Usage and Grammar

Q. Hi. My question has to do with whether a new entry in the 17th edition was accidental or deliberate. Paragraph 8.185 includes this sentence: “ ‘Aladdin’ is arguably the most well-known tale in A Thousand and One Nights.” I’m curious to know if this sentence simply slipped through or if Chicago defends the use of “most well-known”? I ask because Philip Corbett, standards editor for the New York Times, ran a blog called After Deadline as a teaching tool to point out grammatical and stylistic missteps that made it to print. He often called out writers for using “most well-known” in place of “best-known”: “The superlative form of the adverb ‘well’ is ‘best.’ So there’s no reason to describe something as ‘the most well-known’—make it ‘the best-known’ ” (After Deadline, August 4, 2008).

Q. The emigrate/immigrate distinction has been the subject of differing opinions in our office. Each time a case arises, we consult CMOS 5.250 and come up with different interpretations. Editing the following sentence, for example, we changed “immigrate” to “emigrate”: Justice Abella was born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, and with her family immigrated to Canada in 1950. Several of us argue that it’s “immigrate” because she’s going to Canada; others say “emigrate” because she’s leaving a past home. Please let us know which is correct.

Q. Doesn’t “The US is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter after China” make it sound like the US is actually the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter? I see these formulations, which include [number] plus [superlative] and a direct comparison, often, and they seem confusing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “The US is the largest carbon dioxide emitter after China” or “The US is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter; China is the largest”?

Q. I’m troubled by this sentence: “She combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and was putting on her lipstick when the phone rang.” I think it should be reworded since the list does not have parallel construction. My friend disagrees. Is it correct as is, or is there a simple fix?

Q. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between a predicate adjective and a past-tense verb being used in a passive-voice construction. For example, in “this dish was leftover,” is “leftover” an adjective, or should it be “was left over,” with “left” being a verb and “over” being an adverb?

Q. In the following sentence, “Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for forty days before landing,” is the word “landing” a verb form, or a verbal (gerund)? Why?

Q. Is it necessary to continue repeating the auxiliary had after its first instantiation when writing a complex sentence with some of the verbs in the pluperfect: “She had taken many rides in the train and [had] seen many sights, sights that [had] awakened her curiosity, but what [had] most intrigued her . . .”? If not, it seems the reader would have an ambiguous idea about where the event is situated in time.

Q. My proofreader says that the verb needs to be singular in this caption, but that reads as incorrect to me. Can you instruct me or give me bragging rights (not that I would ever brag, of course)? “Ann Smith, one of seven alumni who talks about leadership.”

Q. Regarding the use of and in a short parenthetical list, here is an example: “channels that confer sensitivity to heat (TrpV1, TrpM2, TrpM3).” My project manager thinks there is a need to place and between the last two items in the parens. I know of no such rule and cannot think of a reason why the word would be necessary (other than the customer is always right). Any insights on this minor dilemma?

Q. One of your inquirers included the sentence “Most people only know the one reality they’ve lived.” (This was not the subject of the person’s inquiry, which was well answered.) Should it not be “Most people know only the one reality”? “Most people only know” would imply they know it, but do not appreciate it, do not embrace it, do not examine it, etc. “Most people know only the one reality” would imply that they know the one reality but not others, almost certainly what the writer intended.