Posted by: episystechpubs | August 6, 2015

Editor’s Corner: August Q&A from CMOS

Imagine my joy when this month’s Q&A from the Chicago Manual of Style included these timely and sassy items. The grammar police are alive and well, and they are as snarky as ever!

Q. In a sentence like “the authors thank Natalie and Isabel for her editorial assistance,” is it grammatically correct to use the pronoun her and not their?

A. If the authors intend to thank both Natalie and Isabel for assistance, then their is the right choice. However, if the sentence means “The authors thank Natalie [for something other than assistance, but we aren’t saying what] and [we also thank] Isabel for her assistance,” then even if it is technically grammatical (debatable), it is nonetheless confusing. (Correct grammar does not mean everything’s OK. “Striped sentences wish green habits” is grammatical.) In short, your sentence is a disaster and must be rewritten for clarity.

Q. Is it equally acceptable to say “My friends and I went to the concert” and “I and my friends went to the concert”?

A. No; the second construction is popular but not yet considered proper.

Q. I’m wondering how you would handle a possessive of a city-and-state combination: While we were able to recast the sentence, suppose we need to express “the streets of Anytown, New York” as compactly as possible. “Anytown, New York’s, streets” puts the possessive squarely on “New York” because of the necessary comma—and you couldn’t do the logical “Anytown, New York,’s streets” as if the commas were parentheses! Or do we just bite the bullet and have an even longer sentence?

A. Yes—please—bite the bullet.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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