percent or %

In this post I discuss when to spell out percent and when to use the % symbol.

In general, use this format: a numeral followed by the word percent.

The unemployment rate remained at 7.3 percent.
The cost of a New York cab ride rose by 17 percent on Tuesday.

Use the % symbol in a scientific document or if your writing contains a lot of statistics. So, in the following paragraph it is appropriate to use %.

As Quebeckers began voting across the province, a Forum Research poll has the PQ capturing 36% of the vote, giving the party a large lead over the Liberals, who have jumped to second place with 29%. The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) follow with 25%, the Québec solidaire at 6%, with other parties capturing 3%.

(As an aside, if you’re an editor, you will want to check the math and make sure we do not end up with more than 100%. In this example, the total comes to 99% (36+29+25+6+3) so you might want to ask the author why it’s not 100%. Is the missing 1% undecided?)

Note that there is no space between the numeral and the % symbol:

not: 100 %

Note also that whether you use the word percent or the % symbol, you always use a numeral:

100% or 100 percent
not: one hundred % or one hundred percent

Finally, do not confuse the word percent with percentage, which is a general term similar to amount or number. Note also the expression percentage points.

Percentage of popular vote, by party. (heading for a table)
That percentage would have increased to 20% by 2020.
Air Canada said it had a record load factor of 87.9%, up 0.2 percentage points from 2011.

This post is based on The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), paragraphs 9.18–9.20.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

Capitalizing compass points

Whether you live back East, up North, down South, or out West—I hope you’ll get something out of this post.

My topic for this post is compass points (north, east, south, west) and when to capitalize them, with a bonus section on hyphenation and abbreviation.

Do not capitalize these terms if they simply show location or direction.

The sun rises in the east.

Go south on Canada Way.

But (of course) capitalize them if they are part of a proper name.

the North Pole

South Dakota

West Virginia

the Middle East

Also capitalize them if they refer to definite regions—even ones that don’t appear on a map.

Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the hot, dry summer dries up                       rivers and lakes.

The Far North represents 42% of the province of Ontario.

As for northern/southern etc., do not capitalize these before a place name unless they are part of a proper name.

Hurricane Isaac is expected to move over southern Missouri [a general region] Friday night.


The first European to visit Western Australia [name of a province] was the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog.

Two bonus points:


Don’t use a hyphen when combining two compass points:

The surge was unusually bad in LaPlace, about 25 miles northwest of New Orleans.

But when adding a third point, add a hyphen between the first two:

Isaac was moving north-northwest at 12 mph.


Single compass point abbreviations are followed by a period, two-letter ones are not.

Highway 1 W.

Marine Blvd NE

E. Main St

These abbreviations are used even if you quote an address in a text.

Don’t abbreviate compass points if they are part of the proper name of a street or place name:

North Avenue

North Shore Blvd.

South Fraser Way

Image courtesy of

e.g., i.e., etc.

Here’s some advice I read about preparing for an earthquake:

• Know your safe spots in your home, i.e. against inside walls or under tables.

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies, i.e. first aid kits, flash light, etc.

My topic today is the difference between e.g. and i.e.

These two abbreviations are not synonyms.

For the Latin buffs, e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means ‘for example,’ while i.e. stands for id est and means ‘it is.’

In short:

e.g. = for example (followed by one or more examples)
i.e. = in other words/namely/that is (followed by a definition or description)

If you can replace it with ‘for example,’ use e.g.; if you can replace it with ‘namely,’ use i.e.

Note that both abbreviations are followed by a comma.

Let’s return to our original example:

• Know your safe spots in your home, i.e. against inside walls or under tables.

Try replacing the abbreviation with ‘for example’ or ‘namely’:

(a) Know your safe spots in your home, for example, against inside walls or under tables.

(b) Know your safe spots in your home, namely, against inside walls or under tables.

Option (a) means there are various safe spots during an earthquake but these are just two examples. Option (b) means that there are only two safe spots indoors during an earthquake: against inside walls and under tables.

The correct option really depends on what was meant. (Here’s where as an editor you might want to check with the author to find out what they meant to say.)

My guess for now is that the first choice was meant since a google search tells me there are other safe spots, such as under desks, in a doorway, in a hallway, and under a bed. Thus, the sentence should be corrected to:

• Know your safe spots in your home (e.g., against inside walls or under tables).

