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Title: Pens and Types
       or Hints and Helps for Those who Write, Print, Read, Teach, or Learn

Author: Benjamin Drew

Release Date: August 18, 2019 [EBook #60126]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by MWS, RichardW, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


“A portion to Seven, and also to Eight”
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1889, BY BENJAMIN DREW, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


Our first edition of “Pens and Types: or Hints and Helps for those who Write, Print, or Read,” was especially prepared for the benefit of persons connected with the press. It had, however, a wide circulation among persons of all professions, and became a reference book in some notable institutions of learning.

A distinguished lady teacher in a neighboring city writes us, “I found the book [“Pens and Types”] of the greatest benefit, both in my work of teaching, and in the writing I occasionally did for the press. It was an invaluable aid to those who were trying to train the young in habits of correctness and accuracy in the use of their mother tongue. Such a work should never be out of print, and I am glad there is to be another edition.” We might refer to many who have expressed similar opinions.

This second edition contains all that was valuable in the first, besides several new chapters and additions, as set forth in the author’s preface: and on account of its past reputation and the merits of the added matter, we bespeak anew the favor of printers and teachers,—of both which professions Mr. Drew may fairly be {p6} considered a representative; and although he has, in his book, kept his personality out of sight, even using the editorial “we,” his fitness for a work of this kind will, we think, be made apparent by a brief sketch of his career.

After a school life in which he paid much attention to Latin and Greek classics, he learned the trade of printer. Soon after attaining his majority, he was employed as teacher of a public school in his native town, Plymouth, Mass., whence he was summoned to Boston, to take three months’ charge of the Bowdoin School, during the illness and consequent absence of Mr. James Robinson. Subsequently he became master in the Otis School, which position he occupied during the whole period of its continuance.

While residing in Boston, Mr. Drew was a correspondent of the “Post,” under the signature of SHANDY; and he also contributed the articles of DR. DIGG and ENSIGN STEBBINGS to Shillaber’s “Carpet Bag.” His contributions were of a humorous character, and are well remembered by many gray-bearded gentlemen of Boston and its environs. From this city, Mr. Drew removed to Minnesota, where he was Principal of the Public Schools of St. Paul.

After twenty years of teaching, Mr. Drew returned to the purlieus of the printing-office, as proof-reader at the University Press, Cambridge, and afterward with John Wilson & Son, and Alfred Mudge & Son.

Next he became proof-reader in the Government {p7} printing-office, at Washington, where for more than nine years he remained, reading press-proofs of the various Government publications, including many volumes issued by the Smithsonian Institution, and giving valuable assistance to the Civil Service Commissioners, in the technical examination of proof-readers for the Government Departments. At the age of seventy-six he retired from public employment, and prepared this second edition for the press. May he live long, and enjoy the reward of an industrious and useful life—and a huge remuneration from an enormous sale of his Second Edition.



As “man measures man the world over,” so it may be presumed that the experience of a laborer in any one department of literature will, in the general, tally with that of all others occupying a similar position. This volume gives the results of a proof-reader’s experience, and such suggestions derived therefrom as may, he hopes, be useful to all who prepare reading-matter for the press, to all who assist in printing and publishing it, and, finally, to the reading public.

But as a vein of imperfection runs through all human achievement; and as the most carefully issued volume must contain errors,—so this work, if critically examined, may perhaps be found to violate, in some instances, its own rules; nay, the rules themselves may appear to be, in some points, erroneous. Still, the inexperienced, we feel assured, will find herein many things of immediate benefit; and those who need no instruction may have their opinions and their wisdom re-enforced by the examples used in il­lus­tra­tion. So, believing that on the whole it will {p10} be serviceable; that it contains “a portion” for “seven, and also” for “eight,” we send this treatise to press. And if its perusal shall incite some more competent person to produce a more valuable work on the topics presented, we shall gladly withdraw, and leave him, so far as we are concerned, the undisputed possession of the field.


The extensive circulation of the first edition of “Pens and Types,” attested by the worn condition of the stereotype plates, induces the author to present to his friends and the public a new and improved edition, embodying the results of a wider experience.

The most important portions of the first edition have been retained. The chapter on Orthography has been enlarged by the addition of ONE correct and authorized spelling of the many hundreds of doubtful words—words to which writer and printer can give but one form, while lex­i­cog­raphers give two or more. For offices which adopt Webster as the standard, Webster’s first column has been closely followed; and for those which follow Worcester’s style, a list is added, adhering to Worcester’s first column. Some words of the lex­i­cog­raphers’ second columns are also placed in the lists (e. g. draught as well as draft), giving to each word its proper and distinct significations.

Moreover we have in the same chapter placed a list of all the words ending in able and ible which {p12} are to be found in ordinary English dictionaries,—whether words in common use or rare or obsolete,—a feature which compositors and many others will know how to appreciate.

A chapter on the Right Use of Capitals, with rules and examples; and another on Old Style and its ligatures, with fac-similes from ancient specimens of typography, give additional value to this edition.

The index at the end of the volume will enable the reader to find at once any particular rule or direction contained in the body of the work.

Although originally intended for authors and printers, this volume will, we are confident, be in many respects a valuable reference-book for teachers and pupils in the public schools, and in seminaries of learning generally.




In an action recently brought against the proprietors of Lloyd’s paper, in London, for damages for not inserting a newspaper advertisement correctly, the verdict was for the defendant, by reason of the illegibility of the writing.

“The illegibility of the writing” is the cause of the larger portion of what are conveniently termed “errors of the press.” One can scarcely take up a periodical publication without finding, from editor or correspondent, an apology for some error in a previous issue, couched somewhat in this style: “The types made us say, in our last, something about the ‘Dogs of the Seine’, we certainly wrote ‘Days of the League.’” We have no doubt that, in a large majority of cases of this sort, if the question between “the types” and “the pen” were left to a jury, they would, as in the case of Lloyd’s paper, decide in favor of the types.

By dint of hard study, by comparison of letters in {p16} various words, and by the sense of the context, the compositor generally goes through his task creditably, in spite of the “illegibility of the writing.” But sometimes, in despair, he puts into type that word which most nearly resembles an unreadable word in the manuscript, making nonsense of the passage because he can make nothing else of it. We remember a great many instances of this sort, in our own experience as a proof-reader,—instances which, according to custom, might be attributed to “the types,” but which were really due to the writers’ carelessness alone. Thus, in a medical work, it was stated that “This case had been greatly aggravated by the ossification of warm poultices to the face”; the author having intended to write “application.”

Ames’s “Typographical Antiquities” has been made to figure as “Typographical Ambiguities,”—owing to chirographical ambiguity.

“The reports in the ‘Times’ and other journals, never give the name of the Lord Chandler.” “Chancellor” was, of course, intended by the writer, but this was an “error of the press.”

In an investigation touching the field of a compound microscope, a witness was made to say, “It would vary with the power of the lye-juice employed.” The reporter meant to write “eye-piece,” but he succeeded in writing what the compositor set up.

The title of a book,—“A Treatise on the Steam-engine; with Theological Investigations on the Motive Power of Heat.” The latter clause might seem appropriate to “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”; but the {p17} transcriber of the title imagined he had written “Theoretical.”

A toast,—“The President of the —— County Agricultural Society,—May he enjoy a grim old age”: the word was corrected to “green,” before the whole edition of the paper was worked off.

We have seen an advertisement of “Mattlebran’s Universal Geography,”—no doubt a very entertaining work.

In a treatise on botany, we have been told, “we first find those that form the bud, then the calx, the corrola, the stamina and pistol.” The writer should have spelled correctly, and dotted his i’s.

A catalogue of hardware to be sold by auction had an item, “3 bbls. English pocket-knives.” This was set from “commercial” writing, in which “bbls.,” or something like it, was used as a contraction for “bladed.”

“Nature intended man for a social being. Alone and isolated, man would become impatient and peevish.” No doubt this is true, but “the types” were to blame again,—the author fancied that he had written “impotent, and perish.”

The constitution of a certain corporation appeared with the following article in the proof-sheet: “The Directors shall have power to purchase, build, equip or charter all such steamboats, propellers, or other vessels, as the engineers of the Corporation shall in their judgment require.” Why the Directors should be placed at the mercy of the engineers seemed unaccountable. But a critical examination of the {p18} manuscript revealed that the “engineers” were “exigencies.”

A “Bill of exceptions, having been examined, and found unfavorable to the truth, is allowed.” The Justice who signed the above, understood the word which we have italicized to be “conformable.”

“They could not admit those parts of the testimony until they had examined the plaintiff in regard to the poets,”—“facts” should have been written instead of “poets”; but the “pen” made an error which the compositor did not feel at liberty to correct.

We have read in a newspaper a description of a battle-field:—“It was fearful to see: the men fell in ranks, and marched in pantaloons to their final account.” This was explained by an erasure and a blot on the word “platoons.”

It is very easy to say that errors of the kind we have recited, are owing to the ignorance or carelessness of the printers; but, on the other hand, when printed copy is reset, such errors almost never occur,—and the absence of errors is in direct ratio to the legibility of the copy.

Men who write much, generally imagine that they write well; but their imagination is often a vain one. The writer of the worst manuscript we recollect to have met with, expressed surprise when told that printers and proof-readers could not read his writing, and remarked that he had often been complimented on the plainness and neatness of his chirography. His memory was, no doubt, excellent,—the {p19} compliments must have been bestowed in his juvenile days, when he was imitating engraved copies.

While one is imitating a copy, he may, indeed, write legibly, nay, even elegantly; for he has nothing to attend to, save the formation of the letters. But when one is writing a report or a sermon or a poem, his mind is busy with something besides chirography.

The fact is, that men seldom succeed well in doing more than one thing at a time. The itinerant musician who imitates the various instruments of a full band, may be detected in an occasional discord. Paley remarks that we cannot easily swallow while we gape; and, if any one will try the experiment, he will presently be satisfied that in this statement, at least, Paley was physiologically and philosophically correct.

Thus, in the haste of composition, ideas crowding upon us faster than the pen can give them permanence, we can bestow little thought on mere chirography, writing becomes mechanical, or even automatic; and we pay scarcely more attention to the forms that follow the pen, than we do to the contractions and dilatations of the vocal organs when engaged in conversation with an entertaining friend.

Let school training and practice be the same, yet such are the differences of physical conformation that handwritings are as various as the individuals that produce them; running through all degrees of the scale, from an elegance transcending the engraver’s skill, down to misshapen difficulties and puzzling deformity. {p20}

But however widely our handwriting may vary from Wrifford, Spencer, or Dunton, it is generally legible to ourselves, and soon becomes familiar to our friends and acquaintances. Hence comes the danger that we shall cease to bestow any care upon it when others than ourselves and acquaintances are concerned, and hence it is, that, with scarcely any consciousness of our shortcomings, we are liable to impose on an utter stranger the task of deciphering a piece of manuscript in which not only the letters have no proper characterization, but which is smutched with erasures, deformed by interlineations, and obscured by frequent and needless ab­bre­vi­a­tions.

The loss of time spent in endeavoring to read such a document, is reckoned among the “small things” of which “the law takes no cognizance”; were it otherwise, many of us who fancy that our manuscript is above reproach, would be astonished at the number of bills collectible outstanding against us.

The opinion of the “statists,” spoken of in Hamlet, that it is “a baseness to write fair,” seems prevalent even in our day. Most men, on leaving school, instead of endeavoring to improve their chirography, allow it to deteriorate, and seem to take pride in its deteriority, and many learned men write as if afraid that legibility would be considered a proof of intellectual weakness.

In all other cases of encroaching on the time and patience of another,—as, for instance, our failure to fulfill an appointment, or calling at an unseasonable hour, or seeking advice in an affair wholly our {p21} own,—we feel bound to make due apology, nay, sometimes even acknowledge a sense of shame; but who ever felt regret on hearing that he had put some one to the trouble of studying, and guessing at, a puzzling intricacy of cramped writing; his victim being obliged to seek aid from dictionaries, gazetteers, directories, and even experts? We never heard of a man’s suffering compunction on this score.

We say this, referring to ordinary business transactions between man and man, where bad writing, except in rare and extreme cases, does not involve pecuniary loss. But when we are writing for the press, our duty to write legibly becomes imperative; indeed, a failure in this respect trenches so closely upon a violation of the eighth commandment, that it can seldom happen but from a want of thought as to the relation between those who write and those who print.

Compositors usually work by the piece, and are paid a fixed rate per thousand ems. If a line of type be divided by vertical lines into equal squares, these squares show the number of ems in the line. Suppose there are twenty such squares; then fifty lines would contain one thousand ems. To set, correct, and distribute six thousand ems, is considered a fair day’s work. With plain, legible copy, this can ordinarily be done; and, at the close of the week, the compositor receives full wages; all parties are satisfied, and no one is entitled to complain.

But if, at the end of the week, notwithstanding the closest application, the compositor has averaged {p22} but four thousand ems per day, whereby he receives but two-thirds of the sum he is capable of earning under favorable conditions, who is morally responsible to him for the lacking third? We need not go far to ascertain: a glance at his “copy” answers the question. He has been laboring upon bad manuscript. To show the difficulties which have been in his way, we will put a supposititious case,—closely paralleled, however, in the experience of almost every compositor who has worked in a book-office.

He has been setting up a sermon of the Rev. Mr. Z. The society of the reverend gentleman were so well pleased with the discourse, that they requested a copy for the press. Mr. Z. should, of course, have copied the whole manuscript fairly; for, the haste of composition being past, he could have re-written it carefully, paying especial attention to chirography, spelling out his ab­bre­vi­a­tions, reducing dislocations, bringing interlineations into line,—in short, he should have done to the compositor what he would that the compositor should do unto him. But, instead of this, what did you do, Mr. Z.? Pen in hand, you re-read the sermon, making erasures, striking out some words and interlining others. You crowded new sentences, of two or three lines each, between lines already closely written; and you interlined these interlineations. You then wrote sundry additions on loose pieces of paper, denoting them as “A,” “B,” “C,” etc., and then placed the same capitals in the body of the work, without sufficiently explaining that new matter was to be inserted; {p23} neither did you make it appear whether the addenda were to constitute new paragraphs. And in this amorphous condition you allowed the sermon to go to the printing-office. It has, too, passed through several hands. Some of the pieces belonging to “A” have got into “B,” and some of the “B” have straggled into “C,”—and the printers cannot say where they do belong.

One compositor finds in his “take”⁠[1] the ab­bre­vi­a­tion “Xn,” and, after many inquiries, learns that X is the Greek Chi, and so “Xn” signifies “Christian.” Another hesitates at a phrase which, to his eye, seems to read “a parboiled skeptic”; but as modern methods with heretics do not include heated applications, he asks those about him what the word is; perhaps goes to the proof-reader with it,—such things are done sometimes,—for the compositor expects ultimately to conform to the proof-reader’s decision,—and thus he loses five or ten minutes in learning that the word is purblind. Now, reverend sir, the compositor’s time is his money, and if you rob him of his time—the inference is obvious. Your better course, henceforth, will be to copy your manuscript, or employ some one to copy it, in a careful, painstaking manner, after all your emendations of the text have been made.

1 For this and all other technical terms used in this work, see Chapter IX.

There is a proverb to the effect that lawyers are bad penmen, but we think the proverb unjust. So far as our experience goes, the handwriting of {p24} lawyers compares favorably with that of any other class of persons, of whatever profession. It is certainly as legible as the mercantile style; since the latter, although generally pretty to look at, is often very difficult to read,—abounding in flourish and ornament, which are too often but another name for obscurity. Sometimes, too, one meets with clerkly invoices or catalogues, containing remarkably fanciful capitals; we have seen good readers scarcely able to decide whether a given initial were a W, an H, or an N. We are pleased to learn, however, that one leading “Commercial College” has introduced a marked improvement in this respect, and now teaches its pupils a plain, legible hand, instead of a mass of overloaded ornamentation made not so much to be read, as simply to be admired.

But members of the bar, like most other persons, dislike the mechanical labor of copying what they have once committed to paper. Their arguments, and especially their briefs, are sometimes sent to the printer in a confused, chaotic mass; in a shape, or, rather, with a want of shape, which, if not resulting from inconsiderateness, would be—we were on the point of saying—disgraceful. A manuscript of this sort, covering but six or eight pages of letter-paper, sometimes requires several hours’ labor in reading, correcting, and revising, before a presentable proof can be obtained.

Legal documents are often interlarded with technical terms in law Latin and old French. Of course such terms ought to be made as plain as print. {p25} Usually the principal divisions of a brief are indicated by large roman numerals in the middle of the line; the points under these greater divisions, by roman numerals at the commencement of paragraphs; smaller divisions, by arabic numerals; and if still smaller divisions are required, these are denoted by letters in parenthesis, as (a), (b), (c), etc. In the haste of writing, however, it is sometimes found difficult, perhaps vexatious, to keep the run of so nice distinctions, and arabic numerals are used throughout, while no proper care is taken to distinguish the various divisions of the subject-matter by varying indentions.⁠[2] The faults of the manuscript reappear in the proof. This leads to much loss of time “at the stone”; and as such work is frequently hurried during the sessions of the courts, the delay is exceedingly vexatious to all parties concerned. If one-eighth of the time now spent in correcting, overrunning the matter, and revising, were bestowed upon perfecting the copy, there would seldom be any delay in a well-appointed printing-office.

2 We do not mean “indentation” nor yet “inden’tion,” but “indention,” as written in the text. The word is in the mouth of every printer, proof-reader, author, and publisher: why should it not be inserted in the dictionaries?

When transcripts of records of court are to be printed, care should be taken that only the very documents that are intended for the press be sent to the printing-office. For want of proper attention in this matter, it not unfrequently happens that certificates of notaries, extraneous documents, and duplicates are put in type, to be presently canceled. {p26}

We have said something above, touching mercantile handwriting. Constant practice with the pen gives facility and boldness of execution,—and where these are combined with good taste, chirography approaches the dignity of a fine art, and produces beautiful effects, and is seen to be near of kin to drawing and painting. In signatures, especially, flourish and ornamentation have a double use; they please the eye, and they baffle the forger. But when lines stand as near each other as in ordinary ruling, the flourish in one line interferes with the letters of the next; and the elegance of a well-cut capital will scarcely excuse its obtrusiveness, when it obliterates its more obscure but equally useful neighbors.

Further, business men, deeply impressed with the value of time, learn to delight in ab­bre­vi­a­tions. Types have been cast to meet some of these, as the “commercial a” [@] and the “per cent” [%]; but the compositor is sometimes put to his trumps to cut, from German and job letter, imitations of ab­bre­vi­a­tions which never ought to be sent to a printing-office as copy. We are not astonished that a merchant of Boston once received from a Prussian correspondent a request, that if he, the Bostonian, were to write again, it might be either in German or in good, plain English. We adopt the spirit of this advice; and would say to the banker, the broker, the merchant, and to their respective clerks, that when they write for the press, they should drop ornament, drop pedantic ab­bre­vi­a­tions, drop German, and write in plain English. {p27}

We do not know that there is anything specially characteristic in copy furnished by the medical faculty, unless it be that their relations of “cases,” both in medicine and surgery, abound, no doubt necessarily, in “words of learned length”; which, being unfamiliar to the laity, should be written with conscionable care; every letter performing its proper function, and duly articulated to its neighbors. But the scientific terms of their art, as written by most physicians, are, to the average printer, as illegible as the Greek from which a portion of such terms is derived. Recipes are seldom got typographically correct, until they have passed through three or four revisions. Even apothecaries, it is said, sometimes put up morphine instead of magnesia; in which case, unless the revising is done in a hurry with the stomach-pump, a jury may have something to say about the “illegibility of the writing.” When troublesome consequences arise from misapprehension of a Latin word, or of its meaning, we hear much said in favor of writing recipes in English.

But, whatever may be said to the contrary, there are weighty, and, we think, irrefutable arguments for continuing the use of Latin and Greek terms in medical writings,—even in recipes. Since it should be so, and certainly is so, we insist here, as elsewhere, that all technical terms, proper names, or any words on which the context can throw but little, if any, light, should be written not with ordinary, but with cardinary care,—which new word we hazard, that our meaning may make a deeper impression. {p28}

In passing, we may remark that the mode of indicating names of remedies comes under the head of “Style” (see Chapter III.), and varies in different offices. Names of medicines are often abbreviated, and set in italics; and when a generic word is used, it should be capitalized; as, “Dr. I. administered Rhus tox.” In homeopathic works, the number expressing a dilution or trituration is placed in superiors at the right; as, “Ordered Cuprum metallicum100.”

A few suggestions to those who write any kind of copy for the press, will close this part of our subject.

Write on only one side of the paper.

If you wish to make an addition to a page, do not write it on the back of the sheet; cut the leaf, and paste the new matter in, just where it belongs, being careful not to cover up so much as a single letter in doing so: we have known lines to be omitted by the compositor, in consequence of careless pasting. The leaf having thus been lengthened, you may, for the sake of convenience, fold the lower edge forward upon the writing. This minute direction may seem idle; but when a portion of the leaf has been folded backward, out of sight, the folded part may very likely escape notice, and, to insert it, many pages of matter may afterward require to be overrun: we have known such cases.

