Posted by: episystechpubs | March 26, 2019

Double the Trouble

This month’s Chicago Manual of Style Q&A reminded me of something that I now consider a peeve. I never gave it much thought before I started editing, but now it plagues me in several ways. What is it? Doubles! Nope, I’m not talking about tennis, or mixed drinks—I’m talking about punctuation: double question marks and double exclamation points.

I would add double spaces after a period to the discussion, but you all know how we feel about those extra spaces. If not, you can go to our blog site and have a look at this past article and the attached links: Editor’s Corner.

So, what did the CMOS say about double question marks and double exclamation points? Did they break down and adopt them like they have emojis? Thank goodness, no. They still have some standards that will help us editors from having to wear out our Delete keys.

Q. What’s the official CMOS stance on double question marks?? I see this a lot in blogs, online magazines, DIY news sites, etc. [KC – My first thought was this, “But of course they must be okay! They’re on the internet and people use them all the time.” And my second thought was, “And everything “The Onion” writes
about is absolutely a true news story!” Crazy kids!]

A. We don’t have an official stance on double question marks. But to invoke the spirit of CMOS if not the letter, you might keep in mind that any kind of emphasis tends to lose its effectiveness if overdone. This is essentially our stance on exclamation points (see CMOS 6.71), advice that’s equally applicable to doubled question marks.

Now, unless you have a subscription to CMOS, or a hard copy like one of your friendly editors, you’re just going to have to trust me on this. Essentially, their stance is that one exclamation point is good enough. It’s all you need! And more than one question mark? Well, that’s just silly.

Stick with one exclamation point, one question mark, and (okay) one space after a period. It’s the right thing to do.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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