(Note that I also prefer to use parentheses to set the list of examples apart more clearly.)

One last point: when you give a list of examples, use either e.g. at the beginning or etc. at the end, but not both.

So, to come back to the second example at the top:

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies, i.e. first aid kits, flash light, etc.

What are the two problems with this sentence?

First, it uses i.e. when it should use e.g. (because there are many other kinds of supplies that one needs besides first aid kits and a flash light).

Second, it also ends the list with etc., which is really redundant.

Either of these corrections would be fine:

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies (first aid kits, flash light, etc.).

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies (e.g., first aid kits, flash light).

Let’s close with a quick exercise. Take a look at these sentences. What abbreviation would you use?

1. Do not let the batteries come into contact with water ( ____ sea water) or other liquids.

2. We shall not be liable for any damage to this product caused by the malfunction of non-genuine accessories ( ____ a leakage and/or explosion of a battery pack).

3. E.I. sickness benefits fall into a “second payer” position ( ____ they are paid after other sources of disability income).

4. E.I. benefits will be reduced by other benefits, ____ Workers’ Comp, CPP, Group disability.

Here’s what I would do:

(1) e.g. (salt water is mentioned as one example)

(2) e.g. (because this is only one example of damage from a non-genuine accessory)

(3) i.e. (because this is a definition of what is meant by the phrase “second payor”)

(4) e.g. (assuming there are other benefits)

Image courtesy of

Hyphen-connected participles

The topic for this post is the use of hyphens with phrases made from participles (such as in my cleverly devised blog title—but not in this sentence, as you will see why).


Participles come in two flavours: present and past.

Present participles always end in -ing. You can change any verb and make it into a present participle. Here are some examples:

biking, flying, diving, skiing

Past participles are the third form of the verb. You probably remember memorizing these forms—the last one is the past participle.



In regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the simple past—as in these examples:



We often combine a participle with another word to make a compound phrase. The whole phrase can then describe a noun. Here are some examples:

(1) dish-washing detergent

(2) self-inflicted wounds

(3) horse-drawn carriage

(4) money-saving techniques

(5) clinically-proven results

Which of the above five examples are formed from present participles and which from past participles? (Answer: (1) and (4) are present; the others are past participles.)

When to hyphenate

Compound participle phrases are always hyphenated when they come before the noun they describe (as in the five examples above).

When they follow the noun they describe, hyphenation is optional—though never wrong.

The wounds were self inflicted. Or: The wounds were self-inflicted.

The results were clinically proven. Or: The results were clinically-proven.

If a participle is preceded by an adverb that ends in -ly, the compound is never hyphenated:

recently discovered fossils

badly managed accounts


In the following sentences, (1) find the participle phrase and the noun or noun phrase it describes; (2) hyphenate as needed; (3) indicate whether the participle is a present or past one.

Answers follow. Number (1) is done by way of example.

1)  A variety of food preserving methods are used to prevent bacteria from spoiling food.

Answer: food-preserving methods (present)

2)  All early airplanes were powered by gasoline driven piston engines that spun propellers.

3)  Fiberglass reinforced plastic combines the flexibility of a plastic with the strength of the fiberglass that is embedded in the plastic.

4)  The most commonly used type of primary cell is the zinc carbon battery or dry cell.

5)  The shock absorbing properties of rubber make it useful for car suspensions.

6)  Most of the world’s 25 fastest growing cities are in the developing world.

7)  Today, the main uses of steam turbines are in power plants and for the propulsion of nuclear powered ships.

8)  Microphones turn sound into an electric signal that can drive a groove cutting machine.

9)  Modern radio telescopes scan the sky with huge, bowl shaped dishes that reflect radio signals onto small horn antennae.

10) Cheap, factory made wristwatches made time available to everyone by the beginning of the 1900s.


2)  gasoline-driven piston engines (past)

3)  Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (past)

4)  most commonly used type of primary cell (past)

5)  shock-absorbing properties (present)

6)  fastest-growing cities (present)

7)  nuclear-powered ships (past)

8)  groove-cutting machine (present)

9)  bowl-shaped dishes (past)

10) factory-made wristwatches (past)

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

The ten sentences for the exercise were taken from: Taylor, Charles, ed. The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia. Boston: Kingfisher, 2000.