Abbreviate those words only, which you wish the printer to abbreviate.

Never erase with a lead pencil; for an erasure with lead leaves it questionable whether or not the marked {p29} word is to go in. Use ink, drawing the pen horizontally through the words or lines to be omitted; and be careful that the marking leave off on exactly the right word. If you afterward regret the cancellation, you may write “stet” in the margin, and place dots under the canceled words; but as “stet” may not be noticed, in the presence of obvious erasures, the better way will be to re-write the passage, and paste it in the place you wish it to occupy.

Take time to write plainly and legibly. In writing for the press, the old adage holds good,—“The more haste, the worse speed”; and for every hour you save by writing hurriedly, you will be called upon to pay for several hours’ labor in making corrections. Write joinhand: mistakes often arise from a long word being broken up, as it were, into two or three words.

I and J are often mistaken for each other. Either imitate the printed letters, or uniformly carry the loop of the J below the line.

It is often impossible to distinguish Jan. from June, in manuscript, unless the context furnishes a clew.

Whatever may be the divisions of your work (as books, chapters, sections, cantos, and the like), let your entire manuscript be paged in the order of the natural series of numbers from 1 upward. If you commence each division with 1,—as is sometimes done,—and two or three divisions are given out as “takes” to compositors, it is obvious that portions of one division may exchange places with those of another; and, further, if leaves happen to become transposed, they can readily be restored to their right {p30} places if no duplicate numbers have been used in indicating the pages.

Make sure that the books, chapters, etc., are numbered consecutively. The best proof-reader must confess to some unguarded moments; and it would be very awkward, after having had two hundred and forty chapters stereotyped, to find that two chapter V.’s have been cast, that every subsequent chapter is numbered one less than it should have been, and that compositor and proof-reader have exactly followed copy.

Examine your manuscript carefully with reference to the points. Avoid the dash when any other point will answer your purpose. A manuscript that is over-punctuated occasions more perplexity than one that is scarcely pointed at all.

Before sending it to press, get your manuscript into a shape you can abide by. Alterations made on the proof-sheet must be paid for; and, further, matter that has undergone alterations seldom makes a handsome page: some lines will appear crowded, others too widely spaced.

In writing a footnote¹ let it immediately follow

¹ In many works the footnotes, by a slight change of arrangement, might advantageously become a portion of the text.

the line of text which contains the asterisk, or other reference-mark; just as you see in the above example, and do not write it at the bottom of the manuscript page. The person who makes up the matter will transfer such note to its proper place.

If you feel obliged to strike out a word from the {p31} proof, endeavor to insert another, in the same sentence, and in the same line if possible, to fill the space. So, if you insert a word or words, see whether you can strike out, nearly at the same place, as much as you insert.

When writing for the press, never use a lead pencil. Let your copy be made with black ink on good white paper. We have been pained to see the checkered pages of a report to an extensive religious association, which report had been in the first place wholly written with a lead pencil: then words canceled, words interlined, various changes made,—and all these alterations done with pen and ink. Of course, sleeve and hand rubbing over the plumbago gave the whole a dingy and blurred appearance. The effect of the ink sprinkled among the faded pencilings was so much like that of mending an old garment with new cloth, that the manuscript had an unchristian, nay, even heathenish aspect. However, from this copy the report was printed,—let us charitably hope that it did much good in the world.

If proof-sheets present peculiarities of spelling and language, such for instance as appear in ancient works, and which are affected or indulged in by some moderns, every word whose correctness he doubts and is unable to verify, should be referred by the proof-reader to author or editor. The latter, familiar with the terms used, may consider some queries frivolous or puerile; but an author should appreciate conscientiousness in the reader, and be glad to have {p32} all doubts settled before his work reaches the eyes of reviewers.

That Dr. Johnson was guilty of harshness toward a proof-reader is not to be wondered at; but it is a matter of wonder that his conduct appears to have been approved by other editors. In J. T. Buckingham’s edition of Shakspeare (1814) is, at page 915, a remarkable note, apologizing for a few “trifling errors,” and adopting as an excuse a quotation from an advertisement “from the first edition of Reed, 1793”:

He, whose business it is to offer this unusual apology, very well remembers to have been sitting with Dr. Johnson, when an agent from a neighboring press brought in a proof sheet of a republication, requesting to know whether a particular word in it was not corrupted. “So far from it, sir,” (replied the Doctor with some harshness,) “that the word you suspect, and would displace, is conspicuously beautiful where it stands, and is the only one that could do the duty expected from it by Mr. Pope.”

Dr. Johnson’s assumption that the agent would displace the word, seems to have been wholly gratuitous. The employees of the neighboring press did precisely what they should have done,—what every conscientious proof-reader often feels obliged to do. If suspected words were passed without questioning, there would be many errors of the press which would justify some show of “harshness” toward the neglectful “agent.”


So long as authors the most accomplished are liable to err, so long as compositors the most careful make occasional mistakes, so long as dictionaries authorize various spellings, just so long must there be individuals trained and training to detect errors, to rectify mistakes, and to decide upon and settle all points which lex­i­cog­raphers leave in doubt. Such individuals are known as Proof-readers.

Movable types, after having been used in printing newspaper or book, etc., are distributed to their several compartments (boxes) for future use. In distributing, the compositor, holding several lines in his left hand, takes from the top line, between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, as many words or letters as he can conveniently manipulate, and moving his hand over the case drops each letter into its proper box. Suppose, for instance, he takes up the word “feasible”; he carries his hand to the “f” box, and drops off the first letter; of course he knows, without looking at the word again, that he is next to drop off the “e”—and so, very quickly, his hand glides from box to box, each receiving its proper letter. This process is repeated until the {p34} types which composed the form are all, apparently, returned to the compartments whence they were taken.

Suppose, however, that when ready to distribute “feasible,” his attention is drawn momentarily to a neighbor who desires his opinion as to a blotted word in his take, and that, on returning to his work of distributing, he imagines, or seems to remember, that the word in hand is “fencible,”—the “a” goes into the “n” box, and the “s” finds itself at “c.” By and by, in setting type from this same case, the compositor picks up the letters for “emancipate.” If he happens to take up the two wrong letters consecutively from the right boxes, his proof-sheet—unless he reads and corrects the matter in his stick—will present the word “emaasipate”—which the proof-reader will mark, for the compositor to correct.

Or it may happen in distributing, that the “f” and “e” cohere, and are both dropped into the “f” box. If the compositor’s mind is not intent on the matter in hand, the error may not be noticed at once; in which case the “a” gets into the “e” box, and some or all the other letters of the word go wrong. The error must be discovered when the last letter is reached; but to search for each misplaced type until it is found, would probably take more time than would be required to correct the errors which must otherwise appear in the proof.

But it is not in distributing only, that blunders occur. There are many other sources of error, and will be so long as present methods continue in vogue. {p35} The only wonder is, that so few errors escape detection before the printer’s work is handed over to the reading public. We have by us an octavo Shakspeare, each page of type from which it was printed, having contained, as can be demonstrated, over six thousand pieces of metal, the misplacing of any one of which would have caused a blunder.

But the detection and marking of wrong letters forms a comparatively small part of a proof-reader’s duty. He must be able to tell at sight whether a lead is too thick or too thin, and to discriminate between a three-em space and a four-em space. Many other important matters fall within his province,—and these we shall endeavor to point out before closing the present chapter.

Other things being equal, printers make the best proof-readers. We have known two or three remarkably skillful readers, whose work could not be surpassed, who never imposed a form, nor set a line of type. These, however, were rare exceptions.

A practical printer who never heard of the digamma, and who has never read anything but newspapers, will generally make a better proof-reader than an educated man who is not practically acquainted with the typographic art; for the printer has, year in and year out, had a daily drill which makes him skillful in orthography, and he has been compelled to give close attention to the grammatical points. Further, his dealing with individual types enables him to see, without searching, errors which men far more learned than he, do not readily {p36} perceive; and his pen pounces on a wrong letter as instinctively and unerringly as the bird darts on its insect prey.

Sterne has uttered a sneer at the husk and shell of learning; but the best bread is made from the whole meal, and includes the “shorts” and the “middlings” as well as the fine flour. If every lawyer, physician, and clergyman were to spend six months at the “case” before entering upon his profession, he would find, even in that short term of labor, a useful fitting and preparation for such literary tasks as may afterward devolve upon him.

Nearly all manuscript copy is indebted to the compositor and proof-reader for the proper punctuation; and many errors in spelling, made by men who probably know better, but write hastily, are silently corrected in the printing-office. Contradictions, errors of fact, anachronisms, imperfect sentences, solecisms, barbarisms, are modestly pointed out to the author by the proof-reader’s “quære,” or by a carefully worded suggestion; and, most usually, the proof is returned without comment,—and none is needed,—corrected according to the proof-reader’s intimations. Dickens, and a few other writers of eminence, have acknowledged their indebtedness in such cases; but we know one proof-reader—whose experience embraces an infinite variety of subjects from bill-heads to Bibles—who can remember but three cases in which his assistance, whether valuable or otherwise, was alluded to in a kindly manner. On the other hand, the correction in the proof is sometimes {p37} accompanied by some testy remark: as, “Does this suit you?” or, “Will it do now?” The proof-reader is, however, or should be, perfectly callous to all captious criticisms and foolish comments; he need care nothing for “harshness” or other nonsense, provided his work is well and thoroughly done. Let no nervous or touchy man meddle with proof-reading.

For the especial benefit of our non-professional readers, we will here point out the usual routine in regard to proofs. The editor or publisher of a book or periodical sends to the printer such portions of reading-matter or manuscript as he can, from time to time, conveniently supply. This copy is passed to a head-workman, who divides it into a number of parts, called “takes,” each part being a suitable quantity for a compositor to take at one time; and the name of each compositor is penciled at the top of his take. The type when set up is called “matter.”

When there is enough matter to fill a “galley” (a metallic or wooden casing about two feet in length), an impression, or “proof,” is taken on a strip of paper wide enough to receive in the margin the correction of such errors as may be found. This proof, with the corresponding copy, is carried to the proof-reader’s desk for examination and correction.

The reader will have at hand a copy of such directions as may have been furnished by author, editor, or publisher, to which he appends, from time to time, memoranda of all eccentricities of orthography and cap­i­tal­i­za­tion,—in short, all peculiarities of style, as they arise. This he consults frequently while {p38} reading the proof-sheet, and, for obvious reasons, with especial attention after any unusual delay in the progress of the work. Directions and notes as to captions, sizes of type, form of tables, etc., are of utility, especially when several readers are employed on the same publication; but directions can scarcely be framed so as to ensure⁠[3] uniformity, except in few particulars. We subjoin two or three samples of directions and memoranda: our remarks in brackets.

3 Vide page 170, on the orthography of this word.


The form is regular octavo.

Text is long primer, single leaded.

Tables and lists, having rules and boxheads, nonpareil solid.

Headings of tables and lists, brevier italic, lower case.

There are no numbered chapters. The heading of each section, which takes the place of chapter heading, is pica light-face celtic caps, spaced.

Geological ages and epochs are capitalized; for example, “Devonian,” “Trias,” “sub-Carboniferous” v. [page 176.]

Quoted extracts in regular text type (long primer), between quotation marks.

Capitalize “the West,” “the South,” etc., but not “western New York,” “central Pennsylvania,” etc.

Do not use “&c.” for “etc.”

“Prof.,” “Gen.,” etc., preceding initials or Christian name; “Professor,” “General,” etc., when last name alone is used; for example, “Prof. J. Smith,” “General Grant,” etc.

Full point after roman numerals.

“Saint Louis,” etc.; spell out “Saint.”

Names of periodicals, in italics.

Names of books, roman, in quotation marks.

“Panther creek”; but “Panther Creek district.” That is, capitalize titles. {p39}

The following sample relates to an octavo on Fishes:

Make “cod fishery” two words.

“Offshore,” “Inshore” [no hyphen].

“Sheepshead” [name of fish. Webster inserts an apostrophe and a hyphen,—“Sheep’s-head”].

“Herring fisheries” [no hyphen].

“Herring-nets” [insert hyphen].

From a quarto on Fishes:

“Cod-fisherman” [hyphen].

“Cod fishery” [two words].

Engineer work:

Make footnotes of the “Remarks” column.

For “D. D.” in copy, spell “dry-dock.”

Use figures in all cases, for weights, distances, etc.

The following was for a Digest—Decisions:

Spell “travelling,” “employee,” and divide “ser-vice.” [“Travelling” and “ser-vice” are Worcester style. Webster divides “serv-ice.”—In regard to “employee,” neither Webster nor Worcester gives it place; but, instead, the French “employé.” Webster has this note following the French word: “The English form of this word, viz., employee, though perfectly conformable to analogy, and therefore perfectly legitimate, is not sanctioned by the usage of good writers.” Since Webster’s note was written, some good writers, as in the book of Decisions above mentioned, have used the English word, as many printing-office employees can testify,—and “employé” may as well be sent home, according to the immigration laws, as unable to sustain itself in this country.⁠[4]]

4 Since the above remark was written, we have found “employee” admitted as a correct English word, in Worcester’s “Supplement.”

Weather Reports:

The “upper Missouri valley” [small v].

The “Mississippi river” [small r].

Geological Survey:

The “Missouri Valley” [cap. V].

The “Missouri River” [cap. R].

The proof-reader knows, that (as we have already remarked) every printing-office has a style of its own; that, if left to itself, its style would be practically uniform and always respectable,—and he soon learns that some writers for the press have very firm opinions about matters of little or no consequence, and are very tenacious, if not pugnacious, in preferring tweedledee to tweedledum; not because it is written with more e’s, but because it is more correct—in their opinion. However great may be a reader’s capacity for memorizing trifling details, it is next to impossible to keep minute verbal differences on different mental shelves. After the big book is bound, one will be likely to find a mingling of styles; the big River of one page becomes a little river on the next; “Pittsburg” here, reads “Pittsburgh” there; and the dignified “National Park” of the first chapter will dwindle to a mere “national park” in chapter the twelfth.

If not hurried by a press of work, as may sometimes be the case, the reader will first glance at the proof as a whole. A variation in the thickness of the leads, or a wrong indention, will, in this tout-ensemble survey, very quickly catch his eye. Then, still supposing he has time, he will read the galley through silently, correcting errors in spelling; marking turned or inverted letters; improving the {p41} spacing, the punctuation; noting whether the heads and subheads are in the required type; whether the cap­i­tal­i­za­tion is uniform; whether—if the “slip” beneath his eye happen to be near the end of a large volume—the word “ourang-outang” which he now meets with, was not printed somewhere in the earlier part of the work as “orang-outang,” or, in fact, whether, after some questioning, it finally went to press as “orang-utan,”—which word he must now, to preserve uniformity, hunt for and find among his old proofs, if, peradventure, author or publisher, or other person, have not borrowed them “for a few minutes,”—alas! never to be returned.

Having settled this, and all similar cases and other doubtful matters, he hands the copy to an assistant, called a “copy-holder,” whose duty it is to read the copy aloud, while he himself keeps his eye on the print (but in newspaper offices, for the sake of greater celerity, the proof-reader often reads aloud, while the copy-holder follows him silently, intent on the copy: interrupting, however, whenever any discrepancy is observed). If the reader desire the copy-holder to pause while he makes a correction, he repeats the word where he wishes the reading to stop; when ready to proceed he again pronounces the same word, and the copy-holder reads on from that place.

The manner of marking, in the text, all errors noticed, is shown, infra, in the “Specimen of First Proof.” The corrections to be made are indicated, in the margin, by appropriate words or characters from “Marks used in correcting Proofs”—also {p42} inserted below. Writers for the press who themselves examine proof-sheets of their works, should familiarize themselves with proof-reading technics. An author who received for the first time some proof-sheets returned them “clean”—apparently having detected no errors. He was afterward disgusted on finding it necessary to print a leaf of “errata,” and complained that his corrections had been entirely disregarded. On re-examining the proofs he had returned, it was found that he had corrected—with knife as well as pen. Where a comma was wanting, he had used the pen, carefully and skillfully imitating the printed character; and to convert semicolons into commas he had brought the knife into play,—nicely scratching out the superfluous part of the point.

Sometimes a line, or it may be several lines, of type are by some mishap out of perpendicular—slanting; so that only one side of each letter-face shows a full impression on the proof. It is usual in such case to draw several slanting marks across the faulty line or lines, and make similar marks in the margin. It is quite common, also, for readers to insert in the margin the words “off its feet,”—that being the printing-office designation for sloping matter. One reader abandoned writing these words, for two reasons: the first, that a compositor, when correcting, inserted them in the text, making an astonishing sentence; the second, that the marked passage,—a piece of close, logical reasoning,—after being carefully scanned by the author, was brought to the reader, with a very earnest request that he would {p43} point out what justice there was in that bluff remark. It is enough to draw what beginners in writing call “straight marks” across the matter, and also in the margin. We append other—


symbol Insert an em-quadrat.
symbol Dele, take out; expunge.
symbol Insert space.
symbol Less space.
symbol Close up entirely.
symbol Dele some type, and insert a space in lieu of what is removed.
symbol Dele some type, and close up.
symbol Broken or battered type.
symbol Plane down a letter. Push down a space or quadrat.
. . . . Placed under erased words, restores them.
symbol Written in the margin, restores a canceled word or passage, or such portions of erased text as have dots under them.
symbol Begin paragraph.
symbol Remove to left.
symbol Remove to right.
symbol Carry higher up on page.
symbol Carry down.
symbol Four lines subscript, denote italic capitals.
symbol Three lines subscript, denote capitals.
symbol Two lines subscript, denote small capitals.
symbol One line subscript, denotes italics.
symbol Wrong font.
symbol Transpose.
symbol Period.
symbol Colon.
symbol Apostrophe.
=/ Hyphen.
–/ En-dash.
|—| Em-dash.
If there is an omission (an “out”) make a caret at the place of the out, and if the out is short, write the omitted word or words in margin; if long, write in margin “out—see copy,” and pin to the proof the sheet of copy containing the omitted portion.
symbol Lower-case.
symbol Small capitals.
symbol or symbol or symbol calls attention to some doubtful word or sentence.

Several other marks are used, which need no explanation.

In order to show our readers the practical application of the above marks, we will suppose the following paragraph from Guizot to be put in type abounding in errors, and will then exhibit the corrections as made by the proof-reader:


The above is very bad, even for a first proof,—but we have seen worse, and have, perhaps, ourself been responsible for some not much better. While the copy-holder is reading aloud the copy from which {p45} the above was set up, the reader is busy marking errors, and making such characters in the margin as will inform the compositors what is to be done to make their work correct. At the conclusion of the reading, the proof will present an appearance somewhat like this corrected—


If the proof in hand be a reprint, and the new edition is to conform to the old, the copy-holder, while reading, pronounces aloud the points, capitals, etc., {p46} as they occur in the copy—saving labor and time by using well-understood ab­bre­vi­a­tions. Take, for instance, the second stanza of Tennyson’s “Voyage”:

Warm broke the breeze against the brow,
Dry sang the tackle, sang the sail:
The Lady’s-head upon the prow
Caught the shrill salt, and sheer’d the gale.
The broad seas swell’d to meet the keel,
And swept behind: so quick the run,
We felt the good ship shake and reel,
We seem’d to sail into the Sun!”

This stanza the copy-holder reads thus:

Quote “Warm broke the breeze against the brow, (com.)
Dry sang the tackle, (com.) sang the sail: (colon.)
The Lady’s-(cap. pos. s, hyphen.)head upon the prow
Caught the shrill salt, (com.) and sheer’(pos.)d the gale. (full point.)
The broad seas swell’(pos.)d to meet the keel, (com.)
And swept behind: (colon.) so quick the run, (com.)
We felt the good ship shake and reel, (com.)
We seem’(pos.)d to sail into the Sun!” (cap. exclam. close of quote.)

If the work extend beyond a single galley, the slips of proof are marked in regular sequence, A, B, C, etc., or 1, 2, 3, etc. Each slip is marked at top “First Proof”: the names of the compositors, which have been inscribed on their “takes,” are duly transferred to the printed proof, which, with the errors plainly noted thereon, is then given for correction to the same persons who set up the matter. Their duty having been attended to, a “second proof” is taken: {p47} this the reader compares carefully with the first, to ascertain whether the requisite changes of type have been properly made; whether “doublets” have been taken out, and “outs” put in. If any mark has escaped the notice of the compositors, it is transferred to the second proof. Close attention should be given to this process of “revising”; it is not enough to see that a wrong letter has been taken out, and a right one put in; in the line where a change has been made, all the words should be compared, and also the line above and the line below a correction,—since in correcting an error among movable types, some of the types may move when they ought not, and get misplaced.

