Chicago Style Workout 35: Word Usage, Part 6

Lie or lay?

Don’t lie down on the job! (Or is it lay?)

This month’s workout, “Word Usage, Part 6,” centers on section 5.250 of CMOS 17. This time we’re focusing on words beginning with the letters l as in “literally” and m as in “might.” You may (might?) still have to look up lie and lay (we do), but writing and editing are more efficient when you don’t have to go to the dictionary for words like loath and loathe or mantel and mantle.

As you take the quiz, keep in mind that we are looking for usage that would be considered correct even by sticklers (and see our disclaimer below).

Subscribers to The Chicago Manual of Style Online may click through to the linked sections of the Manual (cited in the answers). (For a 30-day free trial of CMOS Online, click here.)

Note: Style guides and dictionaries sometimes disagree. This quiz is designed to test your knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.

Chicago Style Workout 35: Word Usage, Part 6

1. lay; lie. She _____ down and rested.
2. lay; lie. These rumors have been _____ to rest.
3. leach; leech. _____ is a form of bloodletting. [Note: The answer for this example, as the first word in the sentence, begins with a capital letter.]
4. less; fewer. Their campaign platform promised _____ politics and more action.
5. like; as. It looks _____ it might rain.
6. literally. I literally died when you told me that!
7. loathe; loath. I was _____ to admit my mistakes.
8. mantle; mantel. Our most flattering family pictures get placed on the _____.
9. may; might. I _____ have turned off the stove, but I can’t recall doing it.
10. mitigate; militate. His nearsightedness _____ against his ambition to become a commercial pilot.


Photo by Helena Jacoba (detail), licensed under CC BY 2.0

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2 thoughts on “Chicago Style Workout 35: Word Usage, Part 6

  1. Not again. Why can’t I seem to grasp the may-might distinction? Maybe because I have yet to read a clear explanation. I chose “might” here. According to the explanation, “might” is said to suggest “something uncertain,” like my uncertainty of having turned off the stove. Sigh. Ah, well. Fun while it lasted! Thanks for keeping up the workouts.

    9. may; might. I _____ have turned off the stove, but I can’t recall doing it.


    “May” expresses what is possible, is factual, or could be factual. “Might” suggests something uncertain, hypothetical, or contrary to fact. It’s a subtle difference, but the example suggests that the stove may in fact have been turned off. See CMOS 5.250, may; might.

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