Serial comma on the loose

You may not have heard about it before, but the Serial Comma is a hot topic among editors: either you love it or you don’t.

So, what is it all about?

The serial comma is used with a series of items. In fact, it’s the final comma in a series of items before a conjunction (and, but, or). Here’s an example sentence:

The belted kingfisher can be found near rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes.

Without the serial comma, the sentence would read:

The belted kingfisher can be found near rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes.

If the serial comma is omitted, the last two items may appear to form one single unit, as in this example:

Oil-fouled common loons drown, die of exposure or are poisoned by the oil they swallow.

In this sentence it may appear that loons can “die of exposure by the oil they swallow” and “are poisoned by the oil they swallow.”

Adding the serial comma avoids that misinterpretation:

Oil-fouled common loons drown, die of exposure, or are poisoned by the oil they swallow.

Now it’s clear that there are three possible causes of death: 1) drowning; 2) death by exposure; and 3) poisoning by swallowing oil.

The serial comma is a matter of style: both the sentences with the serial comma and those without the serial comma are perfectly grammatical.

Whether you use the serial comma or not is up to you. What matters is that you’re consistent throughout your document, or—if you have a document that appears regularly, like a newsletter—that you are consistent from issue to issue.

The serial comma is replaced with a semicolon (;) if the items in the list have their own internal punctuation. The semicolon helps to set apart the items in the series more clearly than a simple comma would. Here are some examples:

Three types of egrets found in North America include: the snowy egret, found in the western United States; the cattle egret, found in the eastern United States; and the great egret, also found in the eastern United States as well as California.

The calliope hummingbird measures 3–3¼ in.; the ruby-throated hummingbird, 3–3¾ in.; the rufous hummingbird, 3½–4 in.; and the blue-throated hummingbird, 4½–5 in.

Note how these sentences would have been more confusing if we had used commas rather than semicolons.

Three types of egrets found in North America include: the snowy egret, found in the western United States, the cattle egret, found in the eastern United States, and the great egret, also found in the eastern United States as well as California.

The calliope hummingbird measures 3–3–3¼ in., the ruby-throated hummingbird, 3–3¾ in., the rufous hummingbird, 3½–4 in., and the blue-throated hummingbird, 4½–5 in.

The semicolons more clearly separate the items in the series.

Here’s a quick exercise to round off the lesson. Identify the serial comma in the following sentences.

1. As the ivory-billed woodpeckers retreated to the most impenetrable of cypress jungles, man followed with axes, guns, and bulldozers and destroyed the creatures, scarcely knowing they existed.

2. When it is feeding, resting, or aloft, the wood stork moves with an air of dignity and courtliness.

3. Shortly after the ice retreats, adult Pacific loons court, nest, and raise their young in double time—as quick as an Arctic summer.

4. The yellow-breasted chat may mimic the rattle of a kingfisher, the whistle of a yellowlegs, the cawing of a crow, or even the bleat of a car horn.

5. Some Canada geese may have as long as 20 years together before succumbing to disease, a hunter’s bullet, or a predator.

See answers below.

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

The example sentences for this post were either taken or adapted from Cassidy, James, ed. Book of North American Birds. Reader’s Digest General Books. Pleasantville, NJ: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1990.


1. serial comma after “guns”

2. serial comma after “resting”

3. serial comma after “nest”

4. serial comma after “crow”

5. serial comma after “a hunter’s bullet”

Table of Contents: “Front matter” vs. “back matter”

My topic for this post is the Table of Contents.

What goes into a Table of Contents?

The short answer is: everything that follows it and nothing that precedes it.

The Table of Contents lists all the major divisions in the document: sections and chapters and perhaps the main headings within the chapters.

What I want to focus on today, however, is the other material in the document—which may appear either before or after the text. This includes such things as: a list of illustrations, an appendix, and an index—to name just some.

If you have any of those items in your document, where do you fit them in? Here are some guidelines on their proper placement. Whether you’re composing your own book or editing someone else’s document, this will be helpful information to know.

