I don’t like to dither over style choices. At the beginning of a sentence, it’s routine to start the next word with a capital letter. But when I type a colon within a sentence, I often have to stop and think about how to write the next word: whether to cap it isn’t always obvious.
Periods are small but powerful. Not only do they bring entire sentences to a stop with a single dot, they’re also commonly found in abbreviations and numbers.
Commas play at least two main roles in ordinary prose. They can set off words, phrases, and clauses—including direct quotations, questions, and thoughts—from the surrounding sentence. And they can be used between coordinate adjectives and other items in a series.
The comma between city and state—or, following the same principle, between city and province or city and country—is so thoroughly inscribed in the written record that most editors don’t give it a second thought.
To a copyeditor working on a manuscript, a space is usually just a space, and line breaks are random, fluid occurrences that vary as text is added and deleted and moved around. Designers and typesetters will take the edited text and make it pretty for publication, in part by applying different types of spaces as needed to prevent unwanted breaks.
This month we’re doing something a little different. Instead of focusing exclusively on CMOS, this quiz highlights some of the differences between US style and UK style (commonly called British style). But we won’t be quizzing you on trunk versus boot or fries versus chips.
Interruptions happen all the time in real life. People talk over each other and past each other; words collide and overlap. Sometimes an action or a thought rather than a person intrudes, causing a speaker to stop abruptly or, less dramatically, to trail off midsentence.
Editors spend a lot of time attending to the smallest of details. And though many of us also take care of the bigger stuff—rewriting for clarity, checking facts, formatting for different media, and so on—the little things will always be there, in every document, to keep us busy.
A prefix is a partial word that joins to the front of another word (and sometimes a phrase) to create a new word with a different meaning. The pre- in prefix is a prefix, for example.
I’ve used this space before to caution copyeditors against scrubbing voice and character out of fiction manuscripts by adhering too closely to a style manual.