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Style Q&A


Style Q&A

1. Q: Would it be possible to develop or select a more complete standard source for English to metric and metric to English conversions? The info in the style book is pretty limited.

A: The conversion chart in appendix 7 (page 88) of the freelance style guide is accurate (most of the conversions are rounded off to the fourth or fifth decimal place). If you need additional information, there are some Web sites that serve as measurement calculators:

You can type a number to convert, select the measurement (e.g., inches to centimeters), press a button, and it converts the measurement for you. There are also other measurements to work with, such as international nautical miles, in case you’d ever need such a thing.

2. Q: It would be very nice if we either had a house policy about whether there should be a comma before quotation marks for things that seem like dialogue but only involve one-person sentences such as

You may be asking yourself, "What is the point?"

In this situation you should answer, "Nothing," "I was just leaving," or "Sorry to have disturbed you."

A: I found this explanation in Line by Line, by Claire Kehrwald Cook:

A comma separates a direct quotation from the verb of saying (i.e., say, answer, reply, retort, shout, ask, scream, and so on) that precedes or follows: She said, "I wouldn’t bother to clean up." "I promised I would," I replied. This also applies when like or such as comes after the say verb: She said something like, "Go climb a tree." When two marks of punctuation belong in the same spot (a comma and a question mark, say), use only the stronger one: "Don’t you mind?" she asked. When a quotation other than actual dialogue serves as the subject or object or complement of some other sort of verb (other than a form of say), omit the comma: "Sorry" doesn’t help, but try "I’ll make it up to you." Do not use quotation marks around yes and no in a sentence like I said yes or The answer was no.

3. Q: If there is an in-text reference to an element on another page followed by an
instruction like (See page \bb\) and the element in question runs more than one page, should the page range of the element be listed or just the page the element begins on? It would seem that the range might be most helpful, but it isn’t as if the reader would turn to the first page and then stop or be confused if the element continues on the next page-especially if we’re talking about a spread. And if the elements are drills in a drill book, for example, all the extra info adds up.

A: It’s a good idea to provide the page range. YMCA books have page ranges so that the reader gets an idea of the scope of information covered. Other HK books should have page ranges as well.

4. Q: If we refer a reader to a figure or photo with more than one part, is it best to
say, "See figure 7.1a and 7.1b" rather than "figures 7.1a and 7.1b or figure 7.1a and b?"

A: It should say, "See figure 7.1, a and b," because it’s essentially the same figure, just two different parts in a series. Page 37 of the style guide gives a similar example; that one says, "See figure 11.2, a through d," or, in parentheses, "(see figure 11.2, a-d)."

5. Q: Alphabetical listing in references. Which comes first when there are multiple authors in a reference, and when two different references have the same author(s) and the same date?

A: When there are two different references with the same lead author, you’d alphabetize according to the surname of the second author. Keep in mind the rule of "nothing precedes something." Here are examples:

Crosby, D., S. Stills, and G. Nash. 1981.
Crosby, D., S. Stills, G. Nash, and N. Young. 1976.

Graham, D.A.; J.F. Hayes; and L.N. Bender. 1998.
Graham, D.A.; J.F. Hayes; and R.T. Louis. 1998.

References by the same author (or by the same two or more authors in the same order) with the same publication date are arranged alphabetically by the title of the work (excluding A or The) that follows the date. Exception: If the references with the same authors published in the same year are identified as articles in a series (e.g., Part 1 and Part 2), order the references in the same order, not alphabetically by title. Example:

Graham, D.A., J.F. Hayes, and L.N. Bender. 1998. The psychiatric care of ethnic elders.
Graham, D.A., J.F. Hayes, and L.N. Bender. 1998. A random study of bugs.

6. Q: Something that has been dogging me recently: what are the rules for capitalization after a colon? I know there are instances where you’re supposed to, but I don’t know what they are! (For instance, should I have capitalized "what" in my first sentence?) CMS 5.103.

A: The rules and examples in CMS are somewhat sketchy. I’ll list here what CMS says and explain how our style varies from CMS.

CMS: If the material introduced by a colon consists of more than one sentence, or if it is a formal statement, a quotation, or a speech in dialogue, it should begin with a capital letter. Otherwise it may begin with a lowercase letter:

To Henrietta, there seemed no possibility of waking from her nightmare: If she were to reveal what was in the letter, her reputation would be ruined and her marriage at an end. On the other hand, if she were to remain silent, her husband would in mortal danger.
The material after the colon is two sentences that are directly related to the material that comes before the colon. Therefore, the first letter after the colon should be capitalized.

Henrietta’s distress seemed insurmountable: not only had her lover abandoned her at the last moment, but she had already sent a note to her husband announcing her intention of leaving him.
The material after the colon is only one sentence and it is not a formal statement.

I wish only to state the following: Anyone found in possession of forged papers will immediately be arrested.
This is a formal statement-a law or rule that is preceded by a statement that sounds like an announcement. Other examples of formal statements:

Always remember this important rule: Never wear corduroy pants when skiing.
Follow this formula to calculate a reasonable mortgage rate: Your monthly payment should equal 1 percent of your total mortgage.

HK’s variation: In the past the editorial staff has been told to lowercase everything after a colon, no matter what. From now on, capitalize the first word after a colon if it begins a complete sentence. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a formal statement, announcement, or part of a series of sentences.