As what escapes the notice of one observer may be perceived by another, this second proof is again “read by copy” by another proof-reader and assistant, and a second time corrected and revised. The “third proof” is now sent to the author, editor, or publisher, with so much copy as may cover it, the copy-holder being careful, however, to retain the “mark-off”; i. e., the sheet on which is marked off the place where the next “first proof” is to begin. But when the work is of such sort as not to require extraordinary care, the second proof is sent out, a single reading by copy being deemed sufficient. If the work is read twice by copy, only one reader should attend to the punctuation.

If, now, the copy have been hastily or carelessly prepared, or if the author have gained new light since he prepared it, the outside party having charge {p48} of the work (whom, for convenience, we will designate as the “author”) will return his proofs, full of erasures, additions, alterations, interlineations, and transpositions. With these the original compositors have no concern; the changes required are made by “the office,” and the time is charged to the person who contracted for the printing of the work.

A second, third, or even more consecutive revises of the same slip are sometimes sent to the author, to the intent that he may see for himself that his corrections have been duly made, and to allow him further opportunity to introduce such alterations as to him may seem desirable. Usually, however, the work, after the correction of the author’s first proof, is made up into pages; and when there are enough of these for a “signature” or form of octavo, duodecimo, or whatever the number of pages on the sheet may be, the proof-reader revises these pages by the author’s latest returned proof, cuts off the slip at the line where the last page ends, and sends the folded leaves, labeled “Second,” “Third,” or “Fourth” proof, as the case may be, together with the corresponding slips of the next previous proof, to the author, as before. The portion of slip proof remaining—termed the “make-up”—should be inscribed with the proper page, and the letter or figure which is to be the signature of the next sheet, and given, for his guidance, to the person who makes up the work; to be returned again to the proof-reader, with the other slip proofs of the next sheet of made-up pages, when that is ready for revision. {p49}

The author may be desirous of seeing a fifth, sixth, or, as the algebraists say, any number, n, of proofs. When he expresses himself as satisfied with his share of the correcting, the last author’s proof is corrected, a “revise” taken, and the proof-reader gives this last revise a final reading for the press. As any errors which escape detection now, will show themselves in the book, this last reading should be careful, deliberate, and painstaking. See to it, my young beginner, that the “signature” is the letter or number next in sequence to that on your previous press-proof. See to it, that the first page of the sheet in hand connects in reading with the last page of the previous one, and that the figures denoting the page form the next cardinal number to that which you last sent to press. Having done this, examine the “folios” (the “pagination,” as some say) throughout; read the running titles; if there be a new chapter commenced, look back in your previous proofs to make sure that said new chapter is XIX.,” and not XVIII.”; see that the head-lines of the chapter are of the right size, and in the right font of type; for, if the “minion” case happened to be covered up, the compositor may have forgotten himself, and set them up in “brevier”; if there is rule-work, see that the rules come together properly, and are right side up; if there is Federal money, see that the “$” is put at the beginning of the number following a rule,⁠[5] and of the number in the top line of every page; if points are {p50} used as “leaders,” see that there are no commas or hyphens among them. If the style require a comma before leaders, see that none have been left out; if the style reject a comma, see that none have been left in; in short, see to everything,—and then, on the corner of the sheet, write the word “Press” as boldly as you can, but with the moral certainty that some skulking blunder of author, compositor, or corrector has eluded all your watchfulness.

5 In the Government Printing Office the style omits the “$” in this case,—the sign at top of table or page being considered sufficient.

The errors made by ourselves are those which occasion us the most pain. Therefore be chary of changing anything in the author’s last proof. If a sentence seem obscure, see whether the insertion of a comma will make it clear. If you find “patonce,” do not change it to “potence,” unless, from your knowledge of heraldry, you are aware of a good reason for such an alteration. If you find pro. ami, look in the dictionary before striking out the point after pro.; peradventure it is a contraction. If, finally, after puzzling over some intricate sentence, you can make nothing of it, let it console you that the following paragraph appears in Hävernick: “Accordingly it is only from this passage that a conclusion can be drawn as to the historical condition of the people, which is confirmed also by notices elsewhere”; and let it content you to say, in the words of Colenso, “I am at a loss to understand the meaning of the above paragraph.” So let the obscure passage remain.

Still, however, should you find some gross error of dates, some obvious solecism, or some wrong footing {p51} in a column of figures, and find yourself unable to change the reading with absolute certainty of being right, this proof, which you had hoped would be a final one, must be returned to the author with the proper quære. When it comes back to your sanctum, you may perhaps be pleased at finding on the margin a few words complimentary of your carefulness; or perhaps a question couched in this encomiastic style: “Why did not your stupid proof-reader find this out before?”

Whether reading first or final proofs of Records of Court, you should not change the spelling of words, nor supply omissions, nor strike out a repeated word or words; for the printed record is assumed to be an exact transcript of what is written, and there should be no alterations,—neither uniformity nor correctness is to be sought at the expense of departing from copy. Inserting the necessary points where these have been neglected, is not considered a change of the record,—as, for instance, an in­ter­ro­ga­tion point after a direct question to a witness; for, as “the punctuation is no part of the law,” a fortiori it is no part of the record. If the caption be “Deposition of John Prat,” and the signature be “John Pratt,” and if in another place you find the same individual designated as “John Pradt,” there is no help for it. You have no authority to alter the record, and must print it as it stands. So, too, in regard to dates. If you read “1st Feb. 1889” on one page, “Feb. 1, 1889” on another, so let them stand—the change of style is a trifle; and, if it be a fault, it is the fault of the record, and not yours. {p52}

And here let us say a word about this matter of uniformity: very important in some works, in others it is of no consequence whatever, however much some readers may stickle for it. If, for example, a mass of letters, from all parts of the country, recommending a patent inkstand, or stating the prospects of the potato crop, are sent in to be printed, the dates and addresses will vary in style, according to the taste and knowledge of the several writers; and there is not the slightest need of changing them to make them alike, as if all these widely scattered writers had graduated from the same school. Let such writings be printed as diversely as they come to hand. If one writes plough, and another plow, what matters it, so far as your proof-reading is concerned? If one writes “15th June,” and another “June 15” or “June 15th,” so let it stand on the printed page. It is idle to waste time in making things alike, that could not by any possibility have been written alike. But you can make each letter consistent with itself, which is all that uniformity requires. You need not stretch one man out, and cut off the feet of another, to justify all authors in your composing-stick. So much for exceptional cases.

As a general rule, study to preserve uniformity in every work. If “A. M.” and “P. M.” are in capitals on one page, it will look very like carelessness to have them appear A.M. and P.M. in small capitals, on the next. With the exceptions above pointed out, your only safety is to have but one style, and to adhere to it with the stiffness of a martinet, {p53} in all contingencies, unless overruled by those who have a right to dictate in the premises.


Greek words sometimes appear in copy, and are somewhat vexatious to printers who never had the good fortune to study Greek at school—or elsewhere. In a proof-sheet, we once met a word whose etymology was given thus in the copy: “From Ἕλιος the sun, and φιλος a lover” (the epsilon was the author’s mistake). The compositor, not aware of a Greek alphabet, set up the passage in those English letters which most nearly resemble the Hellenic characters, and it appeared in this guise: “From Ediog the sun, and pidog a lover.” We advise proof-readers, and compositors and copy-holders as well, to acquire—if they do not already possess—so much knowledge of Greek letters and characters as will enable them to acquit themselves without discredit, though “Ediog” and “pidog” condog (v. Wb.) to annoy them. A few hours’ attention to the alphabet and characters given below, and to the annexed practical directions, will suffice to fix in the memory as much knowledge of Greek as will serve for the mechanical following of the copy,—mechanical following,—for, if you are setting up or reading a reprint of the 450th page of Webster’s Dictionary, and meet with the word ἐννενήκοντα you must put in the eleven letters as they stand: and if copying Worcester’s 486th page, you find ἐννεήκοντα, put in {p54} the ten letters. If you have any doubts, submit your query.

The Greek alphabet consists of twenty-four letters.

Alpha Α α a
Beta Β β b
Gamma Γ γ g
Delta Δ δ d
Epsilon Ε ε ĕ
Zeta Ζ ζ z
Eta Η η ē
Theta Θ ϑ θ th
Iota Ι ι i
Kappa Κ κ k
Lambda Λ λ l
Mu Μ μ m
Nu Ν ν n
Xi Ξ ξ x
Omicron Ο ο ŏ
Pi Π π p
Rho Ρ ϱ ρ r
Sigma Σ σ, final ς s
Tau Τ τ t
Upsilon Υ υ u
Phi Φ φ ph
Chi Χ χ ch
Psi Ψ ψ ps
Omega Ω ω ō

In reading Greek, mention each letter by its English equivalent.

Ε is read, “cap. short e”; ε, “short e”; Η is read, “cap. long e”; η, “long e.”

Ο is read, “cap. short o”; ο, “short o”; Ω is read, “cap. long o”; ω, “long o.” {p55}

There are three accents,—the acute ( ΄ ), the grave ( ` ), and the circumflex ( ῀ ).

ύ is read, “acute u”; ὶ is read, “grave i”; ᾶ is read, “circumflex a.”

Over every vowel or diphthong beginning a word is placed one of two characters, called breathings, which, for the purpose of reading, we may designate as the smooth ( ᾿ ) and the rough ( ῾ ).

ἀ is read, “smooth a”; ἱ is read, “rough i.”

When two marks appear over a letter, both should be mentioned by the copy-holder.

ὔ is read, “smooth, acute u”; ὅ is read, “rough, acute, short o”; ὃ, “rough, grave, short o”; ὦ, “circumflex, smooth, long o.”

The compositor and proof-reader should be careful that accented letters are used according to the copy, as in many cases the difference of accentuation serves also to mark the difference of signification. Thus, νέος signifies new; νεὸς, a field: ἴον, a violet; ἰὸν, going.

ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ, are diphthongs; their second vowel (ι), being silent, is placed underneath, or subscribed. These should be read thus: ᾳ, “a, subscript”; ῃ, “long e, subscript”; ῳ, “long o, subscript.”

In Greek, only four points or stops are used: the comma (,); the note of in­ter­ro­ga­tion (;); the colon, or point at top (·); and the full stop (.). These should be mentioned as they occur. {p56}



Αντὶ τάφου λιτοῖο θὲς Ἑλλάδα, θὲς δ’ ὲπι ταύταν
Δούρατα, βαρβαρικᾶς σύμβολα ναυφθορίας,
Καὶ τύμβῳ κρηπῖδα περίγραφε Περσικὸν Ἄρη
Καὶ Ξέρξην· τούτοις θάπτε Θεμιστοκλέα.
Στάλα δ’ ἁ Σαλαμὶς ἐπικείσεται, ἔργα λέγουσα
Τἀμά· τί με σμὶκροῖς τὸν μέγαν ἐντίτθετε;

The method of reading will, we think, be sufficiently exemplified if we give but one line. We select the third, which should be read by the copy-holder, as follows:

Cap. K, a, grave i; t, acute u, m, b, long o subscript; k, r, long e, p, circumflex i, d, a; p, short e, r, acute i, g, r, a, ph, short e; cap. P, short e, r, s, i, k, grave short o, n; cap. smooth acute A, r, long e.

Words from dead and foreign languages, introduced into English text, are printed in italics, until, being frequently met, they cease to be strangers; then printers and proof-readers anglicify them as much as possible, by printing them in roman; but some of these retain certain accents which indicate their alien origin. The Spanish cañon is completely anglicized into “canyon” (o as in no); our miners write “arrastra” in roman, although the term has not yet found its way into our most popular dictionaries; our dreadful accident-makers have set afloat so many “canards,” that that word has become better English than French; “papier-mache” usually appears in roman without the accent on the final e; employé {p57} has become a good “employee” in our workshops; and at an early day, every “protégé” and “protégée,” already roman, will throw off the foreign accents, and remain none the less acute “protegees”; “éclat,” “régime,” and “résumé” still cling to their acute e’s. Many words and phrases are hesitating whether to remain foreigners, or to become naturalized. They have “taken out their first papers,” as it were, having at times appeared in English garb.

It would be vastly convenient for every compositor and proof-reader (every author, of course, reads proof) to have at hand two lists of such Latin and foreign words as most frequently occur in books, magazines, and newspapers,—the one containing the words to be set up in italics, the other, words to “go in roman,” as the phrase is. We append two such lists, as samples rather than as fixities to be followed, although they represent very nearly, if not exactly, the present status of the class of words we are considering. The roman list is destined to be continually lengthening, while the italic, save as it receives new accretions from foreign sources, must be correspondingly diminishing.


Before beginning to read proof, a man usually prepares himself by learning how to make the technical marks used in correcting; he then reads a chapter on the use of capitals; takes up a grammar, and reviews the rules of punctuation; and by reading, and conversing with readers, gets such helps as give him a good degree of confidence. But at the very threshold of his duties he is met by a little “dwarfish demon” called “Style,” who addresses him somewhat after this fashion: “As you see me now, so I have appeared ever since the first type was set in this office. Everything here must be done as I say. You may mark as you please, but don’t violate the commands of Style. I may seem to disappear for a time, when there is a great rush of work, and you may perhaps bring yourself to believe that Style is dead. But do not deceive yourself,—Style never dies. When everything is going merrily, and you are rejoicing at carrying out some pet plan of your own, you will find me back again, tearing the forms to pieces, and again asserting my irrevocable authority. Stick to my orders, and all will be well. Don’t tell me of grammarians or lex­i­cog­raphers; say nothing of better ways, or improvements or {p60} progress. I am Style, and my laws are like those of the Medes and Persians.” And Style states his true character.

Unfortunately for the proof-reader, Style seldom writes his laws; or, if at any time written, their visible form presently perishes, and they can only be got at, as one may learn the common law of England, through past decisions. You, my young friend, may in vain consult old proofs; works formerly read, at the desk you now occupy, by some vanished predecessor. Your searching cannot help you much; for authors being without the jurisdiction, are independent of the authority, of Style,—they may allow him to dominate over their works, or they may not. How, then, are you to distinguish, and select as models, those which were read under the direct supervision of Style? In the course of a few years you may come to know a portion of his laws; but the whole code is past finding out.

To drop the personification, every office has a style—an arrangement of details—peculiar to itself. In one, “Government” is spelled with a capital; in a second, “government” is spelled with a lower-case “g”; in this office, the four seasons are always “Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter”; in that, they are “spring, summer,” etc., having capitals only when personified: and so of a thousand other cases in cap­i­tal­i­za­tion. In this office, before a quoted extract we put a colon and dash, thus:—while, in the office across the way, the style is to put a colon only: and, a little farther on, is an office which uses {p61} only the dash—yet a fourth, round the corner, puts a comma and dash, thus,—while a fifth undertakes to use all these and even additional methods, as the period, the semicolon, and dash, selecting as the sense or convenience or caprice may dictate.⁠[6] Here, the style requires a comma before and, in “pounds, shillings, and pence”; there, the style is “pounds, shillings and pence.” “Viz,” in Mr. A.’s office, is considered a contraction, and is printed “viz.”—with the period; in Mr. B.’s office, it is not a contraction, and the period is not used; in Mr. C.’s office, “viz” is put entirely under the ban, and compositors and proof-readers are directed to substitute for it the word “namely,” in all cases. As regards orthography, two styles—the Worcester and Webster—have, in almost all offices, alternate sway; and—which complicates matters still more—everywhere there is an “office style.” Each “rules a moment; chaos umpire sits,” etc.

6 For some varieties of style in introducing quotations, see “Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey. By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D. London: John Murray, 1868”; especially pp. 256, 257.

Suppose half-a-dozen works going through the press at the same time, embracing three styles of orthography, and four or five styles in cap­i­tal­i­za­tion; one style which requires turned commas at the beginning only, of a quotation, and one which requires them at the beginning of every line of an extract,—you see at once that a proof-reader, so beset, must needs have his wits about him. For, notice, the first “slip” which comes to hand is in the “Life of {p62} John Smith”; this is in the Worcester style, and requires “traveller” and “jeweller” to be spelled each with two l’s, and “impanelled” with two l’s. The next galley-proof to be read is part of the “Life of James Smith”; this is in the Webster style; and now the reader must change front, and see to it that he spells “traveler” and “jeweler” with one l each, and “impaneled” with one l. Now as these works are in the same size of type, and are very similar in appearance, it would not be strange if now and then the styles were to “cross over”; but, observe, the third slip, the “Life of William Smith,” is “office style,” requiring “traveler” to be spelled with one l, and “jeweller” with two (very absurd, but all styles have something absurd and arbitrary in them), while “empanel” now repudiates an initial i. Further, the publishers of the “Life of John” desire to have it in uniform style with their “watch-pocket series,” in which names of ships were put between quotation-marks; the author of the “Life of James” insists, that, in his work, names of ships shall not be quoted, and shall be set in roman; the “Life of William,” being in office style, requires names of ships to be in italics.

Again, each of these works has, at the commencement of its several chapters, a cast of initial letter differing from the style of the other two,—the first a two-line plain letter, the second a black letter, the third an open-face letter; and still further (there is no “finally”), the “Life of John” has “backwards,” “forwards,” “towards,” all with the final s; and the proof-reader has just received from the outside reader {p63} of the “Life of James,” a sharp note, stating that he has stricken the s from “towards,” as many as ten times, and coolly assuring the said proof-reader that there is no such word as “towards” in the English language. Meanwhile, intermingled with the above readings, are four Sunday-school books, A, B, C, and D. A and B require the words “everything,” “anything,” and “cannot” to be divided respectively into two words,—“every thing,” “any thing,” “can not”; while C and D, with a general direction to follow Webster, want these words printed in the usual manner,—closed up. A and C must have two words of “ ’t is,” “it ’s,” “do n’t,” “could n’t,” “must n’t”; B and D require the same, with the exception of “don’t,” which must be made one word. A and D want an apostrophe in “won’t”; while B and C insist that the change from “will not” is so great, that “wont” is virtually a new word, wherefore they cannot conscientiously permit the apostrophe.

Among these literary foolishnesses and idle discriminations, are inter-readings of pamphlets on the leather trade; the Swamptown Directory, the copy being the pages of an old edition, pasted on broadsides of paper, half the names stricken out, and new ones inserted haphazard on the wide margin, their places in the text indicated by lines crossing and recrossing each other, and occasionally lost in a plexus or ganglion; reports of the Panjandrum Grand Slump Mining Company, the Glenmutchkin Railway Company, and the new and improved Brown Paper {p64} Roofing Company; Proceedings of the National Wool-Pulling Association, and of the Society for promoting the Introduction of Water-Gas for Culinary and Illuminating Purposes; likewise auction-bills, calendars, ball-cards, dunning-letters (some of these to be returned through the post-office, the proof-reader’s own feathers winging the shaft), glowing descriptions of Dyes, Blackings, Polishes, and Varnishes; in short, proofs of the endless variety of matters which constitute the daily pabulum of a book and job office,—and, in all these, style has its requirements.

If all this be borne in mind, it will not seem surprising, especially when we reflect that all individuals in their progress toward a perfect civilization are not yet within sight of their goal,—it will not seem surprising, if now and then an irate brother should rush into the proof-reader’s presence, exclaiming, “What do you mean, sir? I thought I knew something, but it appears I don’t! Here you have put ‘Hudson street’ with a little s, and ‘Hudson River’ with a capital R: what sort of work do you call that?” Should this occur, the schooled reader has but to reply, “That, my dear sir, is the uniform style of this office,—we always ‘put things’ as you have stated,” and the questioner is satisfied, and apologetically withdraws.

As no acknowledged literary Dictator has arisen since Johnson (if we except Webster), and as we have no good grounds to expect one, let us hope there may be a convention of the learned men of the United States, with full powers to legislate upon, and {p65} finally settle, all questions of syntax, orthography, punctuation, and style, and authorized to punish literary dissenters, by banishment from the Republic of Letters.

Were there a common and acknowledged authority to which printer, publisher, proof-reader, and author could appeal, the eye, the pen, and the press would be relieved of much useless labor, and the cost of books would be correspondingly reduced. The Smithsonian Institution would confer a lasting benefit on mankind by establishing a Board or Bureau of scholars, which should publish a dictionary of all English and Anglicized words, without various spellings, and also such other words as might meet the want long felt, and which was expressed in “The Spectator,” so long ago as Aug. 4, 1711,—where the author, having spoken of certain perplexities which beset writers, adds: “[These] will never be decided till we have something like an academy, that by the best authorities and rules drawn from the analogy of languages, shall settle all controversies between grammar and idiom.” When such works from the Smithsonian Institution shall have appeared, and Congress shall have adopted them as standards to which all Departmental work shall conform, the diversities of spelling will disappear from the publications of the Government. Those who would diffuse knowledge among men should have sharp oversight of the vehicle in which knowledge is to be conveyed,—to wit, LANGUAGE,—“the foundation for the whole faculty of thinking.”