This “extra” material is called the front or back matter (depending on whether it comes before or after the text). Chicago* gives us the following outline on the order in which they should occur (of course not every document will include all of the items):

Front matter
Title page
Copyright page
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Foreword (by someone other than the author)
Preface (by the author)
Acknowledgments (or in back matter)
Abbreviations (or in back matter)

Back matter
Acknowledgments (or in front matter)
Appendix (or several appendices – numbered A, B, C, etc.)
Abbreviations (or in front matter)

(Note that Acknowledgments and Abbreviations may come either before or after the text.)

Two points to remember:

1. Front matter is usually numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.). The text itself is numbered using arabic numerals (our “regular” numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc.) starting with page 1. Like the text, back matter is numbered with arabic numerals and continues numbering where the text leaves off.

There’s actually a logical explanation for this system of numbering. Often, front matter has to be added late in the publishing process. By having the text start with number 1, the publisher won’t have to renumber all the pages when adding something to the front matter.

2. As I mentioned earlier, the Table of Contents includes everything that follows it and nothing that precedes it. Thus, in the Table of Contents you would not mention the title page or the dedication (nor the Table of Contents itself!).

Before you go, let’s have an open book quiz. For this exercise, you will need to refer to the dictionary that I edited recently for SIL: A Comprehensive Comparison of Lexemes in the Major Languages of Tanna, Vanuatu.

The URL is:

Answer these questions based on this dictionary. (I’ve provided the answers at the end of this post.)

1. Go to the Table of Contents in the dictionary by clicking on Contents in the left panel. How many items are included in the front matter?

2. On what page is the section called Acknowledgments? Where else could this section have been placed?

3. Is the list of Abbreviations included in the front matter or in the back matter?

4. Is the list of Illustrations (“Map, Tables of Figure”) placed according to the guidelines above? Where would Chicago have placed it?

5. On what page does chapter 1 begin?

6. On what page is the list of References?

7. Do the items in the back matter follow the sequence described above?

8. How many pages does the front matter have? What about the back matter?

See answers below.

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

*Chicago=The Chicago Manual of Style


1. The front matter contains three items: (1) Acknowledgments, (2) Abstract, and (3) Map, Tables, and Figure (which could have been called simply “Illustrations”)

2. Acknowledgments is on page v. It could also have been placed right after the text, before Appendix A, on page 251.

3. The list of Abbreviations is in the back matter.

4. According to Chicago‘s guidelines, the list of Illustrations (“Map, Tables, and Figure”) should have been placed right after the Table of Contents, before the Acknowledgments.

5. Chapter 1 begins on page 1.

6. The list of References is on page 256.

7. The order for the back matter follows Chicago’s guidelines. The order is: Appendix A, B, C; Abbreviations; References; Contributors.

8. The front matter has seven pages: pages i–vii. The back matter has eight pages: pages 251–258.

Titles: Sentence style or headline style?

In this post I’ll talk about the capitalization of titles—whether of books, chapters, journal articles, or sections in your blog.

If you are (or will soon be) writing papers for a college class, this will help you sort out the rules for quoting titles of books and articles for your bibliography or list of references.

We’ll discuss the two styles for capitalizing titles: sentence style and headline style.

(As an aside, if you’re quoting a title of a book or an article in a bibliography or a list of references, follow these rules regardless of how the title is actually capitalized in the original work.)

Sentence style

In sentence style capitalization, only the first word of the title is capitalized, and of course all proper names—the same way you would capitalize a sentence. (In my examples I don’t include a period. In a bibliography or a list of references, you would add a period at the end.)

In the likeness of God

A subtitle—if there is one—is also capitalized sentence style. The format is: title, colon, subtitle.

Not a chance: The myth of chance in modern science & cosmology

Cracking Da Vinci’s code: The hidden agenda unveiled

Sentence style is used for titles of books and articles in a list of references (see my post on the author-date method of citation). It’s also a good style to use if you have many long titles in your document.

You’ll notice that I use sentence style for the title and the section headings of this post. Like Chicago†, I am a “down” style kind of guy: too many capitals make me uncomfortable. (Queen Victoria, as we saw last time, clearly was “up” style—see the first footnote to my previous post.)

Headline style

In headline style capitalization, on the other hand, all the major words of the title are capitalized. Headline style is commonly used for quoting titles of books and articles in the text of a document, as well as for titles of books and articles in a bibliography (which is different from a list of references).

