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Do You Have Language Questions?

October 4, 2008

I’ve subscribed to The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) Question and Answers section for quite some time now. If you haven’t made your way over to the site, I recommend it – it’s a bit dry if you’re not into the whole language/semantics thing, but you will definitely learn a thing or two while you’re there.

For instance: Here are some of the Q & A’s from the October’s submissions:

Q. I frequently use the word “effectively.” But does it really add anything?

A. The word might not serve effectively in every sentence, but it’s a valid word. It’s appropriate when what follows is practically but not literally true: Effectively, by enforcing the strict interpretation of the law, the jury signed the defendant’s death warrant. (In other words, the jury didn’t actually sign a death warrant.)

Q. You don’t mention that a bibliographic entry is required for illustrations, maps, and tables, but I assume they are. If so, would they be listed alphabetically by the author of the book that contains the plate?

A. Bibliographic entries are not required for the sources of the materials you mention, as long as the sources are cited fully elsewhere. If the writer wishes to include these sources in the bibliography, however, then yes, they are listed alphabetically by author.

Q. Am I mistaken in believing that, in American English, quotation marks envelop all neighboring punctuation?

A. Ah, you are mistaken. You must not include question marks and exclamation marks within the quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation. (Please see CMOS 6.75.)

Q. My supervisor advised me to write only “per,” not “as per” in a sentence. Is it as per the Chicago Manual of Style?

A. Although as per has long been considered redundant and a violation of good English (since per is Latin for “by means of” or “through”), it has also long been standard parlance, especially in business contexts. I would edit it out of more formal prose, however.

Q. I thought at one point it was considered bad taste to include an author’s title on the front cover of a book (Steve Smith, PhD). Any input

A. It depends. It’s unwarranted in scholarly writing, but if a book is for a mass audience and the degree gives potential readers an idea of the writer’s qualifications, some publishers will want it stated: for instance, on a diet book written by a doctor, or a book on orchids written by a botanist. The author and editor should consult with the publisher’s marketing department to decide what’s best.

Q. I am currently copyediting a business-advice book with many sound bites from famous actors and writers. Is a source really needed?

A. Quotations from famous people must be attributed (to newspaper or magazine articles, blogs, online news sites, television or radio appearances, or whatever), but you needn’t include such sources in the bibliography.

Q. My colleagues are divided in their opinions about “storing data in a computer” versus “storing data on a computer.” Which is correct?

A. You can do either, but I would store the data in the computer. It used to be easy to store stuff on a computer, but now with flat screens and laptops it tends to slide off.

Who says the language police doesn’t have a sense of humor. 😀


Send your submissions here.

Next CC: October 11th

Submission Deadline: Midnight central time, October 10th
Only one submission per blog, please


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