Percentages, Thoughts, and Single and Double Quotation Marks

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: In this sentence (for a nonfiction book), which version would be correct? (Or should it be something else?)

  1. Most lenders expect your mortgage payments not to exceed 28% of your income, and that your entire debt obligations should not exceed 36%.
  2. Most lenders expect your mortgage payments not to exceed 28 percent of your income, and that your entire debt obligations should not exceed 36 percent.
  3. Most lenders expect your mortgage payments not to exceed twenty-eight percent of your income, and that your entire debt obligations should not exceed thirty-six percent.

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More Chicago Style Updates by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I’m told not to use the Enter button or the Tab button. How do I go to the next line and to the next paragraph?

A: You’ve been told a little bit wrong. First, you absolutely must hit the Enter (or Return) key to start a new paragraph. In addition, to indent the first line of each paragraph, you can either set an automatic five-space indent using the indentation tool on the ruler at the top of the document or you can hit the Tab key after starting each new paragraph. In the past we were taught not to use the Tab key to indent, but the seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style now allows it. Continue reading

Proof Marks, Sexist Language, and Getting Published

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I just received my edited manuscript, but in a few places I see a # (hash) mark. I don’t know what to do. Adding a number wouldn’t make sense, so I’m stuck.

A: Ah, your manuscript was edited in its printed form. More editors today edit the electronic file, instead. If the editor had edited the electronic file, he or she would have fixed the issue for you, and you would not have to try to decipher proof marks. You would only have to accept or reject the editor’s changes. Continue reading

Chicago Style and Writing Tight

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I noticed your newsletter used to hyphenate email (as e-mail) and capitalize internet, but the latest edition doesn’t do those things. What gives?

A: What gives is that The Chicago Manual of Style recently released its newest edition, with changes such as those you mention. Because Chicago style is the editorial style preferred by book publishers and I edit books more than anything else, my newsletter follows Chicago style as a way of imparting its style guidelines to readers. In addition to removing the hyphen from email and no longer capitalizing internet, the seventeenth edition of the book also made other changes, and I’m still learning them all. Although writers who use manuscript editors don’t necessarily need to know all the nuances of Chicago style, book editors must keep up with every update, to ensure the manuscripts they edit comply with the latest edition of CMOS. Continue reading

Writing Through Grief

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My ten-year marriage is ending. I don’t feel like writing. Do you have any advice on how to fight through the pain and write?

A: As a veteran of two broken marriages, I feel your pain. I’m sorry you have to go through it. Depression often leads to immobility. Many people need time to go from “overwhelmed” to “productive.”

Any loss results in grief, and grief that goes unresolved can lead to mental and physical problems. Instead of thinking of the issue as fighting through the pain to write, think of the fact that writing helps you fight the pain. While immobility keeps you in a depressed state, doing something–almost anything–can get you out of that state. Continue reading

About Errors and Reformatting a Manuscript

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: A publisher recently requested my manuscript, and within forty-eight hours I received an email that said, “Only Word files are excepted.” Shouldn’t the word be “accepted?”

A: Possibly, but the answer depends on the intent of the sentence. If the publisher was saying it rejects all manuscripts with the exception of those received in Microsoft Word, then the sentence is okay. I haven’t seen the entire e-mail, so I cannot be sure, but I suspect you are correct, though, and the publisher was attempting to say it accepted only Microsoft Word files. Continue reading