Discovering the Americas

Chicago Style 15th Edition

So I’m back. Not that I haven’t been editing, just too close to deadline to cobble together a style guide. Here’s the newest one:

  • The word discover: Chicago 7.57 says key terms in a  particular context are often italicized on their first occurrence. Thereafter, they are best set in roman.
  • Natives, Native Americans, Indians, Amerindians, etc: Chicago 8.43 says that proper names should be capitalized. Also, it says that many American Indians prefer the term American Indians to Native Americans. However, when saying “The native inhabitants…” the word native should be lowercase.
  • Possessive Columbus: Chicago 5.26 says that the possessive of a name is formed by adding ‘s. This remains in effect even when the name ends in an s. The only exception for a name is when it ends in the eez sound (Euripides’ tragedies). That’s found in Chicago 7.20.
  • Reconquista of Spain, Requerimiento: No need to italicize. Chicago 7.53 says that foreign proper nouns are not italicized in an English context. (For the record, it’s a Spanish/Portuguese word that has been adopted into English to refer to the 800 year crusades on the Iberian peninsula.)
  • The adelantados,: Chicago 7.51 says that Italics are use or isolated words and phrases in a foreign language if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers. Also, that comma afterwards should be in roman. I can’t find the rule for that, but all the examples they give show it that way (see 7.52 and 7.57).
  • Pacific Coast: Chicago 8.50 says that Coast should be capitalized in West Coast, but it seems to be more specific that Pacific coast. Are they the same? I can’t find anything on it and Wikipedia has it lowercase (I know it’s not the best source, but still…) My gut says go lowercase, so that’s what I’m doing. UPDATE: Chicago 8.58 has Pacific coast lowercase if it’s general and Pacific Coast uppercase if the region is meant. Since it’s a general usage in my paper, I’m treating my gut to a donut.
  • Eastern frontier, southwestern: Lowercase. I’m much more sure on this one. Chicago 8.50.
  • Sixteenth century: Chicago 9.36, particular centuries are spelled out and lowercased.
  • Four thousand: Round numbers are usuall spelled out. Chicago 9.4.
  • The “New World”: Chicago 8.51, Popular names of places are usually capitalized. Quotation marks are not needed. The example it gives is the Old World, but the concept is the same.
  • Frontiersman: Again, Chicago 7.57.
  • Fur trader-explorer connection: Here, you should use an en-dash. Chicago 6.85.
  • Watershed: For the record, the word watershed can stand alone and does not need to preceed moment.

MLA Style Guide Posts

MLA Style 2nd Edition

Woo hoo! I’m back. Not that I haven’t been editing between my last posting and now. It’s just that the deadlines have been tighter, thus preventing me from typing up my style sheets. But, never fear, I have three papers that need my attention before this Friday. Here we go…

  • Nineteenth century: MLA format requires that we spell out centuries in lowercase letters. Note that it is not hyphenated unless it is used as an adjective (nineteenth-century literature).
  • kit out: This is British for “equip.” (Oh, how I love the British….)
  • sixties, seventies, and eighties: Decades should be spelled out, but it is also “acceptable” to express them in numbers. Note that the spelled-out versions are lowercase. When expressing them in numbers, write them “the 1990s” or “the ’90s”
  • War: When used with a modifier to discuss a specific war, (e.g. the Vietnam War), the word “War” is always capitalized.
  • Ellipses (a.k.a. “dot, dot, dot”): MLA doesn’t give a ton of explanation on ellipses; however, whenever MLA lacks a discussion, they default to Chicago. Chicago 11.54 specifies NOT to use an ellipsis points before the first word of a quotation. I prefer this method
  • Multiple works by the same author: The parenthetical citation goes like this: (Author, Title ##).
  • Using brackets for clarification: If necessary to clarify meaning, use brackets with the meaning after the original word of the quotation rather than just replacing the word. (Did that even make sense?) So the quote would go: “I want to see him [Ryan]” rather than “I want to see [Ryan].”
  • Vis-à-vis: This phrase is in Webster’s dictionary. Therefore, it is not italicized when used in the text.

“Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

Okay, you know you’re a grammar nerd if this makes you giggle. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.

APA Style Guide Posts

So I’m spending yet another summer Saturday indoors editing. Here’s the APA style guide for a much more technical, scientific paper…

  • Introduction: The introduction section of a paper does not include a heading labeling it the introduction (3.30).
  • One’s vs. an Individual’s: Throughout the paper, the authors use “one’s” and “an individual’s” interchangeably. I standardized this to change “one’s” to “an individual’s.”
  • Lists within a paragraph: If you have a list included within the text of a paragraph, they should be labeled (a) …, (b) … and so on. (Note that the letters are lowercase and not italicized.) If the list is separate from the paragraph, the list should be indented and numbered. (See 3.33 for more information.)

Read more…

The Chicago Notes Strike Back…

Chicago Style 15th EditionSo I’m on chapter 3. Since putting the style guide online worked so well last time, I thought I’d do it again.