If an author sends his manuscript to the printing-office without any instructions or directions as to cap­i­tal­i­za­tion, punctuation, etc., the printer will follow his own “office style,” and the work will be, within certain limits, correctly done; that is, with as near an approach to uniformity as it is possible for ordinary fallible mortals to attain. But if the manuscript be accompanied with numerous “Directions” to the printer, some of these will be forgotten or overlooked, or become mixed in the minds of compositors and proof-readers with some set of diametrically opposite “Directions,”—and so the work will very likely abound in incongruities.

We have known two works to be in hand at the same time, one with directions to “Capitalize freely,” the other, to “Use capitals sparingly.” The “Directions” are sometimes quite minute, almost microscopic; still, it is the duty of the proof-reader to follow them into the very extremities of their littleness. One writer says, “Put up ‘eastern,’ ‘western,’ etc., in such cases as this: ‘The purple finch sometimes passes the cold season in Eastern {p67} Massachusetts, and even in Northern New Hampshire’”; another directs, “Put compass-points down, as ‘In northern Nevada.’” If the office style is “Hudson and Connecticut Rivers,” a direction will be sent in thus: “In all my work, print ‘Weber and Sevier rivers,’ ‘Phalan’s and Johanna lakes’—not Lakes.” One author wants “VIII-inch gun and 64-pounder”; another looks upon this as numerically and typo­graph­i­cally erroneous, and insists on an “8-inch gun and a LXIV-pounder”; still another prefers arabic figures throughout, and prints an “8-inch gun and 64-pounder”; yet another likes best the first of the above styles, but wishes a period placed after the roman numerals, so it shall read, an “VIII.-inch gun”; one more dislikes “double pointing,” and would retain the period, but strike out the hyphen. “In my novel, spell ‘Marquise De Gabriac’ with a big D, and ‘Madame de Sparre’ with a little ‘d.’”

With hundreds of Reports and reports from Institutions and institutions, from Departments and departments, from Bureaus and bureaus, trials at law, equity cases, interference cases, Revised Statutes, and thousands of documents, all as anxious to attract the public eye as ever Mr. Riddleberger was to catch the Speaker’s, and rushing compositors and proof-readers and steam-presses with a dizzying velocity which almost prohibits nicety of execution, it were far wiser for authors and copyists to attend carefully to the legibility and accuracy of their manuscripts, than to send to the printer blundering haphazard pages, accompanied with directions running counter {p68} to what the writers themselves have exhibited in their manuscripts.

We recollect that a printer once received a manuscript accompanied with minute directions, extending even to syllabication. It was given out to the compositors, and a rough manuscript it was; one found in his take, “One Spanish Mc Krel” and “One caperamber,”—as he and the others in his chapel read the words,—conundrums which after hard study of characteristics and comparison of letters were, by an ingenious old typographic Champollion, solved as “One Spanish mackerel” and “One café-au-lait.”

If Gunther’s “Catalogue of Fishes, British Museum” is to be written, it is proper to abbreviate it to “Gunther’s Cat. Fish., Brit. Mus.” An author who undertook so to write it, jammed the Cat. close to the Fish, and placed the first period above the line. He should not have been surprised when he read in his proof-sheet, “Gunther’s Cat-Fish., Brit. Mus.”,—which, although apparently according to copy, was not “according to Gunther.”

The use of commas and other pause-marks is to bring out the sense, and when capitals will subserve the same purpose it is well to use them also,—whether one finds a printed Rule directing it or not. Thus Stedman writes:

“In his verse, Emerson’s spiritual philosophy and laws of conduct appear again, but transfigured. Always the idea of Soul, central and pervading, of which Nature’s forms are but the created symbols. As in his early discourse he recognized {p69} two entities, Nature and the Soul, so to the last he believed Art to be simply the union of Nature with man’s will—Thought symbolizing itself by Nature’s aid.”

Names of States and Territories, when following names of cities, towns, and post-offices, are usually contracted; as:

Savannah, Ga.; Brunswick, Me.; San Diego, Cal.; New Orleans, La.; Plymouth, Mass.

But in any other connection, names of States and Territories are spelled in full; as:

Mendocino County, California. We crossed Nevada Territory. We visited Luray Cave, Virginia.

In an office where the employees are accustomed to the above rules, absolute uniformity would be attainable, if it were not for the interference of specialists. If, from such office, a book is issued in which you find “Richmond, Virginia,” and, farther on, “Richmond, Va.,” you may be sure that a “direction” to “spell out, in all cases, names of States and Territories” accompanied the manuscript; that one reader, mindful, as it happened, of the important direction, spelled “Virginia,” while another, from force of habit, followed the office style, and made no change from the customary “Va.”; and you may further conclude, that the author of the work, when examining the proof-sheets, had himself become oblivious of the direction he had given.

We have known more than forty special directions {p70} to be sent to a printing-office with the manuscript copy of one book. An author may fancy that numerous minute rulings will ensure uniformity and beauty to his book; but the chances of discrepancy and mistake are increased in direct ratio to the number of such of his rulings as run counter to the office style. His “more requires less,” but produces “more.”


Printers and proof-readers are to take for granted, that, in every work which falls under their supervision, the proper agreement between thought and expression has been effected by the author. He alone has the right to change the words and their collocation; and, if fairly punctuated, the manuscript should be closely followed, word for word, and point for point.

Every person who writes for the press should punctuate his work presentably; but—since the majority of writers are inattentive to punctuation—custom and convenience, if not necessity, have thrown upon the compositor and proof-reader the task of inserting in their proper places the grammatical points, and such other points and marks as shall assist a reader in obtaining a ready apprehension of the author’s meaning. These are the period (.), the colon (:), the semicolon (;), the comma (,), the note of in­ter­ro­ga­tion (?), the note of exclamation (!), the parenthesis ( ), and the dash (—).

Besides these principal characters, there are other marks and signs used in writing and printing,—the hyphen (‐), the apostrophe (’), and others; all which may be found in the concluding division of {p72} this chapter, numbered VIII., and should be referred to as occasion may require.

Books which treat of English grammar speak of four of the points in common use—to wit, the period, the colon, the semicolon, and the comma—as “grammatical” points; while the dash, the note of in­ter­ro­ga­tion, the note of exclamation, and the parenthesis are classified as “rhetorical,”—being used to indicate various effects produced in conversation by changes in the tone of the voice. But as “English grammar is the art of speaking and writing [or printing] the English language with propriety,” and as all points and marks in the printer’s case are necessary to printing with propriety, it is not essential in this work to make the distinctions alluded to above. Nor shall we treat at length, if at all, of technical marks not in common use; as, for instance, signs used in algebra and chemistry, and in various arts and sciences. These can be referred to, should occasion require, in handbooks, and in Webster’s Dictionary, pp. 1864–68, or in Worcester’s, pp. 1773–75.

Our school-books used to tell us, that at the period we should stop long enough to count four; at the colon, three; at the semicolon, two; at the comma, one. But pauses vary in length, as readers and speakers wish to affect or impress their hearers: hence reporters of speeches and orations sometimes—finding ordinary points and marks insufficient—insert, in brackets, some comment indicating that there was a pause made which outreached the time {p73} allowed for an ordinary period. We listened in April, 1861, to a speech by Wendell Phillips, in which, at the close of one sentence, the orator paused long enough to count ten or twelve; the reporters at that place inserted in brackets the words “[An impressive pause].”⁠[7] To denote by distinctive characters every possible length of pause would require an infinitude of signs, types, and cases. We must therefore do the best we can with the few points now in use, leaving much to the taste of authors, printers, and readers. Still, the immense advantage modern students have over those of ancient times is made obvious by a comparison of antique and modern writings,—for punctuation is comparatively a modern affair, whose origin and changes it will be both useful and interesting to trace,—and in doing this, we shall endeavor to avoid the charge of prolixity, by condensing into brief space information gained from a variety of sources.

7 “There is only one thing those cannon shot in the harbor of Charleston settle,—that there never can be a compromise. . . . During these long and weary weeks we have waited to hear the Northern conscience assert its purpose. It comes at last. [An impressive pause.] Massachusetts blood has consecrated the pavements of Baltimore, and those stones are now too sacred to be trodden by slaves.”

The most ancient Greek manuscript known is among the papyri of the Louvre. It is a work on astronomy, and is indorsed with deeds of 165 and 164 B.C. This has “a certain sort of separation of words.” In a copy of Homer, written B.C., a wedge-shaped sign > is inserted “between the beginnings of {p74} lines” to mark a new passage. But even these marks were soon lost sight of; subsequent Greek and Latin writing runs on continuously without distinction of words. In the fifth century of our era, the fourth verse of the Second Epistle of John was thus written:



ληνελαβομεναποτουπρς (The πρς a contraction for πατρος.)

In Greek MSS. this method continued until the fourteenth century.



St. Jerome (A.D. 324–420) wrote a Latin version of the Bible—“the foundation of the Vulgate”—“per cola et commata”; not with colons and commas as we understand those words, but by a stichometric arrangement,—dividing the text into short sentences or lines, according to the sense, chiefly with a view to a better understanding of the meaning, and a better delivery in public reading. It is not until the latter part of the seventh century that there is some separation of words in Latin MSS. In the later Latin (eighth century) the full point in various positions was introduced,—being placed on a level with the top, bottom, or middle of the letters,—as the students of “Andrews and Stoddard” are well aware. In still later MSS. in small letter, the full point on the line or high was first used; then the comma and {p75} semicolon; and the inverted semicolon (؛), whose power was stronger than the comma.

In early Irish and English MSS., separation of words is quite consistently followed; and in these the common mark of punctuation was the full point, while to denote the final stop or period one or two points with a comma (..,) were used.

Contractions were much used in ancient MSS. to save time and labor. Some of these were denoted by a semicolon ; as b; = bus; q; = que; vi; = videlicet,—this character, in cursive writing, readily became a z, whence we have our viz = videlicet.

The Roman numerals in ancient texts were placed between full points; e.g., .CXL., to prevent confusion.

Punctuation remained very uncertain until the end of the fifteenth century, when the Manutii, three generations of printers,—the elder (1450–1515) the most learned, skillful, and energetic of the three,—increased the number of points, and made rules for their application; and these were so generally adopted, that Aldus Manutius and his son and grandson may be considered inventors of the present system of punctuation, notwithstanding it has been changed, and perhaps improved upon, since their time,—notably in the use of the colon. But scholars differ so widely in some respects as to the insertion of commas, as well as other points, that not many rules are as yet absolutely fixed.

Modern writers tell us that “points are used to mark the sense rather than the pauses.” We would {p76} substitute “as well as” for “rather.” In writing from dictation we place points where the dictator makes pauses; and in reading we make pauses where the writer has put the points. For example, note the difference in sense and pause, according as the comma is placed before or after “to the end,” in the following sentence:

I have advised the Attorney-General to read this letter to the end, that he may see precisely how this matter will affect public interest.

I have advised the Attorney-General to read this letter, to the end that he may see precisely how this matter will affect public interest.

Murray’s large octavo English Grammar and countless common-school grammars, from Murray’s time to the present day, contain rules for aiding students and writers to decide where points, and what points, should be placed. These are of great utility, and every young person should familiarize himself with them as found, briefly stated, in books now in use. It should be borne in mind, however, that a close and slavish adherence to stated forms, without ascertaining their bearings in individual cases, tends to becloud the judgment, and may cause an author’s meaning to be obscured, or even concealed, rather than elucidated.

In books issued by different houses will be found great diversity in the manner of pointing similar and even the same sentences; and some part of what we have called “style” results from the effort of a {p77} house to be consistent with itself, and to establish a uniformity among its own issues.

The rules given in this chapter, and the observations accompanying them, are mainly the results of our own training and experience as compositor and proof-reader at different periods, covering in the aggregate more than twenty years. To bring out by punctuation the sense of difficult and involved sentences—which are of frequent occurrence—requires close attention and careful study,—attention not the less close, nor study the less careful, because prompted by the necessity of immediate practical application.

As all rules suitable to guide human conduct lie folded up in the golden rule, so all rules for pointing sentences are embraced in this: Punctuate so as to bring out the author’s meaning. And by their consonance with this great rule all special rules must be judged. Yet in this, as in all other matters, men disagree in their judgments; and we must be content in our diversities, until the academy desiderated by the “Spectator” shall have become an actual institution, invested with a quasi grammatical infallibility.

For instance, as to placing a comma between a nominative phrase or sentence and the predicate, the best authorities differ. Wilson’s rule is,—

“No point or pause-mark is admissible between the subject or nominative and the predicate, . . . .”

The “Practical Grammar,” by S. W. Clark, A.M., published by A. S. Barnes & Co., New York, gives the following rule: {p78}

“A phrase or sentence used as the subject of a verb, requires a comma between it and the verb.”

Of course the examples under the rule exhibit a corresponding difference.

“To be totally indifferent to praise or censure is a real defect in character.”—Wilson.

“To do good to others, constitutes an important object of existence.”—Clark.

Ingersoll’s Grammar (Portland, 1828) and Kerl’s—which last is now very extensively used—agree with Clark. Both have the same example as Wilson, but pointed as follows:—

“To be totally indifferent to praise or censure, is a real defect in character.”

Goold Brown (Grammar of Grammars) inserts the comma. Cobbett’s Grammar omits it.

Take up the first dozen books that come to hand, and you will find diversity of practice.

“The influences which Atterbury had fostered long lingered in the precincts.”—Stanley’s Westminster Abbey.

“The distinction between transcendental and transcendent, is observed by our elder divines and philosophers.”—Coleridge’s Biographia.

“The interruption of friendly relations between England and Spain was the fault . . . of the Emperor.”—Froude’s England.

The better method is to omit the comma, except in those cases where its insertion would prevent ambiguity; as in the quotation above, from Stanley, where there should have been a comma after “fostered”; {p79} as it stands, the word “long” may qualify either the word before or after it.

So, if you examine any number of volumes with reference to placing a comma before and, or, or nor, when three or more words, in the same category, are connected,—in some you will find “Faith, and hope, and charity”; in others, “Faith and hope and charity.” We have just met with the following lines in a well-known paper:

Round and round the atoms fly,
Turf, and stone, and sea, and sky.”

Wilson’s example is (p. 38),—

“Let us freely drink in the soul of love and beauty and wisdom from all nature and art and history.”

In view of these and similar differences of practice, and contradiction of rules, one is tempted to say that it is of no moment whether the commas are inserted or not. But, leaving “style” out of the question, a proof-reader should endeavor to have a reason for every omission he allows, and for every insertion he makes. We advise him, then, in the first place to note which method seems required by the golden rule of elucidating the meaning; then consider, further, if the sentence already contains commas, whether inserting more would offend the eye. Let him decide each case on its own merits; leaning, when in doubt, in favor of such grammatical rule as he may have adopted. But use judgment; for the most precise grammarians lay down pages of exceptions; and Cobbett (Grammar, Letter XIV.) cannot be gainsaid when {p80} he writes, “It is evident, that, in many cases, the use of the comma must depend upon taste.”

When a phrase or clause, in its nature parenthetic, is quite closely connected with the parts of the sentence in which it is placed, the insertion of the comma before and after such phrase or clause “must depend upon taste.” The former comma especially, may often be omitted (see Obs. 10, under Rule 16, post). If the commas are inserted, we have a specimen of what is called “close pointing”; if omitted, we have “liberal pointing.”

Close pointing prevails in almost all publications except law-work, and in all doubtful cases puts in the comma. Liberal pointing, on the other hand, omits the points except when absolutely necessary to avoid ambiguity.

A middle course, retaining the spirit rather than adhering to the letter of the rules, will be found the safest. When, as will often be the case, a passage occurs, the meaning of which varies with the insertion or omission of a comma, while it would be grammatical either way, the compositor should follow the copy; the proof-reader should mark the passages with his quære; but if he first notices the fault when reading the press-proof, he should suffer it to stand as the author left it, letting all responsibility remain where it rightfully belongs.

Abbreviated words, besides the period denoting their ab­bre­vi­a­tion, require the same pointing as if they were spelled in full. Thus “Jno. Smith, Esq., of Worcester; Abel Soane, M.D.; and James Doe, {p81} LL.D.,—were appointed a comm. to take care of books, docs., etc., etc.,” has the same pointing as “John Smith, Esquire, of Worcester; Abel Soane, Doctor of Medicine; and James Doe, Doctor of Laws,—were appointed a committee to take care of books, documents, and so forth, and so forth.” But in some classes of work, as Directories, Catalogues of books, Genealogies, and where titles and ab­bre­vi­a­tions are of frequent occurrence, double pointing may be partially avoided by omitting the comma after a period which denotes an ab­bre­vi­a­tion.

Neatness requires the omission of the comma before leaders; thus,

John Roe . . . . . . New Oleans.

James Doe. . . . . . San Francisco.

is more pleasing to the eye than

John Roe, . . . . . . New Orleans.

James Doe,  . . . . . San Francisco.

Preambles to resolutions and laws are usually begun with “Whereas.” After this word a comma is sometimes heedlessly inserted, although the introductory word is not followed by a parenthetic clause. We append the most improved forms for punctuating and cap­i­tal­iz­ing preambles, resolves, and provisos:

Whereas the present national interest in the matter of the American fisheries has, &c.—Cong. Record, July, 11, 1888.

Whereas, owing to the sudden demise of the secretary, no notice was given of the receipts of the plans, etc.:

Resolved, That the whole matter be referred to a committee: Provided, [or Provided however,] That the whole expense shall not exceed, etc. {p82}

The semicolon should be placed before as, in an enumeration of particulars following a general statement; thus:

Many proper names admit of convenient contractions; as Jno., Wm., Benj., Jas., Chas.

But when as is not preceded by a general or formal statement, no point is necessary unless as is followed by a parenthetic clause; as:

Such names as John, Benjamin, William, admit of convenient contractions.

Some fishes, as, for instance, the cod, delight in cold baths, and are never found in water above 40° Fahr., unless in care of the cook.

But in liberal pointing, the commas before and after “for instance” would be omitted.

In regard to the points or marks connected with “viz.,” “namely,” and “to wit,” the punctuation varies according to the structure of the sentences in which they occur; but this does not prevent a publishing-house from having a style of its own. It is interesting to note the varieties which different offices present. We annex a few examples, which may be serviceable; to wit:

“Sussex Co., Del., July 5, 1776. We are sorry to say, that it is our opinion that they (viz: the enemies of the war) are not better affected than they were before the troops came.”—Am. Archives, 5th series, Vol. 1, p. 10.

I never depended on him for any men, or for any participation in the Georgia Campaign. Soon after, viz., May 8th, that department was transferred, etc.—Memoirs Gen. Sherman. {p83}

There is one case in which it is never right to do this; viz., when the opposite party, etc.—Cavendish’s style.

The library is open every secular day throughout the year, except the legal holidays, viz.,—Washington’s Birthday, Fast Day, Decoration Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.—Brookline, Mass., Pub. Lib. Report, 1887.

Seven of the bishops lived to be over 80—viz. Llandaff 84, Winchester 84, etc.—Nineteenth Century, March, ’88.

Woburn has a population of about 12,000, grouped at four principal centers: namely, Woburn Centre, about 8000, etc.—Mass. Drainage Comm.

The Dawes bill deals with two subjects only, namely, the ownership of land and citizenship.—N. A. Review, March, ’88.

This, then, is the upshot of the second part of the law, namely: (1) that all to whom land is patented become at once citizens of the United States; (2) that all, etc.—ib.

There are four seasons, namely: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

Four administrative areas are thus created: two primary areas—namely, counties at large, and boroughs of 100,000 inhabitants and upwards.—Nineteenth Century Maga.

Annapolis, June 25, 1776. That four battalions be instantly raised . . . . each company to consist of ninety men, to wit: one captain, two lieutenants, etc.—Am. Archives.

When viz. or namely or as follows ends a paragraph, the colon is commonly inserted; but the dash or comma-dash or colon-dash may sometimes be noticed,—it is a matter of office style. (See Punctuation, Rule 8, post.)

But if, referring to a succeeding sentence or paragraph, the words “the following” or “as follows” appear, the sentence in which they occur should be closed with the colon or colon-dash, as in the following examples: {p84}

The description given of the English Nonconformists in many pages that stand for history, is as follows: That they started forth under a well-settled order of constitution and discipline of the Church of England, etc.—Ellis’s Puritan Age.

Mr. Faulkner, from the Committee on Pensions, to whom were referred the following bills, reported them severally without amendment, and submitted reports thereon:

A bill (H. R. 10318) granting a pension to Mary C. Davis; and

A bill (H. R. 8400) to place the name of John J. Mitchell on the pension-roll.—Congressional Record, July 22, ’88.

The hyphen is used to connect the parts of a compound word; to show the divisions of words into syllables; it is placed at the end of a line when a word is not finished; and it is sometimes placed between vowels, to show that they belong to different syllables (as “co-ordinate”). In regard to its use in compound words great diversity exists; and the proof-reader can have, as we believe, no fixed system which will apply to all varieties of work. In specifications for bridges, buildings, etc., the better way is to avoid compounding; for, in everything of that kind, one will find so many “door-sills,” “newel-posts,” “stair-balusters,” “pulley-stiles,” etc., that if he begin marking in the hyphens he will scarcely make an end of it, and many hyphens sadly deform a page: better put “door knobs,” “window frames,” “stair nosings,” etc., omitting hyphens.

