Posted by: Jack Henry | March 2, 2016

Editor’s Corner: CMOS March Q&A

Unfortunately, the Chicago Manual of Style didn’t give us much snarky Q&A to choose from this month. Here are the two fairly tame questions and answers I have for you about subject/verb agreement for today.

Q. I am unsure of how to handle subject-verb agreement in sentences that involve em dashes or parentheses. For example, “The president (and, to some extent, Congress) is committed to the policy” or “The president—and, to some extent, Congress—is committed to the policy.” Is it correct to treat the subject in each of these sentences as singular or plural?

A. Singular. Choose a verb as though the parenthetical “afterthought” weren’t there. (This is true if the afterthought is set off by commas as well.)

Q. When providing options between two or more singular items and one or more plural items, should a writer use a plural verb or a singular verb? For example: “When Mom or Dad or both [say/says] no, you’d better stop asking.”

A. Grab the nearest noun or pronoun in the series and use it to determine the verb:

· When Mom or Dad or both say no, you’d better stop asking.

· When your parents or the babysitter says no, you’d better stop asking.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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