7. Q: Any rules for bolding words to be in the glossary? Or just if the author sent it to us that way?

A: If the key terms or glossary terms are to be bolded, bold the term the first time it’s used in the text. Each successive occurrence of the word should be in regular roman type. There is an exception to this: If the term occurs in an early chapter (e.g., chapter 1), and the term is not mentioned again until a later chapter (e.g., chapter 10), and the term is used in a slightly different context, then boldface the term on the first mention in the later chapter as well. Some books won’t have boldfaced key terms, but if they do, follow this guideline.

8. Q: More examples of the use of numbers, such as humanities vs. academic, ratios, exceptions, etc. Also, define what a "cluster" of numbers is. Style guide is pretty limited.

A: Numbers can be the most troublesome element for copyeditors and proofreaders to deal with.

Exceptions for Humanities Style

For trade text, follow the general HK style of spelling out one through nine, but of course there are always exceptions. Here are a few examples, some of which include number clustering:

Units of measure: Take 5 units of regular insulin four times a day for the first two weeks of your exercise program. Then increase your dose to 6 units four times a day.

She took 5 milligrams of Prozac once a day for 10 weeks, but found that she still felt depressed. Her doctor increased her dose to 10 milligrams once a day, and she continued taking this dose for another 6 weeks until her insurance expired. Then she was depressed for the next 6 years. (Here we have two elements, time and dosage. I used numerals for all because the double-digit numbers prevail. If the "10 weeks" part were a single-digit number, the rest of the time elements would be single digits.)

Running, cycling, or other distance sport books that are number-intensive: Run 7 miles per day your first week of training, then increase by 1 mile each week.

Run on the treadmill for 5 to 10 minutes at 8 mph. Decrease your speed to 4 mph for 8 minutes. (The time element is expressed in numerals because the "10 minutes" is a double-digit figure, so all time elements should be numerals to maintain consistency. The distance is expressed in numerals because "mph" is an abbreviation, and per CMS 8.15, numerals are used with abbreviations.)

There are other examples of number clustering in CMS 9.6 and 9.7 (15th edition) or CMS 8.8 (14th edition).

9. Q: How do you decide if the sentence following a list should be or ?

A: This can be a very subjective decision. If the sentence following the list can fit comfortably with the paragraph before the list, then the sentence after the list should be (no new paragraph). If the sentence after the list uses any demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those), then it should be considered part of the previous paragraph, and it should be typemarked . Also, if the sentence after the list starts with "for example," "therefore," "in other words," or a transition phrase that refers to the content in the list or before the list, it should be typemarked . Here’s an example:

To enhance reliability, you can take a variety of practical steps to minimize measurement error, including the following:

1. Attain adequate knowledge of test descriptions.
2. Give proper demonstrations and instructions.
3. Develop good student and teacher preparation through adequate practice trials.
4. Conduct reliable studies.

Of these steps, providing adequate practice trials is the most important.

For all other cases, you can start a new paragraph.

10. Q: Show examples of different kinds of references. For example, many authors use APA. Examples of this would be helpful for making sure they’ve provided all the correct information and in the correct order.

A: Here are some examples of references set in APA style, both in the text and in the reference list.

Reference to Journal Article

Herman, L.M., Kuczaj, S.A., III, & Holder, M.D. (1993). Responses to anomalous gestural sequences by a language-trained dolphin: Evidence for processing of semantic relations and syntactic information. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 122, 184-194.

Text reference would look like this: Herman et al. (1993) compared response times…
In a recent study of response times (Herman et al., 1993)…

Reference to Newspaper Article, No Author

New drug appears to sharply cut risk of death from heart failure. (1993, July 15). The Washington Post, p. A12.

In a text reference for this, use a short title for the parenthetical citation: ("New Drug," 1993).

Magazine Article

Posner, M.I. (1993, October 29). Seeing the mind. Science, 262, 673-674.

Give the date shown on the publication-month for monthlies or month and day for weeklies. Give the volume number.

The list of all the possible reference scenarios is too extensive to cover here. If you see that the author has styled the reference list differently than CMS or APA style, or if there are elements in the reference list that you don’t often see in references, you can look in the APA style manual. Each reference should have the author; date; title of work; title of book, journal, magazine, or other media; volume; and page numbers.

Occasionally (very occasionally) an author will style references in Council of Biology Editors (CBE) style. I’ve provided three examples of media that you’d be most likely to see styled in CBE. If you need further examples, go to their Web site:

In the text, references are cited by the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication, in either of two forms: (name year) or name (year). The full citation is found only in the list of references at the end of the paper. If there are two authors, both surnames are cited in the text; papers with more than two authors are cited by the name of the first author followed by ’et al.’ A few subject areas within biology prefer a number system; the reference in the paper is then a single number in parentheses, referring to a citation in the alphabetized list of references at the end of the paper.

Article in Journal

Biradar DP, Rayburn AL. 1995. Chromosomal damage induced by herbicide contamination observed in public water supplies. J Environ Qual 24: 1222-25.

Book (Note: the citation for a book not part of a series is the same but without the final parenthetical statement.)
Latchman DS. 1994. From genetics to gene therapy: the molecular pathology of human disease. London: Bios Scientific. 362 p. (UCL molecular pathology series.)

Chapter or Article Within Book

Schlegel HG, Jannasch HW. 1981. Prokaryotes and their habitats. In: Starr NP, Stolp H, Trueper HG, Ballows A, Schlegel HG, editors. The prokaryotes: A handbook on habitats, isolation, and identification of bacteria. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p. 41-82.


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