Abbeville vs. Chicago: Extracts

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You think Chicago’s politics could use some cleaning up these days? You should see their editing! HI-OHH! That’s right, it’s time for another battle against our formidably orange opponent, The Chicago Manual of Style. Eat your heart out, Janet Reid.

Our bone of contention today is “extracts,” otherwise known as block quotations—that is, quotations lengthy enough to require their own paragraph. Chicago claims (2.25-2.26) that these “should be double-spaced vertically and indented” regardless of whether they’re prose or poetry extracts. Indentation is all fine and well, but we’re honestly not sure where in Strunk’s name they’re getting the double-space rule. We’ve almost never seen it implemented anywhere, at least not in any publication we’re willing to consort with, because the fact is it looks pretty sloppy. The only way to get away with it is to make the font size of the extract considerably smaller than that of the main text—and even then it looks better with 1.5-line spacing. This looks to us suspiciously like what Chicago uses in their own volume.

And that’s just for prose; with poetry, our rule is never to tinker with the text in any way that might undermine the author’s intent—which means no mucking around with line spacing. In fact, in order to demonstrate the just and proper formatting of poetry extracts, as well as to express our outrage at Chicago’s subversion thereof, we have composed the following topical quatrain in the style of Pope:

Thy crimes against the Editor’s art, Chicago,

Rival the Mischief of thy Governor “Blago”;

In a just world, thou wouldst confess like Men

And trade the Editorial—for the Federal Pen.

And with that, Chicago, we say good DAY.


Filed under Abbeville vs. Chicago

4 responses to “Abbeville vs. Chicago: Extracts

  1. Carol

    You’ve really stuck your foot in it this time! CMOS 2.25 and 2.26 are in the section on manuscript preparation. Chicago does not recommend double spacing anything in published materials, and they do not double space in their own publications.

  2. abbeville

    BOOM! We have officially received our first counterpunch! But from whom? Carol, reveal yourself: are you an innocent, impartial observer, or are you somehow affiliated with THEM…?

    The truth is, Carol’s right: sections 2.25 and 2.26 refer to manuscripts only–and to the author’s, not the editor’s, job in preparing them. Block quotations in a manuscript must be double-spaced because ALL of a manuscript must be double-spaced; that way the proofreader can make marks between the lines. The question is, was this “error” sheer sloppiness on our part, or were we just looking for an excuse to foist our little quatrain on an unsuspecting readership, hoping no one would look too closely into details? OR were we secretly hoping someone WOULD notice–someone like our silent rival, whom we’ve so far failed to lure out of hiding…?

    Whatever you choose to believe, it’s clear we’ve lost this round. Curses! But we’re still winning the fight, and we won’t leave ourselves so vulnerable to attack again in the future. Until next time, Chicago–until next time…

  3. Does the Chicago Manual of Style mention what to wear when eating Chicago Dogs at a food cart? 😉

  4. abbeville

    Anything you want, Drew, as long as it’s washable–otherwise you might end up wearing the Chicago Dog!

    See, that’s the kind of folksy wit and wisdom you’d never get from the CMOS.

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