Here are the rules for capitalizing words using headline style:

(1) always capitalize the first and last word (both of the title and the subtitle), and capitalize all major words (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs)

The Marriage You’ve Always Dreamed Of.

(2) lowercase all articles (the, an, a)

Not a Chance

For the Birds

(3) lowercase the conjunctions and, but, for, or, nor

500 Popular Annuals and Perennials for American Gardeners

(4) lowercase all prepositions regardless of length, unless they are used as adverbs or adjectives (or part of a verb phrase)

The Holiness of God

The Bible in Translation


Bringing Up Boys

(5) for hyphenated words, capitalize the first element; capitalize the second element only if it’s a proper name or adjective.*

The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia.

Computer tip

To quickly capitalize a word that’s lower case, highlight the word, hold down the Shift key and press F3. The first time, it may change the word to all-caps. If so, press F3 again (while still holding down the Shift key). You can do this with a whole phrase as well but it will capitalize every word so you may have to change individual words back afterwards.

Go for it!

Ready to give it a try? Capitalize the following book titles first in sentence style and then in headline style.

1. what perennial where: the creative guide to choosing the best perennials for every area of your garden

2. first aid & cpr manual: a practical guide for first aid & cpr at home and at work

3. creatures that glow: a book about bioluminescent animals

4. what wives wish their husbands knew about women: the popular host of focus on the family talks about marriage

5. where is god when it hurts?

See my answers below.

Today’s post was compiled from articles in The Chicago Manual of Style. See paragraphs 8.164–167 in the 15th edition or paragraphs 8.155–157 in the 16th edition.

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

*There’s a more complex alternative where the other elements are capitalized if they are major words etc.

Chicago is my shorthand for The Chicago Manual of Style.


Sentence style:

1. What perennial where: The creative guide to choosing the best perennials for every area of your garden

2. First aid & CPR manual: A practical guide for first aid & CPR at home and at work

3. Creatures that glow: A book about bioluminescent animals

4. What wives wish their husbands knew about women: The popular host of Focus on the Family talks about marriage

5. Where is God when it hurts?

Headline style:

1. What Perennial Where: The Creative Guide to Choosing the Best Perennials for Every Area of Your Garden

2. First Aid & CPR Manual: A Practical Guide for First Aid & CPR at Home and at Work

3. Creatures That Glow: A Book about Bioluminescent Animals

4. What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women: The Popular Host of Focus on the Family Talks about Marriage

5. Where Is God When It Hurts?

Questions? Comments? Use the “comment” button.

Commas with dates: Lessons from Queen Victoria

In this post we’ll review the rules for punctuating dates—specifically, the use of commas with dates. (The Canadian history lesson is bonus.)

1. To express a specific date, use a cardinal number (1, 2, 3, etc.), even if the number is pronounced as an ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.)*

Canada Day is observed on July 1 unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case July 2 is the statutory holiday.

2. An exception to this rule is when a day is mentioned by itself, without the month or year; in that case, use an ordinal number and spell it out.

The Charlottetown Conference began on September 1, 1864. It adjourned on the ninth.

3. In the month-day-year system (American), use a comma before the year; in the day-month-year system (British), do not use a comma.

The federal Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867.
The federal Dominion of Canada was formed on 1 July 1867.

4. In the month-day-year system, use a comma both before and after the year if it occurs in the middle of a clause; in the day-month-year system, do not use any commas.†

The Dominion of Canada came into being on July 1, 1867, upon royal proclamation by Queen Victoria.
The Dominion of Canada came into being on 1 July 1867 upon royal proclamation by Queen Victoria.

5. If only the month and year are given (without a day), do not use a comma (this applies to either system).

British Columbia joined Confederation in July 1871.

6. When the day of the week is added and the date is essential, don’t add a comma after the day of the week. If the date is non-essential, add a comma after the day of the week.‡

By Wednesday September 7, 1864, the delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island gave a positive answer to the Canadian delegation to join them.
Since July 1 fell on a Sunday this year, the statutory holiday was Monday, July 2.

7. If a specific day (such as a holiday) is given with a year, do not use a comma (in either system).

Canada Day 1980 marked a special occasion because this is when “O Canada” was established as Canada’s national anthem.

