CMS says …

If you missed this tidbit from our Summer 2015 edition of Quill & Ink

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), sixteenth edition, is one of our go-to references when we edit. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a massive orange brick with over a thousand pages of guidelines on such topics as the roles and duties of editors and proofreaders to more esoteric topics like the placement of punctuation marks relative to others.

Here’s one example, as seen in CMS 6.80:

The en dash can be used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds.

  • the post–World War II years
  • Chuck Berry–style lyrics
  • country music–influenced lyrics

An en dash (–) is only slightly longer than a hyphen (-) and shorter than an em dash (—). Each of these has a different and specific use, like mentioned above. You might also recognize the en dash in numeric ranges (e.g., 1990–2000) or linking a campus location to the name of a university (e.g., the University of Wisconsin–Madison), as well.

While it’s easy to misread an en dash as a hyphen, you’ll probably be surprised by the number of them that you see in the next book, story, or article you read.

That is just one of the thousands of rules in CMS, and those thousands of rules—along with the fact that CMS is just one of a myriad of style guides editors and publishers use every day—are why we chuckle whenever someone asks us about our jobs, “Can’t you just run a spell check?”

Questions? Comments? Reach out to us!