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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.
Apostrophe-S vs. Apostrophe: Forming Possessives of Words Ending in S (or an S Sound)

Apostrophe-S vs. Apostrophe: Forming Possessives of Words Ending in S (or an S Sound)

I’m going to focus on the difference between how The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style handle possessives for words ending in s or an s sound. In short, is it Carlos’ stylebook or Carlos’s stylebook?

Both AP and Chicago styles take pronunciation into account, handling new syllables formed by back-to-back sibilants in their own way. The style that many of us are accustomed to—simply adding an apostrophe after the s (e.g., moss’ growth) regardless of how the words sound—is a “formerly more common” alternative practice, according to Chicago, one which it does not recommend. But just between you and me, you can use this shoot-from-the-hip style in personal e-mail, where you are also free to forgo capitalization completely. (This may or may not be a test.)

Whereas quote marks can face left or right, apostrophes only face one way.

The punctuation mark that most often gets mixed up with the apostrophe, by my estimation, is the single quotation mark. If smart (or curly) quote marks are toggled on, beware of employing a beginning single quote mark (6-shaped) to do the job of an apostrophe (9-shaped): Whereas quote marks can face left or right, apostrophes only face one way. (Tip: Remember the mark in don’t, or think of a backwards c.) Prepare to battle text-editing software which defaults to a beginning single quote mark when you begin a paragraph with an apostrophe or key it in after a space, such as for ’80s, ’tis, ’cause, or rock ’n’ roll (apostrophes, all of them).

General Rules for Forming Possessives

Plural Common Nouns Ending in S

AP and Chicago: Add an apostrophe—jinx!

  • the students’ questions
  • the teachers’ headaches

Singular Common Nouns Ending in S

AP: Add apostrophe-s unless the next word begins with s.

Chicago: Add apostrophe-s.

  • the duchess’s hat
  • the duchess’s style

Proper Nouns Ending in S

AP: Add an apostrophe.

  • Charlaine Harris’ books
  • the Joneses’ competition

Chicago: Add apostrophe-s if singular, and add an apostrophe if plural.

  • Socrates’s tea
  • the Obamas’ garden
  • Les’s moor

Nouns Plural in Form, Singular in Meaning

AP and Chicago: Add an apostrophe.

  • the series’ actors
  • the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ history

Special Case: Nouns Ending in an Unpronounced S

AP: Add an apostrophe.

  • Descartes’ thoughts

Chicago: Add apostrophe-s.

  • Camus’s existence
  • the debris’s cloud

Special Case: Singular Common Nouns Ending in S or an S Sound, Followed by a Word Beginning With S

AP: Add apostrophe.

  • for appearance’ sake
  • for conscience’ sake
  • for goodness’ sake

Chicago: Add an apostrophe if the word ends in s; otherwise, add apostrophe-s.

  • for appearance’s sake
  • for conscience’s sake
  • for goodness’ sake

Proper nouns ending in s follow previously stated styles (e.g., for Jesus’s sake in Chicago style).

Exception: Company Names With Apostrophe-S

AP: Use as is.

  • McDonald’s profits (not McDonald’s’ profits)

So, to answer the question posed in the beginning (Carlos’ stylebook or Carlos’s stylebook?), the first is in AP style, the second is in Chicago style. Let’s hope that Carlos picked the right stylebook.


  • AP, 2011: “apostrophe”; “Ask the Editor
  • CMOS, 16th edition: possessives, 7.15-21
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.

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