General Usage Issues:

  • Not only…but also: Chicago 6.41 states that it depends largely on whether pauses are intended. (I tend to overuse this rule and try to place commas everywhere. They come in pairs—either two or none.) There also seems to be a trend that the shorter examples do not get commas.
  • Sea/sea: As per Chicago 8:57, when used as a proper noun to describe a specific place, it should be capitalized (e.g. Aegean Sea). (Also, the same goes for mount, straight, bay, forest, islands, etc.)
  • book/Book: Books of the Bible are not italicized and are usually not capitalized, either.
  • key-bearer: Websters has “color-bearer” and “standard-bearer” and “live-bearer” all with hyphens. I believe that “key-bearer” will follow that pattern. (Actual usage online is pretty much split between the hyphenated version and the open version.) Either would be acceptable as long as they’re consistent.
  • fullness vs. fulness: In a battle, which would win: Webster’s Dictionary or the Church’s style guide? Webster’s spelling is the former, the Church’s is the latter. I personally subscribe to the idea of “When in doubt, go with the Church,” but that mindset is usually more for matters of salvation. In the end, I marked it and the authors can decide where their true allegiances lie.
  • winepress: No hyphen as per Webster’s.
  • The Three Nephites: There are some differences, even in church publications on Since it is talking about them in a similar manner to talking about a specific Quorum of the Twelve, I will capitalize it for the purposes of this paper.

General Help with Chicago Footnotes

Chicago Style 15th EditionOkay, since I have to write this stuff down anyway, I thought I’d include it here for easy reference. The paper I’m editing began with the following:

EDITOR: I guess this is a disclaimer. This is my first time working with Chicago-style footnotes—really the first for footnotes. I did my best, but there may be a lot of problems and errors that I created.

And it made me smile. I don’t know many people who do feel comfortable with Chicago citation styles (and those who do feel comfortable with it have considerable industry experience). It’s definitely confusing at the beginning. Even as an editor, I am still chained to my Chicago—but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out where to look.

So, while this is definitely tailored to the decisions I’m making for this one particular paper, here’s a sample Chicago-style style sheet. I’ll also include my thoughts, when pertinent. Read more…

Visionary Wisdom on Revisions

The last few days at work have been…well…suffice it to say I’ve needed to vent a lot. One of my clients has requested revisions on a design I am particularly proud of. Worse, the requested revisions, in my opinion, make the overall product much less compelling than it was in my original. Now, normally I consider myself a fairly flexible person. I don’t mind making revisions as long as they improve the overall presentation. In fact, I really enjoy a synergistic collaborative process where the whole is significantly better than the ideas of its parts.

However, whenever I’m asked to introduce errors or “ugliness” into a document, I find myself in a foul mood. A really foul mood. An “if I were a cartoon I’d have a huge black rain cloud above my head” foul mood.

So fast forward to today, where in unrelated webdesign work, I came across this post by the brilliant designer Jeffrey Zeldman. In it, he discusses how—in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence—Thomas Jefferson had included passages that abolished slavery. However, in order to get the Declaration approved by congress, he had been forced to delete these passages. Zeldman then draws the following conclusion.

The next time a client requests changes that make your work less beautiful, less usable, or less smart, remember that greater people than you have lost bigger battles over far more important matters.

What did I tell you? The man’s brilliant. And the funny thing is that even as I was “put in my place,” I felt comforted to know that there are other designers who have perhaps experienced similar foul moods while accepting similarly frustrating, inane changes.

And the next time I’m in D.C., I’m getting a copy of the declaration and tacking it to the wall next to my monitor.

Language questions? Just ask the OWL

I can’t say enough about Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL). Quite frankly, if CommaTrauma can’t answer your questions, go ask the OWL. I have yet to find a website that is as thorough, as accessible, and as accurate.

Citations: Can’t find how to cite websites in MLA? Ask the OWL. Need to know the APA rules for citing works by more than three authors? Ask the OWL. Honestly, the Research and Citation section of their site should answer most of your basic citation questions.

Grammar: Honestly, if everyone would read OWL’s tips regarding grammar, CommaTrauma would cease to exist. Confused at the difference between a dangling modifier and a dependent clause? Are your subjects and verbs at odds? The OWL’s got what you need.

Writing: You want information on writing? OWL has useful hints and tips about professional writing, technical writing, scientific writing, academic writing, writing in the social sciences, writing in engineering, creative writing, writing for literary criticism, the writing process, and job search writing. (That’s a lot of writing…)

So there you go. You have now been introduced to the OWL. Now bond.

So now I’ve got a phobia

I’ve realized something. In creating a site based around editing, usage, and punctuation—where I intend to post both editing tips and rants—I’ve had to be more particular about how I write. I realize that, eventually, the day will come where I will incorrectly use a word or commit a typographical error.

If it’s a typo, be kind. If it’s a difference of opinion, be accepting. But if I’ve made a genuine mistake…well, I’m not merciful, so I really can’t expect you to be.

And that’s somewhat scary.

Errors and Elbows

Really, the credit for this blog should go directly to the folks at Fiddler’s Elbow.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago my coworkers and I went to Fiddler’s Elbow on our lunch break. As we drove into the back parking lot, I quickly became irritated by a row of crimson banners supporting the University of Utah. And, no, this was not because I’m a huge backer of rival Brigham Young University. No, what really bothered me was the content of several of the banners.

They read: “Go Ute’s.”

Go Ute’s? Go U-T-E-apostrophe-S?! There’s no apostrophe in a plural! How could any decent person (or group of people, for that matter) sleep at night after committing—in 200 point font—a huge and glaring error in punctuation?! Why didn’t anyone—the designer, editor, or printer—catch this before it was plastered all over the side of a completely innocent building? What kind of place was this?

I’ll admit it. I couldn’t think of anything else during lunch. When we went out into the parking lot, I went out of my way and looked at the sign yet again. Yep—still wrong. At this point, I could no longer suffer in silence and began venting my surprise to my coworkers. Shortly after my coworkers’ eyes glazed over, I realized that perhaps there was a better forum for my frustration.

And thus, CommaTrauma was born.