When you write a book to send to an agent or editor, you are preparing a manuscript. And even if your ideas, characters, and plot twists are colorful and creative, your manuscript format should not be.
In editing as in life, things tend to come in pairs. Life has its ups and downs, left and right, sea and land, victory and defeat. In editing you have capitals and lowercase, justified and ragged right, insert and delete.
What does Halloween have to do with Chicago style? Not a lot, but that hasn’t stopped us from coming up with ten questions designed to challenge your editorial knowledge and stoke your curiosity about this quirky holiday and some of the words associated with it.
According to The Chicago Manual of Style, commas and periods are almost always placed before a closing quotation mark, “like this,” rather than after, “like this”. This traditional style has persisted even though it’s no longer universally followed outside of the United States and isn’t entirely logical.
Few readers will be puzzled by the capital D in the first example and the small d (and s) in the second. “Detective MacSwain” is treated like a name, a proper noun; “detective” (like “sleuth”) is a common noun. But what form would you choose in the following examples?
To some people, “Chicago style” is synonymous with a conventional system of numbered notes supported by a bibliography. That’s the subject of chapter 14, the longest chapter in CMOS. (Chapter 15, on the author-date system, will be covered in a future quiz.)
Few people will accept that up means down simply because you say so in writing, not even if you’re perfectly consistent about it. Still, when it comes to editorial principles, consistency is second only to being right.
In manuscripts of yore (centuries ago), the text would appear in one huge unbroken block. At some point breaks in thought or theme came to be indicated in the line of text with marks of various kinds, which in late medieval times included a pilcrow (¶), essentially the same symbol your word processor hides at the end of a paragraph in your documents today.
From public domain and “all rights reserved” to fair use and permissions, many of the basic principles of copyright will be familiar to those of us who work with words. But anyone can use a refresher.
There are a few simple conventions for presenting thoughts in fiction, and these overlap with the conventions for setting off dialogue and other quoted speech or text—or anything that might normally take quotation marks.
Anyone familiar with the grammar and style rules and guidelines in CMOS knows they come with a lot of qualifiers: normally, in most cases, in running text, in regular prose, depending on the context—I could go on and on. In life, very few rules are meant to cover every situation. The same is true in CMOS.