Q. I’m editing a textbook that references a play. Should it be “Act 3,” “act three,” or “act 3”? A solution to this mystery would be greatly appreciated. I’ve looked at CMOS a hundred times for help with this issue.
A. Wow—a hundred times? If you can suggest how we can make section 8.194 more clear, we’ll try to do better in the next edition: “Words denoting parts of long poems or acts and scenes of plays are usually lowercased, neither italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks . . . act 3, scene 2.”
Q. At the annual meeting of our local PBK chapter, dispute on the pronunciation of “archival” arose: whether the stress falls on the first or the second syllable. Give us your wisdom. I will pass it on in the column I write weekly in a local paper about any subject that pops into my head.
A. As a style guide for writers, CMOS must resist the temptation to weigh in on an issue of pronunciation. We are editors, absorbed in our manuscripts. We can go for days without even speaking. I suggest you consult the linguists who write dictionaries for this purpose. (I’m sorry this won’t give you anything to put in your column, but thanks for your help with mine.)
Q. Is it “cell phone” or “cel phone”? I am working on a crash deadline, and would appreciate a quick response. Thank you so much!
A. Any writer who has deadlines should also have a dictionary. I always swear I’m not going to look up words for people, but it’s like being a mom and picking up socks—something just makes me do it. It’s “cell phone.”
Please buy a dictionary—and pick up your socks.
Q. My question is, is there any standard for the usage of emoticons? In particular, is there an accepted practice for the use of emoticons that include an opening or closing parenthesis as the final token within a set of parentheses? Should I (1) incorporate the emoticon into the closing of the parentheses (giving a dual purpose to the closing parenthesis, such as in this case. :-) (2) simply leave the emoticon up against the closing parenthesis, ignoring the bizarre visual effect of the doubled closing parenthesis (as I am doing here, producing a doubled-chin effect :-)) (3) put a space or two between the emoticon and the closing parenthesis (like this: :-) ) (4) or avoid the situation by using a different emoticon (Some emoticons are similar. :-D), placing the emoticon elsewhere, or doing without it (i.e., reword to avoid awkwardness)?
A. Until academic standards decline enough to accommodate the use of emoticons, I’m afraid CMOS is unlikely to treat their styling, since the manual is aimed primarily at scholarly publications. And the problems you’ve posed in this note give us added incentive to keep our distance. (But I kind of like that double-chin effect.)
Q. Dear “My New Best Friend” (copyeditor): Is there a “Cliff Notes” version of the Chicago Manual of Style or any quick reference type of document with the general rules?? (I have the fourteenth edition.) I do appreciate your assistance. Long life to you as a copyeditor. P.S. I am doing a doctoral dissertation and would like to get the style correct in the beginning.
A. Yes—we hear that Cliffs is going to work on CMOS as soon as they finish with their version of the Chicago Yellow Pages. In the meantime, you might check out Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, a much smaller style guide than CMOS, especially tailored for student research projects. (Turabian will tell you how to cite all the Cliffs Notes you used for your dissertation.)
Q. My fashion expert daughter insists that denim does not go with “almost anything,” as I say it does. What is your opinion? Does denim match almost anything, including other colors and other fabrics, e.g., silk?
A. Finally, a real style question! If only we Chicago manuscript editors were a little more fashion-forward . . .
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