8. To avoid ambiguity, do not use all numerals for dates in text (such as 7/1/1967—which in the US means July 1, 1967, but elsewhere January 7, 1967); instead, spell out the month.

not: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on 2/11/1867.
not: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on 11/2/1867.
but: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on February 11, 1867.

9. If a date comes at the beginning of a sentence, use a comma after the date.

On March 29, 1867, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.
On 29 March 1867, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.
On March 29, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.

10. Finally, always use numerals for a year unless the year begins a sentence, in which case spell it out (because you never start a sentence with a numeral, as we saw earlier).

Canadian Confederation refers to the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.
Eighteen sixty-seven can be considered the year Canada was born.

These ten rules were compiled from various paragraphs in the Chicago Manual of Style. The example sentences were either taken or adapted from the following online sources:

*Unfortunately, Queen Victoria did not heed this rule when she proclaimed on March 29, 1867:

“We do ordain, declare, and command that on and after the First day of July, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-seven, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.”

Of course, she’s excused since I hadn’t posted this blog yet.

(She also spelled out the name of the year in the middle of the sentence, which breaks rule #10—not to mention her excessive use of capitalization.)

†Note that I said in the middle of a clause, not the middle of a sentence, for even in the day-month-year system, the year may be followed by a comma if the date occurs at the end of a main clause:

The Dominion of Canada came into being on 1 July 1867, when three British colonies united and became Canada’s first four provinces.

(see also the example with rule 9)

‡Admittedly, this distinction between essential and non-essential is somewhat fuzzy. I haven’t been able to find a better explanation, however. Any advice, anyone?

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Discretion is advised when using this website.)

Crediting sources: The author-date method

Crediting sources is an important element of writing.

In today’s post, I describe one method that’s common in the humanities. Chicago* calls it the author-date system.

Here is a quick overview. (Today’s examples are from a linguistic article I wrote about Tigrinya for the Journal of African Languages and Linguistics.)


The author-date method of crediting sources has two main components:

• A list of references at the back of the book (or at the end of the article), which gives the full reference details of the sources.

• Parenthetical notes in the text, which correspond to the relevant entries in the references by citing the author and date (and the page number(s) if needed).

For example, an entry in the references might read as follows:†

Bossong, Georg. 1991. Differential object marking in Romance and beyond. In                Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, Dieter Wanner and Douglas A. Kibbee (eds.), 69: 143-170. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publ. Co.

In the text a corresponding note might read:

This phenomenon, known as differential object marking (DOM), is attested in about 300 genetically diverse languages (Bossong 1985, VIII).

Let’s get into the specifics regarding the format of both the references and the notes.

The reference list

• Title it “References” or “Works Cited” (not “Bibliography,” because a bibliography generally includes works not cited in the document).

• List all works referred to either in the text or in the footnotes.

• List only those works referred to in the document (whether in the text or in the footnotes).

• Invert the author’s (or editor’s) name and alphabetize the list by authors’ (and editors’) last names.‡

Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language universals and linguistic typology: Syntax and morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Givón, Talmy. 1978. Definiteness and referentiality. In Universals of Human Language, Joseph Greenberg (ed.), 4: 291-330. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Mason, John, ed. 1994. Tigrinya grammar. Lawrenceville, NJ: First Red Sea Press, Inc.

• Indicate the year of publication immediately following the author’s name.

Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language universals and linguistic typology: syntax and morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

• Separate the parts of the entry with periods (see examples above).

The notes

• In parentheses, give the author’s last name followed by the year of publication and, if required, a page number. A comma and space separate the year and the page number.

Foundational to our study of DOM is the following observation from Comrie’s study of language universals (Comrie 1981, 121).

• If the name of the author is already mentioned in the sentence, it is not necessary to repeat it in the note.

The paper will assess the contribution of Tigrinya to the universal tendencies of DOM as posited by Aissen (2003).

This agrees with Aissen’s observation (2003, 436n3) that topicality is also relevant to DOM.

Weldeyesus (2004, 6) claims that Tigrinya has a split pronoun system.

• With direct quotations, the note normally appears after the quotation and before a final punctuation mark.

These findings contradict another claim by Weldeyesus, namely that “the two related object-marking phenomena always coexist” (Weldeyesus 2004, 10).