Here, too, the dictionaries can scarcely be said to assist, if they do not even mislead. Worcester has “brickwork,” “brasswork,” without hyphens; {p85} “wood-work,” “iron-work,” with them. “Greenhouse” is closed up, while “school-house” is not; “wood-house” has a hyphen, “almshouse” has none. (Wilson writes “schoolhouse.”) Webster has “brick-work” with the hyphen, “woodwork” without it,—just reversing Worcester. Again, Worcester writes, “humblebee” and “bumblebee”: Webster, under B, has “bumble-bee, . . . . sometimes called humble-bee”; and, under H, writes “humblebee, . . . . often called bumblebee,” apparently forgetful of his previous hyphens.

To search for authority, then, in the matter of compounding words, will avail next to nothing. In a volume containing “School Committees’ Reports,”—and certainly school committees ought to know many things,—we find “blackboard” and “black-board”; and, on one page, “schoolbooks,” “schoolkeeping,” “schoolmaster,” “school-houses,” “school-checks.” “Semi-annual” is frequently printed with the hyphen, according to Webster; but Worcester, omitting the hyphen, has “semiannual.”

Thus it appears, that, in regard to compounding (by which we mean inserting the hyphen between the parts of a compound word), the proof-reader is left to his own discretion, and can do very much as he pleases. He should, however, adopt some method by which he can approximate to uniformity in his own work; for as to agreeing with anybody else, that is out of the question.

Perhaps as good a rule as can be laid down on this subject is to close up the word when {p86} compounding changes the accentuation; otherwise, insert the hyphen. Thus, “Quartermaster” has a different accentuation from the two words “quarter master”; therefore make one word of it, without the hyphen. “Head-assistant” is accented like the two words “head assistant,”—therefore insert the hyphen. By this rule “schoolhouse” and “blackboard” should be severally closed up; “salt-mine” takes the hyphen,—“saltsea” (adjective) does not.

The word “tree,” with a prefix indicating the kind, should be compounded; as “oak-tree,” “forest-tree,” “pine-tree,” etc. (Webster has a hyphen in “whiffle-tree,” Worcester prints “whiffletree.”)

“Cast-iron” and “wrought-iron” are usually compounded, and should always be so when used as adjectives; as “cast-iron pillars,” “wrought-iron boilers.”

“Temple-street place” (or “Place,” according to style), “Suffolk-street District,” “Pemberton-square School,” are quite correct; the hyphen is too frequently omitted in such cases.

The words ex officio do not require a hyphen, but some very reputable offices insert it.

Hyphens are sometimes used to indicate grotesque pronunciation, as in the following couplet from “Rejected Addresses”:

In borrowed luster seemed to sham
The rose and red sweet Will-i-am.”

When two words connected by a conjunction are severally compound parts of a following word, the hyphen is omitted; as: {p87}

We use cast and wrought iron pillars.
I have pruned my peach and apple trees.

Some authors follow the German style, inserting the hyphens; thus:

We use cast- and wrought-iron pillars.
I have pruned my peach- and apple-trees.

But this style is rare.

Precision requires that hyphens should be inserted in fractions expressed in words; as “one-half,” “three-fifths,” etc.

How many oranges are seven and three fourths oranges?

There being no hyphen in the above example, the “seven” and “three” are in the same category as “peach” and “apple” in the last previous example. The answer is ten‐fourths, or 2⁠½.

If “seven” is meant to express a whole number, a hyphen should be inserted after “three.”

A prolific source of trouble in correcting is wrong syllabication when it is thought necessary to carry part of a word to the succeeding line. Neither the English method of dividing on vowels, where this can be conveniently done, nor the American method of dividing on syllables, obtains exclusively in this country. Convenience, and the desire of spacing in such a manner as to make the lines look well, frequently determine the dividing letter; so that, in the same work, you may find “pro‐perty” and “prop‐erty,” “trea‐sure” and “treas‐ure.” In a recent English work, we note the following divisions: {p88} Pre‐bendaries, mea‐sure, pre‐decessors, supre‐macy, the Re‐formation, pro‐perty, theo‐logy, bre‐thren, pre‐paration.

But the division on the syllable is the mode most generally practiced in the United States, and we must, however reluctantly, adhere to it as closely as possible, until a convention of publishers shall sanction the adoption of the English usage. Our authorities close the first syllable of “fa‐ther” on the a, of “moth‐er” on the th, so that, practically, the latter word should not be divided at all; the English printer, without hesitation, places the hyphen after the a and the o respectively.

As to the word “discrepancy” there is a discrepancy. Webster accents the second syllable, and divides “discrep‐ancy”; while Worcester accents the first syllable, and divides “discre‐pancy.” In this, printers and readers must be governed by the “style” of the work upon which they are engaged.

One of the most frequently recurring errors noticed in reading first proof is the placing of an s at the end of a line when it should have been carried over. Corres‐pondence, des‐cribe, des‐cription, Aus‐tralian, are wrong, and are corrected daily; and their reappearance proves that in this, as in weightier matters, “error is wrought by want of thought.”

In newspapers, or any work which is to be read once and then cast aside, the carrying over of an ed or ly, or any other syllable of two letters, may perhaps be tolerated; but in bookwork such a division is inexcusable, except in side‐notes, or when the {p89} measure is very narrow. To avoid extremely wide or thin spacing, and to escape the trouble and expense of overrunning pages already imposed, it must be considered admissible, in certain cases, to carry over a consonant preceding the final syllable ed; as, expec‐ted, divi‐ded. We state this with some misgivings; but, as we have known it to be done by excellent readers and skillful printers, even by John Wilson himself, of blessed memory, we lay it down as allowable in extreme cases. Theories are elastic,—are expansible and compressible; but types of metal have set dimensions of extension, and, in some circumstances, absolutely refuse to budge,—wherefore theories must gracefully yield, and allow, it may be, a two‐letter division even in wide measure. Types are tyrannical, and will sometimes perpetrate solecisms under the plea of necessity.

An author can sometimes much improve the appearance of a page, by slight changes in the phraseology.

A good compositor studies to avoid divisions. Some printers, rather than divide a word, will justify a line by separating the words with two three‐em spaces. But no arbitrary rule can be laid down in this regard. A well‐spaced page with several divided words looks much better than a page unevenly spaced in which no divisions occur. The number of hyphens occurring in succession at the end of the lines on any page, should never exceed three.

In manuscript the dash occurs more frequently than any other mark of punctuation, many writers {p90} using it as a substitute for every other point. This habit very much retards the compositor in his task; for, as we have already intimated, he feels obliged to study the sense of his copy, and to waste his valuable time in considering how he shall best supply those aids to meaning which the author has rejected, and without which any work would be wholly unpresentable.

That the author of the paragraph quoted below pointed it with perfect accuracy before sending it to press, does not admit of a doubt. For the nonce, however, we will, with his leave, punctuate the passage in the manner in which the compositor frequently finds passages pointed on his “takes”; thus:

“It has been said—and—no doubt—truthfully—that the smartest boys do not go to college. Yet—it is evident—to every one competent to judge—that the ablest men have been at college.”

With so many dashes before him, it would not be strange if the compositor were to retain some of them; and the proof might, perhaps, appear as follows:

“It has been said—and no doubt truthfully—that the smartest boys do not go to college. Yet it is evident to every one competent to judge, that the ablest men have been at college.”

This is much improved; and, if we substitute commas for the dashes in the first sentence, the punctuation may be considered unobjectionable.

Beginners at the “case” are often puzzled in regard to the insertion of commas before the dashes which {p91} inclose a parenthetic clause. To decide this point, it is enough to notice whether or not a comma would be used, were the parenthetic clause omitted. This, we think, will be readily understood by reference to the following examples:

“It was necessary not only that Christianity should assume a standard absolutely perfect, but that it should apply a perfect law to those complex and infinitely diversified cases which arise when law is violated.”

Now, if a parenthetic clause is inserted before the word “but,” the comma should be retained, and another placed at the end of the inserted clause; thus:

“It was necessary, not only that Christianity should assume a standard absolutely perfect,—which, however far from anything that man has ever done, would be comparatively easy,—but that it should apply a perfect law,” etc.

If there is no comma where the clause is to be inserted, dashes alone should be used:

“In the completed volume of the third report, the countries wherein education has received the most attention are treated of at length.”

If a parenthetic clause be inserted after “countries,”—where there is no comma,—only dashes are required; thus:

“In the completed volume of the third report, the countries—Prussia, for instance—wherein education has received the most attention are treated of at length.”

A thin space should be placed before, and also after, a dash.

If a parenthesis is inserted in a part of a sentence {p92} where no point is required, no point should be placed before or after the marks of parenthesis.

“By living sparingly, and according to the dictates of reason, in less than a year I found myself (some persons, perhaps, will not believe it) entirely freed from all my complaints.”—Cornaro.

As a general rule, if the parenthesis occur after a punctuated clause, the point should be placed after the latter mark of parenthesis.

“Popham’s monument, by the intercession of his wife’s friends (who had interest at Court), was left in St. John’s Chapel on condition either of erasing the inscription, or turning it inwards.”

“Artist: Kneller (1723). Architects: Taylor (1788); Chambers (1796); Wyatt (1813).”

“Antiquities of St. Peter’s, by J. Crull (usually signed J. C.).”

If a parenthesis which closes with a note of exclamation or in­ter­ro­ga­tion is inserted where a point occurs, that point should precede the first mark of parenthesis.

“Where foresight and good morals exist, (and do they not here?) the taxes do not stand in the way of an industrious man’s comforts.”

“He directed the letter to Gnat Smith, (spelling Nat with a G!) and deposited it in a fire‐alarm box.”

An exclamation point is often found preceding the first mark of parenthesis.

“Ay, here now! (exclaimed the Critic,) here come Coleridge’s metaphysics!”—Biographia Literaria.

“I am, sir, sensible”—“Hear! Hear!” (they cheer him.) {p93}

When a parenthesis occurs within a parenthesis, brackets should be substituted for the first and last parenthetic marks.

“As for the other party [I mean (do not misunderstand me) the original inventor], he was absent from the country, at that time.”

“Brackets are generally used . . . to inclose an explanation, note, or observation, standing by itself.”—Parker’s Aids.

A short comment inserted in a paragraph by a reviewer is placed in brackets.

“The sacks were badly eaten by rags [so in the affidavit], and the almonds had run out.”

In transcripts of trials at law, brackets are used to inclose statements of things done in court, which things would not appear in a report of the verbal proceedings alone; as,—

Ans. About a quarter past ten, he came into my shop, and picked out a cane. . . . .

Gore. Of what wood was it made?

Ans. It was a good piece of hickory—heavy for hickory. . . . .

“[The stick was handed to the witness, who declared it to be the same he had sold Mr. Charles Austin.]

Gore. What sticks had he usually bought of you?”—Trial of Selfridge.

Whether the words in brackets should also be in italics is a matter of style. In the following passage from the same report, italics are used: {p94}

Gore. [Showing the fracture of the hat on the fore‐part.] Is not that the fore‐part of the hat, as this leather [that on the hinder part] marks the part of the hat that is worn behind?”

For inserting commas or other points after, before, or within brackets, the same rules apply as in case of marks of parenthesis.

Whether when a noun singular terminates in s, its possessive case requires an additional s is yet an open question. We have no hesitation in giving an affirmative answer, especially in the case of proper names. If Mr. Adams were to manufacture ale, one might, perhaps, from prohibitory considerations, advise him to advertise it as “Adams’ ale”; but should Mr. Adams have no fear of the law, he would avoid all misunderstanding by calling it “Adams’s ale.” It may be objected that the position of the apostrophe makes the matter sufficiently clear without the additional s. Yes,—to the eye; but to the ear the propriety of the additional s becomes very apparent. “Jacob’s pillow” and “Jacobs’s pillow” may be of very different materials. But, to avoid too much sibilation, we read “for conscience’ sake,” “for goodness’ sake,” etc.

The apostrophe, with s subjoined, is used to denote the plural of letters and figures.

“The discipline which is imposed by proving that some x’s are some y’s, and that other x’s are all y’s, will enable you to pulverize any hot‐headed deacon who may hereafter attempt to prove that you had better be looking out for another pastorate.”—Ad Clerum.

“This 7 differs from the other 7’s.” {p95}

The apostrophe may be used in denoting the plural whenever its use will assist in avoiding obscurity.

“The children called loudly for their pa’s and ma’s.”

For convenient reference we append a series of rules and examples, which, we think, will be found useful by teachers and scholars, and our friends of the press.



1. The period is used at the end of every complete sentence which is not interrogative or exclamatory.

2. Sentences interrogative and exclamatory in form, sometimes take the period.

Will you call at my office, say on Tuesday next, or whenever you happen to be in town, and much oblige—

Yours truly,

How much better it is, considering the saving of distance to the pupils, that two small schoolhouses should be built, rather than one large one.

3. The period is put after initials when used alone; also after ab­bre­vi­a­tions.

4. Place a period before decimals, and between pounds and shillings.

5. A period should always be put after roman numerals, except when used in the paging of prefaces, etc.

George III. came to the throne in 1760.

OBSERVATION 1. In many modern works the period is omitted; as,—

William I made a mistake.

There being no comma after “William,” it is supposed to be obvious that the mistake was made by William the First. The insertion or omission of the period is becoming wholly a matter of printing-office style.


6. A colon is put at the end of a clause complete in sense, when something follows which tends to make the sense fuller or clearer. (See Rules 9 and 13.)

There is yet another sphere for the electric motor to fill: that of street railway propulsion.—N. A. Review; April, 1888.

In free states no man should take up arms, but with a view to defend his country and its laws: he puts off the citizen when he enters the camp; but it is because he is a citizen, and would continue to be so, that he makes himself for a while a soldier.—Blackstone’s Commentaries, Book I., Ch. 13.

7. The last of several clauses that introduce a concluding remark or sentiment should be followed by a colon, if the preceding clauses have been punctuated with semicolons.

A pickpocket in every car; a cheat at every station; every third switch on the road misplaced; the danger of being hurled from the track, and then burned alive: these considerations prevent my traveling on the railroad of which you speak.

OBS. 2. In examples like the above, a very common and perhaps better method is to put a comma and dash in place of the colon. The colon is neater, but more old-fashioned. (See second example under Rule 10.)

8. The colon is commonly used whenever an example, a quotation, or a speech is introduced.

The Scriptures give us an amiable representation of the Deity in these words: “God is love.”

OBS. 3. Modern writers, instead of the colon, mostly use the semicolon, dash, or period. Our first example, under Rule 9,—with a colon substituted for the semicolon,—might with propriety have been placed under Rule 6. We prefer the semicolon, however; {p98} and if the word for were inserted in the example mentioned, the colon would be inadmissible:

“Let there be no strife between theology and science; for there need be none.”

In reprinting old works, the colon should be carefully retained, as essential to a clear understanding of them.

The colon is generally placed after as follows, the following, in these words, thus, or any other word or phrase which formally introduces something; and when the matter introduced forms a distinct paragraph, the colon may or may not be followed by a dash, as the style of the author or office may require.


9. When two or more clauses of a sentence are not so closely connected as to admit the use of a comma, a semicolon is used.

Let there be no strife between theology and science; there need be none.

Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

10. When a number of particulars depend on an introductory or a final clause, such particulars may be separated from each other by a semicolon.

There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth the publishing; to get honest men to publish it; and to get sensible men to read it.

To present a general view of the whole Vedic literature; to define its extent; to divide it into well-distinguished classes of writings; to portray the circumstances of their origin, and the stage of cultural development which they represent; and to explain the method of their preservation and transmission to us,—were some of the objects which Müller had in view. {p99}

11. Loosely connected clauses of a sentence should be separated by semicolons, if those clauses or any of them are subdivided by commas.

As the rays of the sun, notwithstanding their velocity, injure not the eye by reason of their minuteness; so the attacks of envy, notwithstanding their number, ought not to wound our virtue by reason of their insignificance.

OBS. 4. In the first sentence of the following example, a comma between the clauses is sufficient, because there are no points in the clauses; but the second sentence may serve to illustrate Rules 11 and 12:

As there are some faults that have been termed faults on the right side, so there are some errors that might be denominated errors on the safe side. Thus, we seldom regret having been too mild, too cautious, or too humble; but we often repent having been too violent, too precipitate, or too proud.

12. When two clauses not closely dependent on each other, are connected by but, for, and, or some similar connective, they are separated by a semicolon.

I will not be revenged, and this I owe to my enemy; but I will remember, and this I owe to myself.

A wise minister would rather preserve peace than gain a victory; because he knows that even the most successful war leaves nations generally more poor, always more profligate, than it found them.

Ingratitude in a superior is very often nothing more than the refusal of some unreasonable request; and if the patron does too little, it is not unfrequently because the dependent expects too much.

13. Phrases are often set off by a semicolon, viz.:

a. Explanatory phrases.

There remain to us moderns, only two roads to success; discovery and conquest.

b. Participial and adjective phrases. {p100}

I have first considered whether it be worth while to say anything at all, before I have taken any trouble to say it well; knowing that words are but air, and that both are capable of much condensation.

These roads are what all roads should be; suitable for light carriages, and for heavy-laden wagons.

c. Any phrase, especially if elliptical, or if divisible into smaller portions by commas.

(OBS. 5. In speaking or in writing, we “almost always leave out some of the words which are necessary to a full expression of our meaning. This leaving out is called the ellipsis.”)

John Milton; born Dec. 9, 1608; completed Paradise Lost, 1665; died Nov. 10, 1674.


14. Repeated words or expressions; three or more serial terms; two unconnected serial terms,—are separated from each other by the comma.

a. Repeated words or expressions.

Shut, shut the door.

I, I, I, I itself, I,
The inside and outside, the what and the why,
The when and the where, and the low and the high,
All I, I, I, I itself, I.

Give me back, give me back the wild freshness of morning.

b. Three or more serial terms.

Shakspeare, Butler, and Bacon have rendered it extremely difficult for all who come after them to be sublime, witty, or profound.

The firm of Smith, Longman, Jones, Llewellyn, & Co.

But some printers, while observing the above rule in general, except the names of firms and railroad companies; which, in their publications, appear as follows: {p101}

The firm of Longman, Jones, Llewellyn & Co.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé R. R. Co.

c. Two unconnected serial terms.

He had a keen, ready wit.

OBS. 6. The second example under a (“The inside and outside, the what and the why,”) furnishes an il­lus­tra­tion of the mode of punctuating terms joined in pairs.

OBS. 7. Style sometimes requires the omission of the comma before and, or, nor, when one of these connectives precedes the last term of a series: as “Shakspeare, Butler and Bacon have rendered it extremely difficult for all who come after them to be sublime, witty or profound.” But when the words are all in the same predicament, the comma should be inserted; e. g.,—if you wish to state that three certain persons are wise, you would point thus:

“Thomas, Richard, and John are wise.”

But if Richard and John are the Solons, and you wish to inform Thomas of that fact, you would point thus:

“Thomas, Richard and John are wise.”

So, in the first example under b, if it is desired to qualify the three adjectives by the phrase “in the highest degree,” the comma after witty must stand: “in the highest degree sublime, witty, or profound.” But if that phrase is intended to apply to sublime only, the pointing should be thus: “in the highest degree sublime, witty or profound.”

15. Phrases, clauses, and words, inverted, or otherwise not in their natural position, generally require to be set off by a comma.

Into this illustrious society, my friend was joyfully received.

When we quarrel with ourselves, we are sure to be losers.

To satisfy you on that point, I will make a short argument.

He, like the world, his ready visits pays,
Where fortune smiles.

Roe, Richard. Doe, John.

OBS. 8. The exceptions to this rule are numerous. If the first and last words of a passage are related (for him the summer wind murmured); if the inverted phrase be brief, and can be read in close connection with what follows (in youth we have little sympathy with the misfortunes of age); or if the principal clause is itself inverted (In the center of the common rises a noble monument),—the comma is usually omitted.

OBS. 9. In long lists of proper names, as Directories, etc., it is usual to omit the comma, although the names are transposed, and to print thus:

16. When the principal sentence is broken to receive an incidental or parenthetic expression, a comma is placed at the break, and another at the end of the inserted clause.

Rulers and magistrates should attempt to operate on the minds of their respective subjects, if possible, by reward rather than punishment.

Some writers, in a vain attempt to be cutting and dry, give us only that which is cut and dried.

It is known to every physician, that, whatever lazy people may say to the contrary, early rising tends to longevity.

Go, then, where, wrapt in fear and gloom,
Fond hearts and true are sighing.

