Nine Obscure (but Useful) Recommendations from The Chicago Manual of Style

Nine Obscure (but Useful) Recommendations from The Chicago Manual of Style

Note: This article originally appeared in Copyediting newsletter, which explains the low word-to-humor ratio, and is reproduced with permission.

Reading The Chicago Manual of Style while on deadline is different from curling up with it for a leisurely read. If you haven’t had time for the latter, not to worry. I’ve compiled a list of lesser-known but useful recommendations from the sixteenth edition. [Update: Corresponding references for the 17th edition are in brackets.]



In informal writing, a comma need not follow an introductory yes or no: “Yes we can.”

  • CMS 6.39 [6.34]. In informal writing, a comma need not follow an introductory yes or no: “Yes we can.”
  • CMS 6.104 [6.106]. If one of the terms separated by a slash is an open compound, you can add a space before and after the slash to clarify word groups: exclamation point / period.
  • CMS 7.49 [7.53]. Only the first appearance of a non-English word needs to be italicized if, through repetition, readers will become familiar with it.
  • CMS 7.83 [7.87]. In compound modifiers where an adjective modifies an adjective-noun compound, the first hyphen is not necessary if the meaning is clear: late thirteenth-century music.
  • CMS 8.153 [8.154]. Proper nouns beginning with a lowercase letter followed by a capital—eBay, iTunes, iPhone—are considered capitalized and can begin a sentence or heading with the case of the initial letter intact. (Also see the In Style column “Lowercasing the First Word of a Sentence” in Copyediting’s August–September 2014 issue.)
  • CMS 8.163 [8.165]. Colons and commas omitted on title pages for design reasons should be added to the titles in running text, such as the colon between the title and the subtitle.
  • CMS 8.171 [8.173]. An italicized title used within an italicized title should remain italicized and be enclosed in quotation marks. Other italicized terms (e.g., non-English words, species names, ship names) used within a title should be set in roman.
  • CMS 8.196−7 [7.61–2]. Mottos and common short signs—such as Watch Your Step—are capitalized headline style but not italicized or enclosed in quote marks.
  • CMS 14.105 [14.96]. Though a colon usually separates the main title and the subtitle in running text, it does not follow a main title that ends with a question mark or exclamation point: Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life.
What’s in a Logo?

What’s in a Logo?

Note: This article originally appeared in Copyediting newsletter, which explains the low word-to-humor ratio, and is reproduced with permission.

Applying style to a trademark, brand, or company name is tricky when it’s not obvious what the company itself thinks. Are those caps decorative? What if self-references in the text are styled like the logo or nothing jibes? Resolve to be accurate and consistent in the face of rampant creativity with these practical tips.

First, be clear about which name you are researching: product, brand, store, website, subsidiary company, or parent company? For example, Lionsgate is a brand and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. is the corporation.

Don’t expect the logotype design to mirror the name; it’s art, more or less.

Don’t expect the logotype design to mirror the name; it’s art, more or less. For example, it’s macy*s in the logo but Macy’s in textual self-references. And logos often change, while the names do not. Maybe you don’t care if it’s AP, Associated Press, or The Associated Press, but pin down the name before styling it.



For trademarks, The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style recommend consulting dictionaries, USPTO, and INTA. For formal company names, AP points to NYSE, Nasdaq, or SEC filings, while Chicago refers you to “a corporate website or other authoritative source.” Of course, check the style guides themselves, too.

If corroboration is lacking between outside sources and self-references in the copyright, legal language, or running text, look for clues on key website sections (e.g., About page) as well as press releases.

Owners, ironically, aren’t always that familiar with their own properties and often perpetuate branding inconsistencies.

Don’t give too much weight to one iteration when the spelling, punctuation, or cap style could be a contribution from, say, the web developer. Owners, ironically, aren’t always that familiar with their own properties and often perpetuate branding inconsistencies. Interpret decorative elements, such as asterisks and bullets, on a per-logo basis.

At some point, investigate popular usage via Google, especially by mainstream media. Choose a style with enough integrity to be sustained across a wide range of applications, and write it down.

Lowercasing the First Word of a Sentence

Lowercasing the First Word of a Sentence

Note: This article originally appeared in Copyediting newsletter, which explains the low word-to-humor ratio, and is reproduced with permission.

As a reader of Macworld, I am accustomed to reading sentences and headlines that start with iPhone or iPad—with the lowercase initial letter intact. Though some may consider this a defilement, capitalizing the first word of a sentence, in certain cases, is negotiable.

Most language guides recommend recasting the sentence so that brand and company names with a lowercase initial letter are tucked away, but this isn’t always practical. In real life, you have space limitations, touchy clients, grammar-doubting bosses, and expectations to “clean up” an unedited piece that has already been laid out and approved.



Awkward cases support the need for more give.

Thankfully, language guides usually provide an “in case you can’t reword” option. As expected, many default to capitalization, including The Associated Press Stylebook, The Gregg Reference Manual, and The Yahoo! Style Guide. However, according to Chicago, brand or company names spelled with a lowercase letter followed by a capital, like eBay or the i– prefixed trademarks by Apple, “need not” be capitalized.

For headline style, some guides that veer away from lowercase sentence beginnings support retaining a brand’s or company’s lowercase initial letters within a headline (e.g., Gregg, Yahoo! Style): Protect Your iCloud. For all-cap headlines, Chicago recommends overriding the lowercase letter, and Macworld capitalizes every letter but the lowercase letter (iOS CENTRAL).

Further complicating capitalization is the use of figures, which many of us have been trained to spell out (and capitalize) when starting a sentence. AP Stylebook has long made years an exception to this rule (1967 was the Summer of Love). But what about 3M? 7-Eleven? A generic abbreviation, like 3D?

Awkward cases support the need for more give. Otherwise, you may find yourself equally dismayed by sentences leading with IOS, K. d. lang, or Three-D.

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