• If it sounds natural in the flow of the sentence, the note may be placed before the quotation.

Mason (1994, 79) too states, “When it [nɨ-] is used, the verb will have a pronoun suffix that corresponds to the object.”

Final note for editors

If you’re editing a document that uses the author-date system, it’s very important to cross-check the notes and references. Here’s a checklist:

1) Check to make sure that each note (both in the text itself and in the footnotes) has a corresponding entry in the references.

Whenever I encounter a note, I highlight the corresponding entry in the references; by the time I’ve worked my way through the whole document, all references should be highlighted. I compile a list of any notes without corresponding entries in the references. I send this list to the author and ask him to supply the needed references.

2) Check to make sure that each entry in the references is referred to somewhere in the document, either in the text or in the footnotes.

Any references that are not highlighted after step (1) are in trouble. I ask the author what he wants to do: either remove these entries or, if he really wants to keep them, to make an explicit reference to them somewhere in the document.

3) While checking off the notes against the references, make sure that the note and the corresponding reference match exactly in the spelling of the author’s name and the date.

Again, note any discrepancies and question the author if necessary.

*Chicago=The Chicago Manual of Style

†The reference examples should be indented after the first line but unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to do that in this blog.

‡In a work by two or more authors, invert only the first author’s names: Waltke, Bruce K. and M. O’Connor (1990). An introduction to Biblical Hebrew syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

Referring to specific words or letters

Sometimes you may want to call attention to particular words or letters in a document. This is something I’ve had to do in my latest editing project.

I’ve been editing a newsletter for a Bible translation organization in the Pacifics. Because their internet connection is pretty slow, it’s hard for them to send large documents in Publisher format. Instead, I review the PDF and write my comments in a Word document.

So, as I need to give instructions to the local editor that I’m working with across the ocean, I might write something like:

Change authorized to authorised.
Lowercase radio in the Christian Radio station.
Add a period after the p in p13.
Change come to past tense came.

How do I call attention to the particular word I want to emphasize? There are, of course, a number of ways I could do that.

I could use all-caps:


Or I could use quotation marks:

Change “authorized” to “authorised.”

Or maybe italics:

Change authorized to authorised.

Or bold:

Change authorized to authorised.

Or I could actually highlight the word (which I don’t seem to be able to do on this blog!).

Here are some guidelines (from the Chicago Manual of Style) for situations where you refer to words as words or to letters as letters:

1. To call attention to words as words, the preferred method is to italicize the word.

Change come to past tense came.

2. But in certain situations, it may be more advisable to use (double) quotation marks.

One such situation would be where you have a foreign term with a translation. Foreign terms themselves are always italicized (unless they have become part of the vocabulary) so it will be clearer to use a different method for the translation.

The Tigrinya expression kebdi id literally means “stomach hand” and refers to the palm of the hand.

Sometimes, using italics would seem to contradict what is being said. Consider this example:

Foreign terms that have become part of the language, such as kindergarten and yacht, are never italicized.

On the one hand we’re saying that foreign words that have become part of the language should not be italicized and on the other hand we actually italicize two of them right there in the same sentence.

So, the above example would be a good candidate for quotation marks:

Foreign terms that have become part of the language, such as “kindergarten” and “yacht,” are never italicized.

Of course, you’d also want to use quotation marks for words or phrases that you’re actually quoting:

Lowercase radio in “the Christian Radio station.”

In this way, I’m calling attention to the word radio while referring to the phrase where the word is found.

3. When you refer to a letter of the alphabet as a letter, use italics.

Add a period after the p in “p3.”

(Here too I added quotation marks for the part I’m quoting.)

School grades (written with a capital) are not normally italicized:

I got a B on my chemistry test.


One option I mentioned at the beginning was to write the word you want to emphasize in all capitals. You may have seen this used in those “terms and conditions” you are asked to accept before downloading some software. Sometimes entire paragraphs are written in all caps. Frankly, I find all caps really annoying and particularly hard to read.

In fact, using all caps is considered bad taste in online writing because it looks like you’re SHOUTING! (And it could actually cost your job, as this article shows.)

So, to sum up: use italics as your default way for referring to specific words or letters. But use quotation marks as a backup method when italics would cause miscommunication. AND BY ALL MEANS, AVOID ALL CAPS!

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.