OBS. 10. The former comma is frequently omitted. Especially is this the case when the previous part of the sentence has required commas. Liberal pointing would omit the comma after “where,” in the above example. And in the following sentence, from General Marcy’s “Ramblings in the West,” note the omission of the comma after “and,” and from the parenthetic clause “it was believed”:

This, with the destruction of our trains, consumed the greater part of our winter supplies, and as they could not be replenished from the Missouri River before the following June, General Johnston, the commander, determined to send a detachment directly over the mountains to New Mexico, from whence it was believed supplies could be obtained earlier than from farther east. {p103}

Notice, also, the omission of the comma after “and” and “but,” in the following paragraphs:

He left college; and forsaken by his friends, he took refuge with the parliament party.—Marsh, Eccl. Hist.

The written law is sufficient to decide this case; but inasmuch as the irregularity in question is a fertile source of disputes, the case has been deemed worthy of insertion.—Cavendish.

(The most common parenthetic expressions are at least, at most, accordingly, as it were, beyond question, consequently, doubtless, furthermore, generally speaking, in the mean time, on the other hand, etc.)

17. Words or phrases expressing contrast, or emphatically distinguished, and terms having a common relation to some other term that follows them, require the comma.

a. Contrast or notable difference.

His style is correct, yet familiar.

I asked for money, not advice.

’Twas fat, not fate, by which Napoleon fell.

Although Prince Hohenlohe was far more specific in pointing out what ought to be avoided than in showing what ought to be done, yet there could be no mistaking the course which the government was intending to pursue.

They are charitable, not to benefit the poor, but to court the rich.

OBS. 11. Two contrasted words having a common dependence, and connected by but, though, yet, or as well as, should not be separated; as, There are springs of clear but brackish water.

b. Terms having a common relation to a succeeding term.

Ordered, That the Committee on Banking be, and they hereby are, instructed to report a bill. {p104}

That officer was not in opposition to, but in close alliance with, thieves.

OBS. 12. Some proof-readers, however, omit the second comma, when but a single word follows the latter proposition; as, “Many states were in alliance with, and under the protection of Rome.” The better method is to insert the point. “[Bonner was] an accomplished Italian, and probably also a Spanish, scholar.”—Froude.

18. Correlative terms, or expressions having a reciprocal relation, are separated by a comma.

The farther we look back into those distant periods, all the objects seem to become more obscure.

The more a man has, the more he wants.

As he that knows how to put proper words in proper places evinces the truest knowledge of books, so he that knows how to put fit persons in fit stations evinces the truest knowledge of men.

It is not so difficult a task to plant new truths, as to root out old errors.

Where MacDonald sits, there is the head of the table.

Cincinnatus and Washington were greater in their retirement, than Cæsar and Napoleon at the summit of their ambition; since it requires less magnanimity to win the conquest, than to refuse the spoil.

OBS. 13. Sometimes when that, and generally when as or than, so that or such that is used, the connection is too close to admit the comma.

Cromwell’s enemies say that he always fought with more sincerity than he prayed.

Your house is larger than mine.

Paper is not so good as gold.

The old gentleman is so infirm that he can scarcely move.

He told such a story that we were all deceived by it. {p105}

19. Words used in direct address, and independent and absolute words, with what belongs to them, are separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Q. You say, Mr. Witness, that you were present?

A. Yes, sir.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes.

My son, give me thy heart.

At length, having fought the good fight, he left the world in peace.

To confess the truth, I was in fault.

Richard Roe, his father being dead, succeeded to the estate.

Silence having been obtained, the speaker went on with his remarks.

20. The clauses of a compound sentence may be separated by a comma when the connection is too close for the semicolon.

The winds roared in the woods, and the torrents tumbled from the hills.

Hasten to your homes, and there teach your children to detest the deeds of tyranny.

It has, by some grammarians, been given as a rule, to use a comma to set off every part of a compound sentence, which part has in it a verb not in the infinitive mode.

OBS. 14. A dependent clause should be separated by a comma, unless closely connected.

It argues a defect of method, when an author is obliged to write notes upon his own works.

Unless we hurry to the beach, the tide will overtake us.

Whatever reception the present age may give this work, we rest satisfied with our endeavors to deserve a kind one.

When the Tartars make a Lama, their first care is to place him in a dark corner of the temple.

OBS. 15. If a clause beginning with as, because, if, wherever, how, lest, than, that, when, where, whether, while, why, or any {p106} adverb of time, place, or manner, follows a clause with which it is closely connected in sense, it is not set off by a comma: “He went away when the boat left.” “We love him because he first loved us.” “He will pay if he is able.” “Tell me whether you will return.”

OBS. 16. An infinitive phrase closely connected with what it modifies, should not be set off by a comma; as, “We use language to express our thoughts.” “Nouns do not vary their endings to denote certain cases.” But if the infinitive phrase is preceded by in order, or if it is remote from what it modifies, it should be set off by a comma. “He collected a great many young elms from various parts of England, to adorn his grounds.” “If dissimulation is ever to be pardoned, it is that which men have recourse to, in order to obtain situations which will enlarge their sphere of general usefulness.”

21. A word or phrase used in apposition, to explicate or illustrate a previous word or phrase, should be set off by commas; but if the words in apposition constitute a single phrase or a proper name, they should not be separated.

a. Comma required.

Johnson, that mighty Caliban of literature, is held up to view in the pages of Boswell.

The alligator, or cayman, is found in the Orinoco.

Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, was eminent for his zeal and knowledge.

If the position of the terms in apposition is reversed, commas are required.

The apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, was eminent for his zeal and knowledge.

That old last century poet, Crowley, sings thus.

b. Comma not required.

Johnson the lexicographer completed his dictionary in seven years. {p107}

We the undersigned agree to pay the sums set against our names respectively.

Jeremy the prophet commanded them that were carried away to take of the fire, as it hath been signified.

I Paul have written it with mine own hand.

The poet Chaucer lived in the reign of Richard II.

Sir John Walpole understood two grand secrets of state: the power of principal, and the weakness of principle.

22. A simple sentence usually requires no point except the period at the end of it.

Count Bismarck has preserved a pleasant intimacy with his old preceptor.

OBS. 17. When the subject is a clause ending with a verb, or with a noun that might be mistaken for the nominative, a comma should be inserted before the predicate.

That winter campaigns are undertaken, shows a desire to kill the Indians.

Captain Smith’s obedience to orders, issued in his promotion.

Every year that is added to the age of the world, serves to lengthen the thread of its history.

He that gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth, will come to all other questions with a decided advantage over his opponents.

In the following sentence, a comma after “them” might not be improper (for we once heard a reader place a pause after “attacked”),—but we shall not attack one of General Sherman’s sentences, lest we “get the worst of it.”

During this campaign hundreds if not thousands of miles of similar intrenchments were built by both armies, and as a rule whichever party attacked one of them got the worst of it.—Memoirs Gen. W. T. Sherman.

OBS. 18. Whether a comma should be inserted after the verb to be, when that verb is followed by an infinitive clause which might by transposition be made the nominative, is a question on which the best authorities differ.

First Method.—The highest art of the mind of man is to possess itself with tranquillity in the hour of danger. {p108}

Second Method.—The highest art of the mind of man is, to possess itself with tranquillity in the hour of danger.

We are of opinion that usage is in favor of the omission of the comma, as in the following examples:

The proposed object of the Union Dictionary is to comprehend at once all that is truly useful in Johnson, Sheridan, and Walker.—Thomas Browne.

The grandest of all conditions is to be at once healthy and wise and good.—D’Arcy Thompson.

OBS. 19. When the subject is an infinitive phrase, the better method is not to separate it; as, “To be totally indifferent to praise or censure is a real defect in character.” Still there is excellent authority for inserting a comma, thus: “To be totally indifferent to praise or censure, is a real defect in character.” In sentences of this kind we advise the proof-reader to omit the comma unless the author is uniform in the insertion of it.

OBS. 20. Some grammarians set off by a comma the predicate, when it refers to separated nominatives preceding it; as, “The benches, chairs, and tables, were thrown down.” And, again, we find this example given: “Veracity, justice, and charity, are essential virtues.” So, in the ordinances of the City of Boston, “if any person or persons shall roast any cocoa,” without having complied with certain conditions, “he, she, or they, shall forfeit and pay for every such offense,” etc.,—a comma appearing after they, although a conjunction precedes it. But the weight of authority is against separating the last noun or pronoun of such compound subject from the verb when the conjunction is used. The last quotation, above given, should read, “he, she, or they shall forfeit,” etc.

23. A comma should be placed before or after a word or phrase, to associate it with the group to which it belongs, if, without the comma, the sentence would be equivocal; and generally, a comma may be inserted wherever its use will prevent ambiguity.

This man, only cared to lay up money.

This man only, cared to lay up money.

Whoever lives opprobriously, must perish.

The first maxim among philosophers is, that merit only, makes distinction. {p109}

The delight which I found in reading Pliny, first inspired me with the idea of a work of this nature.—Goldsmith.

My communication was offered and refused.

My communication was offered, and refused on account of its length.

OBS. 21. We recently met with this last sentence, pointed as follows: “My communication was offered and refused, on account of its length”; but it is not easy to see why the length of a communication should be assigned as the reason for having offered it.

“Every favor a man receives in some measure sinks him below his dignity.”—Goldsmith.

OBS. 22. A comma should have been placed after receives.

24. No comma is put between two words or phrases in apposition, following the verbs think, name, make, consider, and others of a similar meaning.

They made him their ruler.

They called him captain.

They saluted him king.

I esteem you my friend.

Believing him an honest man, we elected him treasurer.

We constituted our Secretary a depositary of German books.

I consider him a gentleman.

OBS. 23. Of the terms in apposition, one is the subject, and the other the predicate, of to be, understood (“They made him to be their ruler”). The rule might, therefore, be worded thus: When, of two terms in apposition, one is predicated of the other, no comma is required.

25. In a compound sentence, the comma is often inserted where a verb is omitted.

In literature, our taste will be discovered by that which we give; our judgment, by that which we withhold.

Wit consists in finding out resemblances; judgment, in discerning differences. {p110}

In the pursuit of intellectual pleasure lies every virtue; of sensual, every vice.

Sheridan once observed of a certain speech, that all its facts were invention, and all its wit, memory.

OBS. 24. But sometimes the comma is not inserted: especially when the style is lively; when the clauses have a common relation to something that follows; or when they are connected by a conjunction.

Could Johnson have had less prejudice, Addison more profundity, or Dryden more time, they would have been well qualified for the arduous office of a critic.

The Germans do not appear so vivacious, nor the Turks so energetic, as to afford triumphant demonstrations in behalf of the sacred weed.

The boat was tight, the day fine, the bait tempting, and the fishes hungry.

26. A short quotation, a remarkable expression, or a short observation somewhat in manner of a quotation, is set off by the comma.

Plutarch calls lying, the vice of slaves.

It hurts a man’s pride to say, I do not know.

Cicero observed to a degenerate patrician, “I am the first of my family, but you are the last of yours.”

An upright minister asks, what recommends a man; a corrupt minister, who.

There is an old poet who has said, “No deity is absent, if prudence is with thee.”

They tell me here, that people frequent the theater to be instructed as well as amused.

The old proverb, “Too much freedery breeds despise,” is now rendered, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

OBS. 25. When the introductory clause is short, the comma may be omitted; as “Charles Fox said that restorations are the most bloody of all revolutions.”—“Madame de Staël admits that she discovered, as she grew old, the men could not find out that wit in her at fifty, which she possessed at twenty-five.” {p111}

27. Numbers are divided by the comma into periods of three figures each.

The distance of the sun from the earth is usually stated at 95,000,000 miles.

OBS. 26. In a number expressing the year of an era, the comma is not used; as, July 4, 1876. In tabular work it is very neat and convenient to omit the comma, as in the following example:

The number of letters in 1600 lbs. of Pica is as follows:

a 17000 
b 3200 
c 6000 
d 8800 
e 24000, etc.

OBS. 27. In some offices the style requires all numbers less than 1,000 to be expressed in words; 1,000 and upwards in figures. Some printers insert the comma before hundreds, only when five figures or more occur.

28. Restrictive phrases or clauses are not set off by the comma.

He reviewed such regiments as were armed with Enfield rifles.

They flatter the vanities of those with whom they have to do.

Attend to the remarks which the preacher is about to make.

Bishop Watson most feelingly regrets the valuable time he was obliged to squander away.

A false concord in words may be pardoned in him who has produced a true concord between such momentous things as the purest faith and the profoundest reason.

“He is known by his company” is a proverb that does not invariably apply.

Cattle which live in herds, are subject to various diseases. {p112}

OBS. 28. Adjective elements which are simply descriptive, and not restrictive, should be set off by commas; thus:

Cattle, which live in herds, are subject to various diseases.

The first verse of the fourteenth chapter of Job, in the King James Bible, reads:

Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

The Douay Bible reads:

Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries.

The Protestant Episcopal Burial Service points correctly:

Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.


29. The note of Interrogation is placed at the end of a direct question.

Can gold gain friendship?

Is that the best answer you can give to the fourteenth cross-interrogatory?

Is any among you afflicted?

Oh, lives there, Heaven, beneath thy dread expanse,
One hopeless, dark idolater of Chance?

OBS. 29. When several distinct questions occur in succession, the practice of some writers is to separate them by commas or semicolons, placing the question-mark at the close only; as:

“Where was Lane then; what was his situation?”—Trial of Selfridge.

“Am I Dromio, am I your man, am I myself?”

This we regard as incorrect. Each several question should have the in­ter­ro­ga­tion point.

Dro. S. Do you know me, sir? am I Dromio? am I your man? am I myself? {p113}

Rosalind. What did he when thou saw’st him? What said he? How looked he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with thee? and when shalt thou see him again?

OBS. 30. If several questions in one sentence are joined by connectives, each question takes the note of in­ter­ro­ga­tion. “Have I not all their letters to meet me in arms by the ninth of the next month? and are they not, some of them, set forward already?”

OBS. 31. When a sentence contains several interrogative clauses, having a common relation to, or dependence on, one term, a single in­ter­ro­ga­tion point is sufficient.

“Was I, for this, nigh wrecked upon the sea;
And twice by awkward wind from England’s bank
Drove back again unto my native clime?”

“By sensational preaching do you mean an incoherent raving about things in general and nothing in particular; a perversion of every text; an insult of common sense; a recital of anecdotes which are untrue, and a use of il­lus­tra­tions which are unmeaning?”

Who will count the value to a man to be raised one remove higher above the brute creation; to be able to look with the eye of intelligence, instead of vacant ignorance, upon the world in which he lives; to penetrate as far as mortals may into the mystery of his own existence, and to be made capable of enjoying the rational delights of that existence; to be protected by his knowledge from every species of quackery, fanaticism, and imposture; and to know how to estimate and use the gifts which a beneficent Creator has spread around him?—Prof. L. Stevens, Girard Coll.

“What can preserve my life, or what destroy?”

NOTE.—An assertion stating a question does not take the in­ter­ro­ga­tion point; as, “The question is, what lenses have the greatest magnifying power.”


30. The note of Exclamation is applied to expressions of sudden or violent emotion; such as surprise, grief, joy, love, hatred, etc.

O piteous spectacle! O noble Cæsar! O woful day!

An old lady one day importuning Mahomet to know what {p114} she ought to do, in order to gain Paradise,—“My good lady,” answered the Prophet, “old women never get there.”—“What! never get to Paradise!” returned the matron in a fury. “Never!” says he, “for they grow young by the way!”

Why was this heart of mine formed with so much sensibility! or why was not my fortune adapted to its impulse! Poor houseless creatures! The world will give you reproaches, but will not give you relief.

Ah! well of old the Psalmist prayed
“Thy hand, not man’s, on me be laid!”
Earth frowns below, Heaven weeps above,
And man is hate, but God is love!

31. The exclamation point is used in invocations.

Father of all! in every age adored.

Gentle spirit of sweetest humor who erst did sit upon the easy pen of my beloved Cervantes!

Oh, my brothers! oh, my sisters!
Would to God that ye were near!

32. Several exclamation points are sometimes used together, to express ridicule, or to intensify surprise, etc.

Malherbe observed, that a good poet was of no more service to the church or the state, than a good player at ninepins!!


33. The Dash is used where a sentence breaks off abruptly.

Charles. You must invent some ingenious subterfuge—some—some kind of—

Project. I understand; not a suggestio falsi, but a mild suppressio veri. {p115}

Charles. Oh, is that what you call it? There is a shorter word—

Project. There is; but it is not professional.

I shall divide the subject into fifteen heads, and then I shall argue thus—but, not to give you and myself the spleen, be contented at present with an Indian tale.

34. The dash is used before and after a parenthetic clause, when not closely enough connected to admit the comma.

But it remains—and the thought is not without its comforting significance, however hardly it may bear on individual cases—that no bestowal of bounty, no cultivation of the amenities of life, . . . can wipe out the remembrance of even doubtful loyalty in the day of trial.

OBS. 32. If a parenthetic clause is inserted where a comma is required in the principal sentence, a comma should be placed before each of the dashes inclosing such clause. (See last paragraph on p. 90).

I should like to undertake the Stonyshire side of that estate,—it’s in a dismal condition,—and set improvements on foot.

35. Several clauses having a common dependence, are separated by a comma and a dash from the clause on which they depend.

To think that we have mastered the whole problem of existence; that we have discovered the secret of creation; that we have solved the problem of evil, and abolished mystery from nature and religion and life,—leads naturally to a precipitation of action, a summary dealing with evils, etc. (See Example and Obs. under Rule 7.)

36. The dash is used with the comma, the semicolon, and the colon, which it lengthens, or renders more emphatic. {p116}

We read of “merry England”;—when England was not merry, things were not going well with it. We hear of “the glory of hospitality,” England’s pre-eminent boast,—by the rules of which all tables, from the table of the twenty-shilling freeholder to the table in the baron’s hall and abbey refectory, were open at the dinner-hour to all comers.—Froude.

Matricaria, n. A genus of plants, including the feverfew, or wild camomile;—so called from the supposed value of some species as remedies for certain disorders.—Webster’s Dictionary.

They did it without being at all influenced by the Anabaptists of the continent:—the examples of some of these had rather kept them together.—D’Aubigne.

37. When words are too closely connected to admit a strictly grammatical point, the dash is used to denote a pause.

My hopes and fears
Start up alarmed, and o’er life’s narrow verge
Look down—on what? A fathomless abyss.
The king of France, with twice ten thousand men,
Marched up the hill, and then—marched down again.

38. When a word or phrase is repeated emphatically, or echoed, it is preceded by the dash.

The immediate question is upon the rejection of the President’s message. It has been moved to reject it,—to reject it, not after it was considered, but before it was considered!

The world continues to attach a peculiar significance to certain names,—a significance which at once recurs to one on hearing the isolated name unapplied to any individual.

39. An equivalent expression, or an idea repeated in different words, is properly set off by the comma and dash. {p117}

These are detached thoughts,—memoranda for future use.

Wolsey’s return to power was discussed openly as a probability,—a result which Anne Boleyn never ceased to fear.

There are three kinds of power,—wealth, strength, and talent.

The value of our actions will be confirmed and established by those two sure and sateless destroyers of all other things,—Time and Death.

The present time has one advantage over every other,—it is our own.

Those who submit to encroachments to-day are only preparing for themselves greater evils for to-morrow,—humiliation or resistance.

OBS. 33. In a portion of the examples under this rule, the dash appears to supply the place of viz., or namely.

40. A dash placed between two numbers indicates that the natural series between those numbers is understood.

OBS. 34. If a writer refer to “pp. 90, 95,” he means those two pages only; but if he cite “pp. 90–95,” the reference is to pages 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, and 95.—In dates of the same century, the figures denoting the century are omitted in the second number: “He has the Farmer’s Almanac for 1810–70,—sixty-one years.” (It will be observed, that, under this rule, the short or en dash is used.)

The style of the Government Printing Office, Washington, requires an apostrophe to denote the elision of the centuries; as 1889–’90.

41. An Ellipsis of letters is denoted by a dash.

42. When a sentence is abrupted (1) to form a heading, or (2) for a signature, or (3) to admit a {p118} new paragraph, or for other purposes, a dash is used at the break; as:

From the preceding tables we are now able to formulate in concise language the—


1. The number of employees . . . is at least 1,250,000.—Mass. Labor Report.

It is useless for you to dissemble in the presence of—

Yours, etc.


The greatest cowards in our regiment were the greatest rascals in it. There was Sergeant Kumber and Ensign—

We’ll talk of them, said my father, another time.—Sterne.


The Hyphen is used to denote the division of a
word into syllables; as, in-ter-dict: it is placed at the
end of a line (usually at the close of a syllable),
when a word is not finished: and it connects the
parts of a compound word; as, “At Cambridge,
Cecil was present at the terrible and never-to-be-for-
battle between Cheke and Gardiner on the
pronunciation of the Greek epsilon, which convulsed
the academic world.” (See p. 84, et seq.)

The Apostrophe is used to abbreviate a word; as, ’tis for it is, tho’ for though, don’t for do not. It denotes the possessive case; as, “John’s hat,” “three years’ service,” “one hour’s work,” “two days’ notice,” “Smith & Co.’s shops,” “Brook’s book,” “Brooks’s book.” It appears in names; as, O’Brien; M’[Mac]Mahon. {p119}

In French, no space is put after an apostrophe denoting elision; as, “d’or”: in Italian, a space is inserted, as, “n’ arrivi.”

