach us about punctuation. And who said learning isn't fun?

Today Hannibal Lecter is going to teach us about punctuation. And who said learning isn’t fun?

When you’re working with only one set of quotation marks, using them is simple. In American English, just surround the sentence or words in double quote marks.

Example:
Hannibal said, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Quotes within quotes
When you have a quote within a quote, begin and end the main quote with double quotation marks. Surround the quote within a quote with single quotation marks.

Example:
Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’”

Note that the period goes before all three final quotation marks and that there is no space between the single quote mark and the double quote marks.

Here’s how it would look if the main quote continues after the quote within a quote:

Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’ That really creeped me out.”

Works of art
If a quote has reference to a title of a work of art that requires quotation marks (and not italics), the title also uses single quotation marks. (For a refresher on which require quote marks and which require italics, click here.)

Example:
Hannibal said, “I heard Ronald’s favorite song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones.”

When to capitalize titles

Lesson: when to capitalize civil, military, religious, and professional titles

Capitalizing a title depends on whether it comes before or after a person’s name or stands alone.

If the title comes before a name, capitalize it. Titles that are directly in front of names are, in effect, being used as part of the names and thus require the same capitalization.

Examples:

Once a comedian, he is now known as Senator Al Franken.
The church is home to Reverend James Boot.
The person in charge is Director Mary Fritz.

If the title comes after a name, lowercase it. Titles after names are not being used as part of the names and so do not require capitalization.

Examples:

Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, eats donuts.
The article was about James Boot, reverend for the local church.
Mary Fritz, director of marketing, makes a lot of money.

If the title stands alone, lowercase it. Likewise, because titles are not attached to names, they do not need to be capitalized.

Examples:

The senator is running for a second term.
The church is looking for a new reverend.
The director of marketing is Mary Fritz.

Remember: only capitalize a title if it comes directly before a name.

Quiz
Choose whether the title in italics should be capitalized. The answers are below.

1. The sergeant earned a medal.
2. The current leader is president Obama.
3. Janet Deetz is the chief executive officer.
4. Fred Turner, provost of the university, will give a speech.
5. Friday, bishop Frank Tots will visit.

Answers:
1. lowercase 2. capitalize 3. lowercase 4. lowercase 5. capitalize