Posted by: episystechpubs | December 3, 2013

Editor’s Corner: CMOS Q&A for December

Each month, the Chicago Manual of Style publishes a Q&A column. Here are a couple of items I found educational and interesting. I love the response to the second question and agree wholeheartedly.

Q. Could you please clarify the proper usage of the word cannot, as opposed to can not?

A. In general, use cannot whenever you could mentally substitute can’t. Use can not when not goes with another word, such as only:

He cannot hum. [He can’t hum.]

She can not only hum; she can play the bagpipes. [She can hum.]

But beware of times when not doesn’t go with only:

He cannot only inhale; he must also exhale. [Only here means “solely” rather than “merely.” Our litmus test still works, however: He can’t only inhale.]

Q. My staff and I encountered a phrase and there’s a bit of debate as to how to hyphenate it: Wall Street darling-ready. Some believe an en dash should be inserted between Street and darling, followed by the hyphen between darling and ready. Others, however, feel the addition of the en dash would make the phrase even more difficult to interpret for readers. Thoughts?

A. I’m sorry, but the phrase looks like nonsense; I don’t think you can save it by tacking on hyphens or dashes. Please rewrite the sentence and—as they say—murder your darling.

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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