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.
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.

Titles: Quote Marks, Italics, Underlining, or Naked?

Titles: Quote Marks, Italics, Underlining, or Naked?

Remember the days when your manual typewriter didn’t have a key for the number 1, so you used a lowercase letter L instead? And to type an exclamation point, you typed an apostrophe first, backspaced, and then typed a period beneath it? Sure you do, punk.

Clarification: I’m not that old; my high school was poor. We pasted our newspaper dummies together with wax and made type changes with a dull razor.

Well, we don’t type that way anymore, because technology has blessed us with 1s and !s on our keyboards. Likewise, because we are capable of rendering type in italics, you underline titles only when writing them by hand or using software that doesn’t italicize. As long as you remember that underlining equals italics and to never underline when you can italicize, you’re good.

You can get pretty far by following the “Big/heavy equals italics” (like books) and “Small/light equals quotes” (like poems) generalizations.




As for enclosing titles in quotation marks or italicizing them, you can get pretty far by following the “Big/heavy equals italics” (like books) and “Small/light equals quotes” (like poems) generalizations, but Associated Press style doesn’t italicize nothin’ and Chicago style has layers of specificity and if-then statements. Fun!

Because the Associated Press stylebook is not indexed and the manual for Chicago style covers title style in several sections (intermixed with name style and capitalization style), some title styles may have been inadvertently omitted due to oblivion on my part. Please send me a note if any oversight makes you twitch.

It’s all arbitrary, so go for clarity and sustainability.

Following is the breakdown between AP style and Chicago style. This is intended as a quick rundown or cheat sheet; for examples of each, please refer to the pages and sections indicated. “Neither” means that the usual headline-style (or title-style) caps still apply, but the title/name is naked as far as quotes and italics are concerned. (Capitalization for titles will be covered in a future blog entry.)

Note: Use Command-F or Ctrl-F to perform searches.



Titles for . . .APChicago
AlbumsQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.192)
AlmanacsNeither (p. 62)
AppsNeither (p. 62), e.g., Facebook, FoursquareItalics (8.193)
ArtQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.193)
ArticlesQuotes (8.175)
BibleNeither (p. 62)
Blog entriesQuotes (8.187)
BlogsItalics (8.187)
BooksQuotes (p. 62)—but the Bible and catalogs of reference material use neitherItalics (8.166)—but book series and editions use neither (8.174)
CartoonsItalics (8.194)
CatalogsNeither (p. 62)
ChaptersQuotes (8.175)
Classical music, nicknamesQuotes (p. 63)
Classical music, identified by sequenceNeither (p. 63)
Columns (in periodicals)Neither (8.175, 14.205)
Comic stripsItalics (8.194)
Computer games and computer-game appsQuotes (p. 62), e.g., “Farmville”Italics (Chicago Style Q&A)
Computer softwareNeither for software such as WordPerfect or Windows (p. 62)
ConferencesNeither (8.69)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes
Departments (in periodicals)Neither (8.175, 14.202)
DictionariesNeither (p. 62)
DirectoriesNeither (p. 62)
DrawingsItalics (8.193)
EncyclopediasNeither (p. 62)
EssaysQuotes (8.175)
Exhibitions (large)Neither (8.195)
Exhibitions (small)Italics (8.195)
Fairs (large)Neither (8.195)
Fairs (small)Italics (8.195)
GazetteersNeither (p. 62)
HandbooksNeither (p. 62)
JournalsItalics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)
Lecture seriesNeither (8.86)
Lectures (individual)Quotes (p. 62)Quotes (8.86)
MagazinesNeither (p. 159)Italics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)
MeetingsNeither (8.69)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes
MoviesQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.185)
NewspapersItalics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)
OperasQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.189)—for long musical compositions or instrumental works, see 8.189-8.190
PaintingsItalics (8.193)
PamphletsItalics (8.193)
PeriodicalsItalics (8.166), unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)
PhotographsItalics (8.193)
PlaysQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.181)
Podcast episodesQuotes (8.187)
PodcastsItalics (8.187)
PoemsQuotes (p. 62)Quotes (8.179)—unless book length, then treated as book (italics)
Radio episodes (in series)Quotes (8.185)
Radio programs and seriesQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.185)
ReportsItalics (8.193)
Short storiesQuotes (8.175)
SongsQuotes (p. 62)Quotes (8.189)
SpeechesQuotes (p. 62)Neither (8.75)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes.
StatuesItalics (8.193)
Television episodes (in series)Quotes (8.185)
Television programs and seriesQuotes (p. 62)Italics (8.185)
Unpublished worksQuotes (8.184)
Video blogsItalics (8.187)
Video-blog episodesQuotes (8.187)
Web pages and sectionsQuotes (8.186)
WebsitesNeither (8.186)

When it gets confusing, just remember these golden rules of copyediting:

  1. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  2. But beware of having a tin ear.
  3. It’s all arbitrary, so go for clarity and sustainability.

Good luck.

Capitalization After Colons: One Sentence or More?

Capitalization After Colons: One Sentence or More?

Understandably, many editors are confused about when to capitalize the element directly following a colon. The strategy I happen to use is pretty brain-free, which is to say that it follows AP style. Lucky for us, AP and Chicago agree on one thing before they part ways.

AP (p. 366): Lowercase the first word unless it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

  • These are some of my favorite things to have for dinner: ravioli, Ethiopian food and breakfast.
  • She told me her secret ingredient: It was butter.

Chicago (6.61): Lowercase the first word unless it is a proper noun or the start of at least two complete sentences or a direct question.

  • I finished reading my friend’s first draft: it was painful.
  • We can do several things this weekend: We can watch King’s Speech. We can do our taxes. Or we can have a tequila party.

AP and Chicago agree on one thing before they part ways.





In my work, I come across some pretty bizarre colon usage which I’d like to eradicate. Therefore, please commit the following to memory:

  • Don’t use more than one colon in the same sentence.
  • Don’t add anything else to a sentence after you’ve finished introducing the element(s). For that, I prescribe a pair of em dashes to set off the element(s) instead.
  • Lose the colon before a subtitle, or secondary title, when the title is displayed on a book cover (or movie poster); by convention, the colon is understood.
  • Don’t use a semicolon instead of a colon to introduce a clause.

A note about colons and spaces: Although I, too, was raised to put two spaces after periods, colons, exclamation points, and question marks by a typewriting teacher who was alive during the Great Depression, it is no longer correct to do so, especially in this age of beautifully typeset materials. The fastest way to clean extra spaces from your copy is to use Microsoft Word to “find” two spaces and “replace” them with one space, and then repeat until two spaces cannot be found.

Though AP only gives the colon a scant 7 column inches of space compared to Chicago’s 2 pages’ worth, it goes out of its way to tack on a little note barring the combination of a dash and a colon. I guess emoticons can’t have noses anymore.

:- )
: (

Here’s a bear who’s surprised to be upside down:

0 :3

The empty martini glass that the bear dropped a second earlier:

()>-0

The olive that rolled under the couch to be discovered next spring:

o

And that, my friends, is how you avoid capitalization altogether.

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