Chicago Style Q&A: Recent Updates

Wilbur Wright over New York Harbor, 1909

The Chicago Manual of Style Q&A has been featuring answers to your questions for more than twenty years. During that time our searchable Q&A archive has grown to encompass a huge range of questions about Chicago style.

Many of the older questions on the site originally referred to earlier editions of the Manual, but most of the answers they inspired are still relevant today. And we want to keep it that way, so we’ve recently made some changes.

New Links for Old Qs

Specifically, any Q&A that mentions the Manual has been updated to refer to—and link to—the 17th edition (except in a few cases where an earlier edition remains relevant). Most often such references will be in the form of “CMOS 6.19”—which, in this case, refers and links to paragraph 6.19 in chapter 6 (on serial commas, one of our favorite topics).

So let’s say you’re reading through the archive and come across the following Q&A, originally published way back in 2001:

Q. When referring to Orville and Wilbur Wright as a unit, should the word “brothers” be capitalized—Wright brothers vs. Wright Brothers?

A. According to CMOS 8.36, “Kinship names are lowercased unless they immediately precede a personal name or are used alone, in place of a personal name.” One of the examples at 8.36 is “the Brontë sisters,” who, though none of them lived to see the age of modern aviation, provide a perfect analogy in terms of capitalization: write “the Wright brothers.”

The linked text points to paragraph 8.36 in the 17th edition of CMOS. And we’ve double-checked to make sure the answer is still relevant and updated it to conform to CMOS 17 as needed. If you have a subscription to CMOS Online, you can click through to the linked section and read what the Manual has to say. If you have the hard copy, you can turn to the relevant section in the book. (For a 30-day free trial of CMOS Online, click here.)

Browse or Search the Q&A Archive—or Submit a Question

There are several ways to enjoy our Q&A archive.

1. Browse by topic. From any page in the Q&A, choose “Browse Q&A” from the menu. Then choose a topic—for example, “Capitalization” or “Usage and Grammar.” The Q&A on the Wright brothers is featured under “Proper Names.”

2. Search the archive. From any page on CMOS Online, enter a term in the Search box. For example, you can enter “Wright brothers”* and see that the results will be reported in two tabs—one for the Manual and the other for the Q&A. (Individual subscribers may also see tabs for their notes and style sheets and for the CMOS Users Forum.) If you click on the tab for the Manual, you should see that there are no matches (the Wright brothers are not mentioned in CMOS):

Search results for "Wright brothers" in CMOS

But under the Q&A tab, you will find two hits:

Search results for "Wright brothers" in the Q&A

One of these will link directly to a page for the individual “FAQ Item” (in this context our Q&A pairs are called FAQs, or frequently asked questions). The other will link to the Wright brothers Q&A in the context of the “Topic Q&A List” (where, as the oldest Q&A under “Proper Names,” it will appear as the last item on the page).

3. Submit a question. From any Q&A page, choose “Submit a Question” from the menu. Though we can’t promise to answer every question we receive, many questions will get individual answers, and some will be featured on our site.

Be sure to come back and visit us at CMOS Shop Talk, where we discuss a variety of issues related to the Manual.

And don’t forget to return to the Q&A every month for the latest answers to your questions.

(To be notified of new posts at Shop Talk or to get a monthly Q&A announcement—or both—click here.)


* Searches at CMOS Online are not case sensitive, but the custom search engine requires the use of diacritics. So if you search for “Brontë sisters” instead of “Wright brothers,” make sure to enter the “ë” with the diaeresis. For an exact phrase, use quotation marks. For more tips, click here.

Photo: Wright’s Start (Wilbur Wright flies over New York Harbor, September 29, 1909), in the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

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