A turned comma sometimes denotes the ac in Mac; as, MʻDonough.

Two commas (usually turned) are often used instead of do. (ditto).

Quotation marks [“ ” or ‟ ”] are used to include a copied passage. If the copied passage itself contains a quotation, the latter is denoted by single marks [‘ ’ or ‛ ’]; as, “My father said in banter, ‘James, the notes are not correct.’ The farmer dryly answered, ‘I dinna ken what they may be noo; but they were a’ richt afore ye had your fingers in amang ’em.’”

In some publications a little labor is saved by using single marks for the principal quotations, and double if there happen to be inserted ones; as in a recent novel by Mrs. Humphrey Ward:

‘To plunge into the Christian period without having first cleared the mind as to what is meant in history and literature by “the critical method” which in history may be defined,’ etc.

The same neat style is used in Max Müller’s Translation of Kant:

What Kant felt in his heart of hearts we know from some remarks found after his death among his papers. ‘It is {p120} dishonorable,’ he writes, ‘to retract or deny one’s real convictions, but silence in a case like my own, is the duty of a subject; and though all we say must be true, it is not our duty to declare publicly all that is true.’—Preface.

Brackets are used to inclose words omitted by a writer or copyist; as, “Were you [on the] deck of the steamer at the [time] of the collision?” (In the Holy Scriptures, supplied words are put in italics: “Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law.”) Explanations inserted in text are usually inclosed in brackets; as in the following instance, from “The Life of Dr. Goldsmith”: “You see, my dear Dan, how long I have been talking about myself. [Some mention of private family affairs is here omitted.] My dear sir, these things give me real uneasiness,” etc.

Marks of Parenthesis are used to inclose a sentence, or part of a sentence, which is inserted in another sentence: “One Sunday morning, when her daughter (afterwards Lady Elton) went into the kitchen, she was surprised to find a new jack (recently ordered, and which was constructed on the principle of going constantly without winding up) wholly paralyzed and useless.”

The Index [☞] is used to draw attention to some particular passage. Sometimes an Asterism [⁂] is used for the same purpose. Where there are many footnotes on a page, the Index is a proper reference mark. {p121}

The Caret [‸] is used in writing, to denote the point where an interlineation is to be inserted. It is sometimes used in printing when the exact character of a manuscript is to be represented,—as in “exhibits” in law work.

The Brace [curly bracket, horizontal] is used to connect a number of words with one common term; and sometimes in poetry, to connect three lines which rhyme together:

Moore’s Works, curly bracket, large
Saurin’s Sermons, $1.75 each.
Lewis’s Plays,
Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfined, curly bracket, large
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind,
While prayers, to heal her wrongs, move slow behind.

Marks of Ellipsis or Omission are the dash; as, “Col. Sm—h”: or asterisks; as, “Col. Sm**h”: or, neatest of all, points; as, “Col. Sm . . h.”

Leaders are dots which lead the eye from something on the left of the page, to some connected matter on the right:

Accents are the Grave [`], the Acute [´], and the Circumflex [^]: è is read by the copy-holder grave e; é, acute e; ê, circumflex e.

Marks of Quantity are the Long, as over o in “shōw”; the Short, or Breve, as over o in “nŏt”; and the Diæresis, which denotes that the latter of {p122} two vowels is not in the same syllable as the former; as, “zoölogy,” “Antinoüs.”

The Cedilla is a curve line under the letter c, to denote that it has the sound of s; as in “garçon,” “façade.” It appears in words from the French language. Worcester uses it also to denote the soft sounds of g, s, and x; as in “mişle,” “ex̧aģģerate.” Webster uses it only to denote the soft sound of c, as in “min-çing-ly.” We remark here, by the way, that in dividing such words as “bra-cing,” “min-cing,” “convin-cing,” etc., the c should be carried over, thereby preserving its proper sound. For a similar reason divide “enga-ging,” “ra-ging,” etc., on the a. Whether “ma-gis-trate” should follow this rule is a matter of style. There are offices which so divide it, while others divide on the g. We prefer to syllable the word as we have written it,—on the a.

The Spanish ñ has the sound of n in onion; as, “Señor,” “cañon.”

Umlaut (pron. ōōmlowt), as defined by Webster, is the change or modification of a vowel sound, peculiar to the Germanic languages; as in German, Mann, man, Männer or Maenner, men. The name Roelker may also be written Rölker.

¶ denotes the beginning of a paragraph, as may be noticed in the Sacred Scriptures. In proof-reading and in manuscript, it is used to denote where a paragraph or break should be made. {p123}

§ denotes a section; §§, sections; as, Gen. Stat., Chap. IX., § 19, and Chap. X., §§ 20 and 21.

Reference to notes at the bottom of the page (commonly termed footnotes) is usually made by the asterisk, *, the obelisk, or dagger, †; the double obelisk, or double dagger, ‡; the section, §; the parallels, ‖; the paragraph, ¶; and the index, ☞;—but a neater mode is to use superiors; as, 1, 2, 3, or a, b, c, commencing with 1 or a on each page where notes occur.

In concluding our chapter on punctuation, we venture to say to our friends at the case, that, in our opinion, no system of pointing can be of uniform and universal application. Men differ as much in style of writing as in personal appearance, and we might as well expect the same robe to fit all forms, as that one set of rules shall nicely apply to the endless diversities of diction.

Other things being equal however, he who has paid most attention to rule will punctuate with the nearest approximation to correctness. With a clear understanding of an author’s meaning, the compositor seldom need go far astray; and if, having done his best, he finds any passage hopelessly involved, or the meaning too subtile to be grasped, he has one safe resource,—and that is, to FOLLOW THE COPY closely and mechanically. Could he have for reference a few pages preceding a doubtful passage, the whole matter might become perfectly clear; but, as that is out of the question, those pages being scattered as {p124} “takes” in other hands, let the compositor adopt the safe course,—FOLLOW COPY,—resting assured that no person whose opinion he need value, could possibly think of finding fault with him for leaving responsibility where it properly belongs.


Webster defines Orthography as “the art of writing words with the proper letters, according to common usage”; Worcester, as “the art or the mode of spelling words.” They agree in this: that there are some words—two or three thousand, perhaps—whose orthography common usage has not settled. Prefixed to either Dictionary is a list showing in double column the most prevalent methods of spelling words of doubtful orthography; thus:

Abettor Abetter
Escalade Scalade
Germane Germain, German

The first column in the Webster List “presents the orthography recognized in the body of [the] Dictionary as the preferable one, or that in general use.” But “when in this list the word in the first column is followed by or, as ‘Abatis, or Abattis,’ it is implied that the second form is nearly, often quite, in as good use as the first.” When the word in the first column differs in meaning from that in the second, the word in the first is followed by and, as ‘Lunet, and Lunette,’ both words being in use, but applied to different things. {p126}

The orthography in the first column of the Worcester List “is deemed to be well authorized, and in most cases preferable; but with respect to the authority of that in the right-hand column, there is a great diversity. Both orthographies of some of the words are right, the words being differently spelled when used in different senses”; as, “Draught, or Draft,” “Subtle, or Subtile,” etc. Sometimes and is used as the connective; as, “Canvas, and Canvass.” But these double arrangements are of almost no service to the proof-reader or compositor,—for the interchangeable words cannot both be inserted in his work. If he could use the various spellings, it would save the trouble of weighing authorities: we should then have such sentences as these:

The hostler or ostler inveigled or enveigled the horses into the stockade or stoccade. Meanwhile the infantry landed at the jettee or jetty or jetta or jutty, and at once constructed an abatis or abattis or abbatis, as it behooved or behoved them.

Of these various correct spellings, one must be selected to the exclusion of the rest. But there being no common usage, no academy to instruct, and the copy not being uniform, who or what is to guide the printers and proof-readers in making the selection? “For the last eighty years [or more], printers have exercised a general control over English orthography,”—and we, to carry the general control a little farther, propose to set forth for general use one list from Webster’s first column, exhibiting only one single correct spelling, to be used where the Webster style prevails; and a similar list from Worcester’s {p127} first column, to be used where the Worcester style has the precedence. Would there were a Smithsonian Bureau of the English Language, to render two lists unnecessary; and to give one style to Government work,—a style which should have the approval of Congress, and to which all printing done by or for the various Departments of the United States Government should be conformed.


[From the column which, he says, “presents the orthography recognized in the body of this Dictionary (Wb. Unabridged) as the preferable one, or that in general use.” But since he places in his first column various spellings of the same words,—e. g. under A, Ædile; under E, Edile,—we have, in accordance with our plan, omitted that spelling which we have observed to be neglected by readers who profess to follow Webster. We have inserted in brackets some words from the second column which have a different signification from their congeners in the first; also in brackets, some words from the defining columns, and such remarks and explanations as may be of service to printers and others.]


[The following vocabulary exhibits the orthography apparently deemed preferable by Worcester. It will, we believe, be found very convenient in offices where the Worcester style is in favor,—as the preceding list will prove to be where the Webster style is in vogue. Any remarks which we have inserted, and a few additional words, are in brackets.]

There is a large class of words ending either in able or ible, amounting to more than sixteen hundred. For these we know of no general rule which can be given, that would readily indicate the proper termination. In practice, writers and printers, with rare exceptions, are obliged at times to depend on something besides memory to secure correctness; and if the dictionary is not at hand, the wrong termination may—as in fact it often does—get into print. So excellent a work as “The American First Class Book” prints an extract from Webster’s Plymouth oration thus:

If any practices exist, contrary to the principles of justice and humanity, within the reach of our laws or our influence, we are inexcusible if we do not exert ourselves to restrain and abolish them. {p155}

And in a periodical which is sent broadcast over the United States, occurs the following paragraph (April 24, 1888), copied from a report made by Henry Clay in 1838:

That authors and inventors have, according to the practice among civilized nations, a property in the respective productions of their genius is incontestible, etc.

We append below, for convenient reference, a catalogue of the words referred to, including (1) those in present use; (2) those that are rare; and (3) the obsolete. The latter often occur in reprints, and are sometimes resuscitated or galvanized for a present purpose,—as, for instance, in a recent popular novel, of wide circulation, there occurs three or more times, the word “ineluctable,” denoted by Webster as obsolete. We may have omitted some words that should have been inserted, but believe we have accomplished our object within very negligible limits of error.

A word in parenthesis indicates a various mode of spelling the word immediately preceding.








Errors sometimes occur in forming the plural of nouns in o. We frequently see frescoes, mottos,—both wrong. The general rule is, If the final o has a vowel before it, form the plural by adding s: as “cameo, cameos”; if a consonant precede the final o, add es; as “archipelago, archipelagoes.” Such exceptions to the general rule as are most frequently met with, and a few that are rare, we here subjoin: {p168}

Albino Albinos
Armadillo Armadillos
Busto Bustos
Canto Cantos
Catso Catsos
Cento Centos
Dido Didos
Domino Dominos
Duo Duos
Duodecimo Duodecimos
Embryo Embryos
Exaltado Exaltados
Folio Folios
Fresco Frescos
Gaucho Gauchos
Grotto Grottos
Halo Halos
Inamorato Inamoratos
Internuncio Internuncios
Junto Juntos
Lasso Lassos
Limbo Limbos
Memento Mementos
Merino Merinos
Mestizo Mestizos
Nuncio Nuncios
Octavo Octavos
Octodecimo Octodecimos
Piano Pianos
Portico Porticoes, Wb. or Porticos, Wor.
Portfolio Portfolios
Proviso Provisos
Punctilio Punctilios
Quarto Quartos
Rotundo Rotundos
Salvo Salvos
Sextodecimo Sextodecimos
Sirocco Siroccos
Solo Solos
Trio Trios
Two Twos
Tyro Tyros
Virtuoso Virtuosos
Zero Zeros

But “albugo” has pl. “albugines”; and to “imago” we should probably have to write pl. “imagines.” There are many nouns ending in o, for whose plurals we have not found any authority beyond the general rule. With the exceptions given above, the rule may be safely followed. The plural of “portico” is a matter of style: and there is some authority for “quartoes.”


Words ending with the sound of ize are variously spelled ise or ize. Of this class the correct spelling of the following words is ise; nearly if not quite all others take ize. {p169}


Many persons find it difficult or impossible to recollect the relative position of e and i, in such words as receive, believe, etc. If they will bear in mind the following rule, it may save them the trouble of referring to a dictionary for this point.

When the derivative noun ends in tion, the verb is spelled with ei: thus,—

Conception Conceive
Deception Deceive
Reception Receive

But when the noun does not end in tion, the verb is spelled with ie: as,—

Belief Believe


Disregarding the dissyllable scion, we think there are but three words in use having this termination, viz.: Coercion, Ostracion, Suspicion. Two obsolete words are Internecion and Pernicion. {p170}


The language has been sometimes enriched by retaining the several forms of a “doubtful” word, as in the case of draft and draught, each form having limitations of meaning peculiar to itself. Ensure and Insure we propose to consider distinct words rather than various spellings of the same words. So, also, of Enure and Inure.


To persons who have paid no special, technical attention to the subject, cap­i­tal­i­za­tion appears a very simple matter. The rules are few and easily understood; but as to the “application of them” there is some perplexity and much diversity among authors, printers, and proof-readers. Practically, the main difficulty seems to arise from the want of a plain line of demarkation between common nouns and proper nouns! Some write and print “Pacific Ocean” as the proper name of a certain collection of water; others, “Pacific ocean,”—ocean being a common noun. We may, perhaps, recur to this abstruse matter farther on; but at present we will lay down such rules as we have used in our own labors, and which we deem to be correct. It will be very convenient for us, and therefore we hope excusable, to adopt two phrases from the expressive terminology of the printing-office, where some words are said to be “put up,” and others to be “put down”; e. g.:

“When Music, heavenly maid, was young.”

Here “Music” is said to be “put up,” because it begins with a capital “M,” and “maid” is “put down,” because it begins with a small “m.” {p172}

“Abelard taught Eloisa music.”

Here “Abelard,” “Eloisa” are “put up,” and “music” is “put down.”

This premised, understood, and forgiven, we are ready for the—


Rule 1. The initial letter of every sentence should be a capital.

Yours received. Glad to hear from you. Will answer next week.

Capitals, Y, G, W, as per Rule 1.

And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.—Genesis 4 : 13.

Capitals, A and M; for here are two sentences, although one is included in the other.

Cain said that his punishment was greater than he could bear.

Capital C, by Rule 1; but the included words of Cain being brought in obliquely, no capital is required.

Cicero said, “There is no moment without some duty”; and who doubts the wisdom of Cicero?

C and T are put up, by Rule 1.

On the first day of January, Artemus Ward made this remark: Now is a good time to resoloot.

O and N are put up, by Rule 1.

Few truisms are truer than this paradox of Aristotle,—To mankind in general, the parts are greater than the whole.

F and T are put up, by Rule 1.

It has been said, that the included sentence should not be capitalized unless immediately preceded by a colon: but the {p173} above examples show, that a sentence directly introduced must be capitalized, whatever point precedes it,—comma, comma-dash, colon, or any other pause-mark.

He asked why he was arrested, and we replied that he was arrested on suspicion.

Initial capital H, by Rule 1.

He asked, “Why am I arrested?” and we replied, “On suspicion.”

Here are three initial capitals, and properly; for the reply, fully expressed, would be, “You are arrested on suspicion.”

So, also, captions, head-lines, side-heads, etc., being imperfect sentences, fall under Rule 1. The same is true of particulars depending from a general heading; as—

We have remarked above, on the passage from Genesis, that a sentence introduced obliquely requires no capital. In the following example, whether Sparta should be inclosed with walls is an indirect question, and is not capitalized; while the answer, being direct, takes a capital.

To the question whether Sparta should be inclosed with walls, Lycurgus made this answer: “That city is well fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick.”

Kerl’s rule (Grammar, p. 41) is “Within a sentence, the first word of any important beginning may commence with a capital letter.” This rule is probably as precise as can be framed to meet his first example, “Resolved, That our Senators be requested, etc.” His second example, “One truth is clear: Whatever is, is right,” falls within his rule, and our Rule 1. (See page 81, for cap­i­tal­iz­ing, etc., preambles, resolutions, provisos, etc.) {p174}

When a sentence is introduced obliquely, a capital is not required, even if the passage introduced have quotation marks, and make perfect sense without the introductory prefix, as in the following example:

It is remarked by Parton, that “a man who retains to the age of seventy-nine the vigor of manhood and the liveliness of a boy, cannot, at any period of his life, have egregiously violated the laws of his being.”

2. The first letter in every line of poetry should be a capital.

When on the larboard quarter they descry
A liquid column towering shoot on high,
The guns were primed; the vessel northward veers,
Till her black battery on the column bears.
Falconer’s Shipwreck.
Thereat the champions both stood still a space,
To weeten what that dreadful clamor meant:
Lo! where they spied with speedy whirling pace
One in a charet of strange furniment,
Towards them driving like a storm outsent.
The charet deckèd was in wondrous wise
With gold and many a gorgeous ornament,
After the Persian monarch’s antique guise,
Such as the maker’s self could best by art devise.
Spenser’s Faerie Queene.

But in reprinting ancient hymns, etc., follow the ancient style,—as in the following from the Bible printed in London by Robert Barker, in 1615:

Here is the Spring where waters flow,
to quench our heat of sinne:
Here is the Tree where trueth doth grow,
to leade our liues therein:
This is the Iudge that stints the strife
when mens deuices faile:
Here is the Bread that feeds the life
that death can not assaile.

3. Principal words in the titles of books, of important documents, of proclamations, of edicts, of conventions, and words of especial distinction in monographs, should be put up.

Who is the author of “The Mill on the Floss”?

The English barons obtained Magna Charta, or the Great Charter, from King John, A.D. 1215.

When the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV., above 50,000 Huguenots fled from France.

The father of Watts the hymnist, suffered much after the withdrawal of the Declaration of Indulgence.

Every State having chess clubs in its cities should organize a State Chess Association, and these associations should send delegates to the Annual Convention of the National Association.—Phil. Ledger.

The President of the United States, the Sovereign of England, and the Governors of the several States of our Union, issue proclamations. Despots issue edicts,—sometimes called by the more general name of “decrees,” as in Ezra 6 : 1, 3. From Esther 1 : 19–22 we learn that a “royal commandment” was sent into all the king’s provinces, “that every man should bear rule in his own house.” If any of our readers have occasion to put in type, or read the proof of, the title of an edict or decree, they will, of course, make it agree with the rule. Of proclamations we have several every year. Frequently all the letters of the titles are capitals; otherwise, the capitals appear as in the following example:

Governor of the State [or Commonwealth] of ——.

A PROCLAMATION for a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.

In a monograph of a geological survey the following paragraph appears:

The dark laminated clays of the Cretaceous passing up into the Upper Cretaceous are well shown . . . . passing up {p176} into brown sandstones of the Coal group. There is great uniformity in the Upper Cretaceous and Tertiary series.—

Hayden, Survey Montana.

Webster says, that the Carboniferous age “embraces three periods, the Subcarboniferous, the Carboniferous, and the Permian,” but the Fifth Ann. Rep. U. S. Geol. Survey, doubtless for some good reason, changes the style to the sub-Carboniferous (v. remark under Rule 8, on “transatlantic,” etc.).

The main subject under discussion being Woman Suffrage, those words were properly capitalized in the following paragraph:

It is conceded . . . that the avowal even, of faith in the principle of Woman Suffrage, would handicap the party most seriously.

In accordance with Rule 3 was this direction touching a Report on Education:

Spell “report” with capital R, when it refers to this Report; l. c. [lower-case] in other cases.

Presidential, imperial, kingly, ducal, etc., titles are put down when used generally, but are put up when applied to persons. In the following example “an emperor” is down, while “the Emperor” is put up.

The events which now took place in the interior of Germany were such as usually happened when either the throne was without an emperor, or the Emperor without a sense of his imperial dignity.—Schiller’s Thirty Years’ War.

Beginning with President Washington and including President Harrison, the United States has had twenty-three presidents.

4. Names and appellations of the Supreme Being should be capitalized.

We forbear inserting a list of the sacred names, too often written and uttered “in vain.” The reader is probably {p177} familiar with them from listening to Sabbath services, and reading religious books with which, we hope, his library abounds.

The word “providence” should be put down or up, according to its meaning, as may be seen in the two following sentences:

But behold now another providence of God; a ship came into the harbor. . . . This ship had store of English beads and some knives.—New England’s Memorial.

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.—Milton.

Nouns ordinarily common become proper when written as names of the Supreme Being.

I hope my merciful Judge will bear in mind my heavy punishment on earth.—Pickwick Papers, ch. 44.

Emerson refers “all productions at last to an aboriginal Power.”—Century Maga.

Plato said, that in all nations certain minds dwell on the “fundamental Unity,” and “lose all being in one Being.”—Ib.

