Voices from the Plains
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary online (merriam-webster.com)
NOTE: While these are the general rules we will follow, exceptions can be made in support of the intended meaning, voice, or flow. Also, these rules do not necessarily apply to poetry.
• Use the serial comma (a, b, and c).
• Use an em dash (—) with no spaces around it (no hyphens).
- Yes: She found—and it was something of a miracle—her keys in the freezer.
- No: She found — and it was something of a miracle — her keys in the freezer.
- No: She found--and it was something of a miracle--her keys in the freezer.
- No: She found -- and it was something of a miracle -- her keys in the freezer.
- No: She found - and it was something of a miracle - her keys in the freezer.
• Ellipses should be formed as space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space (except there should be no space between an ellipsis dot and a quotation mark).
- Yes: “Well . . . uh . . . I’m not sure.”
- No: “Well…uh…I’m not sure.”
- No: “Well … uh … I’m not sure.”
- No: “Well….. uh….. I’m not sure.”
• Use smart (curved) quotation marks. No straight quotation marks.
• Double quotation marks should be used in all instances except:
- Use single quotation marks within double quotation marks (“I read a great article called ‘How to Use Quotation Marks’ yesterday,” Martin said.).
- Use a single closing quotation mark (apostrophe) to replace missing characters at the beginning of a word or number.
• Yes: Summer of ’69 (curves to the left)
• No: Summer of ‘69
• ALL periods and commas go inside quotation marks.
- Yes: “I can’t find my keys.”
- Yes: “I can’t find my keys,” she said.
- Yes: “I read a great article called ‘How to Use Quotation Marks.’”
- Yes: “I read a great article called ‘How to Use Quotation Marks,’” Martin said.
• Do not capitalize the word that follows a quotation in dialogue unless that word begins a new sentence.
- Yes: “Did you see the moon last night?” she asked.
- No: “Did you see the moon last night?” She asked.
- Yes: “Did you see the moon last night?” She looked out the window as she spoke.
• Use headline style capitalization for titles and headings. All words should be capitalized except the following (unless they are the first or last word):
- Prepositions except when used as adjectives or adverbs (e.g., Turn Down Service or The On Button)
- The articles the, a, and an
- Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for
- The words to and as, regardless of how they are used
- Parts of proper names that would be lowercased in the text (von, de, etc.)
• When in doubt about a word, consult merriam-webster.com.
• Use only one space between sentences and after colons.
• Do not underline copy except possibly for URLs. Use italicizing instead of underlining.
• Italicize the names of books, magazines, albums, movies, and TV shows.
• Use quotation marks for the names of chapters from books*, magazine and Internet articles, songs, and TV episodes.
*This refers to the names of chapters from other books that are mentioned within the text.
• Avoid the following widows and orphans:
- The first line of a paragraph by itself at the bottom of a page
- The last line of a paragraph by itself at the top of a page
- The last word of a paragraph on a line by itself (I only fix this one if I can do so without it being obvious, which is often not the case; this one is not a deal breaker)
• When in doubt, consult merriam-webster.com.
• In any instances of the f-bomb, replace “uck” with an em dash (f—, f—ed, f—ing).
• Spell out numbers zero through one hundred.
• Spell out numbers one through one hundred followed by hundred, thousand, or hundred thousand (e.g., two thousand, eight hundred, one hundred thousand).
• Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence (including years).
• Spell out whole numbers followed by million, billion, etc. Use numerals for fractional quantities but still spell out million and billion.
- Yes: It happened thirty million years ago.
- Yes: It happened 12.4 million years ago.
- Yes: They stole between 4.5 and 5 billion dollars.
• Consistency overrides all other rules. As in the example above (“4.5 and 5 billion dollars” in which “5” would normally be spelled out), if two or more numbers appear describing the same type of thing and one number has to be set as a numeral, then all numbers should be set as numerals.