In the above examples, the effect of capitals in conveying the idea of personality is strikingly illustrated.

Pronouns referring to the Deity are not usually put up,—excepting the personals “He,” “Him.”

O thou, whose justice reigns on high.—Watts.

O thou, Most High—Ps. 56 : 2.

Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness.—Common Prayer.

Thou, whose, thine, thy, properly lower-case.

Usage is ununiform as to cap­i­tal­iz­ing the pronoun of the third person, when referring to the Deity; some using the capital in all three cases (He, His, Him), while others capitalize the nominative and objective, and put “his” down; and still others put all the cases down.

God does love us. As any loving father or mother, He wants us to want His society, and to love to be with and talk with Him.—Congregationalist.

Small letter in the possessive, capital in the objective: {p178}

All the works of God . . . declare the glory of his perfections. . . . But how gross are the conceptions generally entertained of the character of Him “in whom we live and move!”

Dick. Improv’t Soc. § VI.

All the cases down:

. . . They can know but little . . . of that happiness which God has prepared for them that love him; but . . . this suffices them, that they shall see him as he is, etc. . . . the expectation founded upon his own gracious promise, etc.—Rev. John Newton’s Sermon on the “happy recovery” of King George (modern reprint).

But, whatever the style of the office, there is one category in which the personal pronoun must be capitalized: it is when no antecedent is expressed. Such cases are not of infrequent occurrence. If one were to write—

In all her troubles this good lady never failed to express her confidence in the care of him in whom she had put her trust—

the meaning would be doubtful; “him” might refer to some humane relative, or to the superintendent of the almshouse. But if the sentence were written—

. . . this good lady never failed to express her confidence in the care of Him in whom, etc.—

the meaning—that the Deity is intended—becomes clear.

Adjuncts qualifying names applied to Deity usually require no capitals:

For when we consider ourselves as the creatures of God . . . what can induce us to love, fear, and trust Him, as our God, our Father, and all-sufficient Friend and Helper.—

Mason’s Self-Knowledge.

Here “all-sufficient” is properly put down; as are also “great” and “common” in the following paragraph:

Not only honor and justice, and what I owe to man is my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its great Governor our common Parent.—Harris. {p179}

But many cases occur where the adjective is properly put up; especially if the adjective itself denotes sacredness, as the following examples show:

Klopstock . . . suffers himself to forget that the [French] revolution itself is a process of the Divine Providence.—

Coleridge Biog. Lit.

Among the greater number of pagan nations, the most absurd and grovelling notions are entertained respecting the Supreme Intelligence, and the nature of that worship which his perfections demand.—Dick.

We are apt to entertain narrow conceptions of the Divine Nature.—Addison.

The words “Christian” and “Christianity” the best usage puts up; nor does there seem to be any good reason why “christianize” should not also be capitalized.

There are instances where the word “divine,” though referring to sacred personages, should not be put up; as—

If Christ did not hold this key, how is He divine?—


The words “godly,” “godfather,” “godmother” are put down: Webster has “godspeed,” and says it is “written also as two separate words, as in 2 John 10.” Worcester does not admit the phrase as one word in his defining columns, but prints it as two, under the word “God”; quoting the same text as Webster. The Congressional Record, 50th Congress, uses capital and hyphen, thus: “God-speed”; and this form is adopted by Abbot Bassett, the talented editor of the L. A. W. Bulletin, in his Farewell to former Chief Consul Hayes:

Take now the hand we so often have shaken,
Speak from our feelings so hard to subdue,
Send him in joyfulness out from our circle,
Give him a hearty God-speed and adieu.

Still Webster’s style of one word, lower-case, is, we think, preferable, and most used.

The word “gospel” when used generally,—in the sense of good tidings,—should be down; as “Woe is me, if I {p180} preach not the gospel.” But when used as part of a title to a specific book, it goes up; as “The Gospel according to St. Matthew”; “The Apocryphal Gospel of St. Thomas”; “The Gospel of St. Luke.”

5. Names of ancient Greek and Roman divinities, and of all pagan and heathen gods, should be put up.

When the word “god” or “goddess” is applied to a paganic divinity, it is put down. This remark and our Rule 5 are both exemplified in Darwin’s lines,—

First two dread snakes, at Juno’s vengeful nod,
Climbed round the cradle of the sleeping god.
Botanic Garden.

So, also, 1 Kings 11 : 33:

Worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon.

The names applied to evil spirits should be put up:

And Satan came also among them.—Job 1 : 6.

Then Apollyon said unto Christian, “Here will I spill thy soul.”—Bunyan.

During a violent thunderstorm, the converted Chinese steward disappeared. The captain found him below, making prostrations before a gilded image. “How is this?” demanded the astonished captain; “I thought you were a Christian.” The Chinaman replied, “Your God velly well, fine weather; stolm like this, want Joss.”

In the above example, the objects of Christian and pagan worship are properly capitalized.

From the foregoing remarks, etc., especially under Rule 4, it will be perceived that cap­i­tal­i­za­tion is, in the department of theology as in all others, mostly regulated by office style. But in forming a style, the above rules and examples may be found serviceable.

6. The pronoun I, and the interjection O, should always be put up. {p181}

I scarcely knew how long I had sat there when I became aware of a recognition.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.—Ps. cxlvi.

But in Latin the “O” is frequently put down.

Huc ades, ô formosa puer.—Virgil.

Adestes o Maria, o Angele, o Patroni castitatis meæ.—
Libellus Precum, Georgiopoli, D.C.

7. Some words which are put down when spelled in full, are put up when contracted.

The Dr. called upon me. Need I say, I regretted the happiness of seeing the doctor?

“Patent-office, number 16” may be written, “Patent-office, No. 16.”

The honorable the Secretary of the Navy.

The Hon. the Secretary of the Navy.

But certain suffixes, whether spelled in full or contracted, are put up or down, or in small caps, capitalized, according to the style of the words to which they are suffixed; as, for instance, the words “junior” and “esquire,” which are put one degree less in dignity than the words to which they are attached; as:

John Smith, jr., esq., [or “junior, esquire.”]

The person’s name being lower-case capitalized, “jr.” and “esq.” are put down.

JOHN DOE, Jr. Esq., [or “Junior, Esquire.”]

The names being small caps, capitalized, the “jr.” and “esq.” are put up.


The names being in capitals, the suffixes are capitals and small capitals.

But “D.D.” “LL.D.” “M.D.” etc., are put in large or small capitals according to office style, or a style adapted for the work in which they appear: as— {p182}


Words connected with a number of designation are often put up,—and this is the better way. So, though the words “Bay,” “Dock,” etc., in the following examples may properly be put down if the office style require it, yet the unfettered compositor and reader will prefer to put up those, and all words similarly placed; as:

The planks of Bay No. 6 on Chelsea Bridge have been replaced by ordinary boards purchased at Dock No. 8.

We arrived at Station 16, and proceeded thence through Lock 12 to Dam No. 8.

8. Names of persons, of things personified, of nations, countries, cities, towns, streets, ships, etc., should be put up.

Capt. Samuel Jones sailed in ship Minerva, from Sandy Hook to Tanjong Bolus, the most southerly point of the continent of Asia.

A charming and spirituelle Frenchwoman said of Julius Mohl, that Nature, in forming his character, had skimmed the cream of the three nationalities to which he belonged by birth, by adoption, and by marriage; making him “deep as a German, spirituel as a Frenchman, and loyal as an Englishman.”—Atlantic Monthly.

Charles, Susan, William, Henrietta Matilda, Benjamin Harrison Smith, come in, this minute!

Under this rule proper adjectives may also be classed; as:

The French and American Claims Commission.

He is familiar with the German, French, Russian, Bengalee, Chinese, and Grebo languages.

Is the Monroe doctrine heartily concurred in by European nations?

Names of political parties should be put up.

Democrat, Democratic, Democracy, Republican, Republicanism, Woman-Suffragists, Women’s Rights party, Locofocos, Whigs, Tories, Free-Soilers, Liberals, Independents, etc. {p183}

But when any of these words are used in a general sense, they should be put down; as:

Whatever requires to be done by slow and cautious degrees does not accord with the spirit of democracy.—De Staël.

The tendency of some European nations is toward republicanism.

The words “state” and “territory” applied to political divisions of the United States should be put up; as:

The State of North Dakota. The Territory of Utah.

This State gave a Republican majority.

Some nouns and adjectives originally proper have, by usage, the common form; as:

We sell silver, china, and iron wares.

There is great demand for india-rubber goods.

His pets are guinea-pigs and guinea-hens.

That maltese cat follows her everywhere.

He wears russia-leather boots, morocco gaiters, and a fez cap when dancing the german.

The burglars secured six german silver spoons.

Numbers are denoted by roman capitals or arabic figures.

There are some words yet on debatable ground. It is safe to write “plaster of Paris” or “plaster of paris.” The latter form is well enough for so common an article, and should be preferred by compositors.

Some words which are put up when alone, are put down when they coalesce with a preposition; as:

I crossed the Atlantic to view transatlantic countries.

The transpacific people are apt merchants.

But some write “inter-State,” “cis-Platine,” “trans-Atlantic,” “cis-Padane,” “cis-Alpine,” etc. We know of no good authority for such work. It has no countenance from our lex­i­cog­raphers: and the hyphen and capital in the middle of the words are needless deformities.

NOTE. The “etc.” in Rule 7 is like one spoken of by Coke (an “etc.” of Littleton, I am told), “full of {p184} excellent meaning.” Descending from the name of a continent to the designations “beat,” “precinct,” “alley”; or ascending from “wharf,” “alley” to the name of a continent, through lessening or increasing subdivisions, the line must be drawn somewhere between what is to be put up and what is to be put down. Just where the line is drawn between capital and lower-case initials, between the aristocrats of the page and hoi polloi, is of very little consequence; but as uniformity in a work is desirable while proof-readers are liable to differ, it is as important to have an umpire in a proof-room as it is on a base-ball ground. And as cap­i­tal­i­za­tion is wholly arbitrary, the essential qualities of an umpire are, that he shall have a good memory, so as not to overset to-day the decisions of yesterday, and a strong will of his own, which shall not allow any obstinate reader to step across the important imaginary line which separates the ups from the downs,—the majuscules from the minuscules.

If a printing-office requires the services of but one reader, he, happy man, can suit himself, even though reasonably sure that he will suit nobody else—so various and set are the opinions of men on matters of trifling moment. If, however, two readers are employed, and on the same work, the one with the best judgment should be allowed to decide all doubtful points; but in this case, as in matrimonial life, the question as to which has the best judgment, is usually decided, if not by the strongest will, by the will of the party most reckless of consequences. But in proof-reading, any point in dispute is usually so trifling, that the readers can call in the office-boy, technically called printer’s —— but we were once youngest apprentice ourself, and choose to forget the word,—and let him settle it; whereas, in matrimonial life it is a different Agency with a similar name who is generally called in, and “by decision more embroils the fray.” {p185}

To show the absurdity of supposing that good readers will not differ in the use of capitals, we once wrote a paragraph, and gave an exact copy to each of two skilled proof-readers, desiring them to capitalize it as they thought it should be capitalized if about to go to press. We will here give the paragraph as we wrote it—without regard to rules—and then exhibit their corrections, etc., in parallel columns:

Mr. Quilp lives on a wharf which is connected by an alley with a city reservation in beat 17, precinct 8, ward 14. Said reservation is called poplar square; an avenue, known as chestnut avenue, connects that square with Washington street; and Washington street is a thoroughfare connecting the Snowhill division of Junction city with the city of Boomerang, the capital of the state of Cherokee—a state just admitted to the union, and to all the privileges of this happy nation, the United States of America,—the foremost republic of the western hemisphere.

That the differences and agreements in cap­i­tal­iz­ing may be readily observed, the two returned copies, as left by their respective readers, are printed below, side by side.

Mr. Quilp lives on a wharf which is connected by an alley with a city reservation in beat 17, precinct 8, ward 14. Said reservation is called Poplar square; an avenue, known as Chestnut avenue, connects that square with Washington street; and Washington street is a thoroughfare connecting Snowhill division of Junction City with the city of Boomerang, the capital of the State of Cherokee—a State just admitted to the Union, and to all the privileges of this happy nation, the United States of America—the foremost republic of the western hemisphere. Mr. Quilp lives on a wharf which is connected by an alley with a city reservation in Beat 17, Precinct 8, Ward 14. Said reservation is called Poplar Square; an avenue, known as Chestnut avenue, connects that square with Washington street; and Washington street is a thoroughfare connecting Snowhill division of Junction City with the city of Boomerang, the capital of the State of Cherokee—a State just admitted to the Union, and to all the privileges of this happy nation, the United States of America—the foremost republic of the Western Hemisphere.

One of these styles may be just as good as the other (see chapter on “Style”); but whichever were selected, should be strictly adhered to, through the whole book or work to which it was deemed applicable. Had the above paragraph been given to still a third reader, very likely he would have capitalized “Division,” as being of more consequence than a beat or a ward; another would have deemed “Precinct” worthy of being put up, while “beat” would have been placed in the small-letter obscurity of “wharf” and “alley.” Another would say that localities designated by a number should always be put up; as “Beat 6,” “Station A” (See closing remark and examples, under Rule 7). The words “street” and “avenue” are left down by both the above readers. The Atlantic Monthly puts those words up,—“The junction of Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue”; the Century magazine has “Canal street, its former upper boundary”; Harper’s Maga. speaks of “the old house in St. Louis Street in which,” etc. Each office makes its own style.

The word “city” in “Junction City” is put up,—the two words forming the city’s name. Whether to print “New York City” or “New York city” is a moot point,—at present a matter of style. Some insist that as ocean, sea, city, street, etc., are common nouns, they so remain when connected with a proper adjective, and should be put down,—and from this starting-point they have endeavored to frame a general, and at the same time practical, rule for cap­i­tal­iz­ing common nouns, which, when described by proper adjectives, form parts of individual names. But, judging from our experience in proof-reading, the endeavor has thus far been unsuccessful. The adjective, the {p187} dis­tin­guish­ing word, always begins with a capital; as in “Bristol county,” “Atlantic ocean.” The rule then, formulated, amounts to this: “Put the dis­tin­guish­ing word up, and the class name down.” But usage will not allow this; we must not write “Long island,” “James smith,”—wherefore the rule has this qualification: “If the dis­tin­guish­ing word alone does not clearly designate the object, both words must be put up.” This qualification virtually annuls the rule,—for different minds have different opinions as to whether the object is, or is not, “clearly designated.” Reader A writes “Poplar square,” while Reader B writes “Poplar Square.” Under the rule and qualification, mentioned above, we have set before us, as correct examples, “Hudson river, Red River”; as if the significance of such prefixes as “red, swift, narrow, deep,” could not be determined by the insertion or omission of the article a, of which we shall speak farther on,—but must be made by cap­i­tal­iz­ing “river.” But admitting that the cap­i­tal­iz­ing of “River” more clearly designates the object, we doubt whether any printer or reader would wittingly pass one “river” down, and another “River” up, in the same work; and the average writer and reader for the press can hardly be supposed to take much time to study whether a given river or city or square is just within or outside of the limit of “clear designation.” Among the proof-readers of a certain large work on geography, which seems to have been carefully read, there must have been some difference of opinion on this point; for it speaks of “the bay of Biscay” and “the Gulf of Mexico”; and the “Atlantic ocean” of Vol. 1, becomes the “Atlantic Ocean” of Vol. 2. And such discrepancies must appear in every work which is printed under {p188} the rule “Put the object down and the dis­tin­guish­ing word up—with exceptions,” unless the exceptions are mentioned individually, seriatim, and a list of the same given to all employees who are expected to set type and read proof under such rule.

The objection to putting the class name down, is not so much that the dis­tin­guish­ing word alone ever fails to “clearly designate the object,” as that usage in many instances, and a sense of personal dignity in others, prevent all family and many other class names from sinking into lower-case. It were—there being no usage in its favor—a shame to print “Andrew Jackson” with a little “j,” although the dis­tin­guish­ing word “Andrew” would clearly designate the individual intended. “We sailed past Long island” could not possibly be mistaken for “We sailed past a long island.” In conversation the mere omission of the article a would clearly indicate that we had a particular island in view, and what island it was, even if we were not to inform an interlocutor, that, were we to print our remark we should capitalize the “L,” and very possibly the “I.”

“We sailed on a red river,”—it may have been the Raritan, or any other river running among iron ore; or it may have been any one of the twelve streams of the United States which bear each the name “Red river”; the article a, as Murray observes, “determines the object spoken of to be one single thing of a kind, leaving it still uncertain which.” “It is,” says Murray further, “an excellence of the English language,” that, “by means of its two articles it does most precisely determine the extent of signification of common names.” By the omission of the article a, then, a particular river is “most precisely determined,”—and, in print, {p189} cap­i­tal­iz­ing the “R” of the adjective makes assurance doubly sure. But since long-established usage determines that “Long Island,” “Harper’s Ferry,” “Lake Ontario,” “George Washington,” etc., shall have both words put up, uniformity can be secured only by extending that mode of cap­i­tal­i­za­tion to all words in the same category—unless, as we have intimated, each exception be mentioned individually, so that every printer may “clearly designate” (so to speak) what is expected of him.

9. A word usually put down may be put up, or vice versa, by reason of propinquity to some other word which is in the opposite category as to cap­i­tal­i­za­tion.

We are not aware that this rule, or an equivalent to it, has been formulated until now, but we have known changes in cap­i­tal­iz­ing to be made in compliance with the principle of the rule.

A printed report (Reform School) reads:

The visitors were cordially received and welcomed by the Superintendent and matron of the Board of Trustees.

The style required that, usually, “Superintendent” should be up, and “Matron” down, as printed above. But when the words are so near each other, the small m looks—without regard to the maxim, Place aux dames—as if the lady were subjected to an intentional slight. We think it had been better thus:

The visitors were cordially . . . welcomed by the Superintendent and the Matron of the Board of Trustees.

By the way, this insertion of the before “Matron” shows that the Matron was not also the Superintendent—thus illustrating Murray’s remark on the “two articles,” mentioned near the close of the note under Rule 8, ante. {p190}

This clause also occurs:

Friends of the school residing in the city and District.

Here “city” is put down, as if of less consequence than the outlying parts of the “District” [of Columbia].

That is correct, according to usual office style; but had “city” been put up, or “district” down, it would have been more pleasing to the eye, and would not, probably, have wrought any mischief. In the use of capitals, rules should be, and in fact are, very bendable. When we write “the member of Congress,” member is down, though we capitalize “the Delegate from the Territory of Blank.” But when “Member and Delegate” occur in the same sentence, both words are put up, agreeably to Rule 9.

It is a good rule adopted in some printing-offices, that where the same appellation is given to several persons or public bodies, only the highest in rank shall be honored with capitals.

For instance, in speaking of the highest tribunal in the land, put up “the Supreme Court”; but if a State court is spoken of put the initials down, thus,—“the supreme court of Minnesota,” as in the following paragraph:

This view of the law was sustained by the supreme court of Louisiana, and, upon writ of error, by the Supreme Court of the United States (Day vs. Micou, 18 Wall., 156).

So, also, “the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court”—capitals; “the chief justice of the supreme court of Maryland”—lower-case; the highest “Commissioner” in any Governmental Department, up; a road commissioner, down. A steady adherence to this rule might aid students and others to discriminate between the “Governor” of a State and the “governor” of a family; and if a decision is rendered by “the full bench of the Supreme Court,” one would know that no appeal could be had,—while if a decision is made by “the supreme court,” it might, perhaps, be carried up on appeal.

But this distinction can never be fully carried out. We have known it to be set aside by the following direction {p191} marking out a “special style” for a volume of “Decisions”: “Capitalize Supreme Court, Court of Claims, Circuit Court, District Court, and Supreme Court of Tennessee.” Besides, Great Men are inimical to small letters. The President of a Village Lyceum insists on being put up as high as the President of the United States,—in fact, the said president may feel that he is “a biger man” than the President.

And if, on the other hand, as some proof-readers have contended, cap­i­tal­i­za­tion should be employed to distinguish, in print, our Government from every foreign Government, the effect would be almost too ridiculous to state; as:

The Chief Executive of the United States had an interview with the chief executive of Mexico. The President said to the president, “How do you do?”—and the president replied, “I am better than ever I was before, for I see the President of the Great Colossus of the North.”—“And I,” rejoined the President, “am delighted with the honor of conversing with the great colossus of the south.” Here the president bowed to the President, and the President shook the president’s hand. The One then took his Oysters on the Half-Shell, and the other his oysters on the half-shell.

The style was once verging toward something very ridiculous, and might have proceeded to the above extreme had not a distinguished Secretary of State, several years ago, made some well-timed suggestions.

If the office style require “board,” “bureau,” etc., referring to a corporation, or collection of individuals, to be put down, cases like the following should form exceptions:

The festive board was graced by the festive board of directors of the Rochester saw-mills.

It should be printed “Board of Directors.”

A new bureau has been forwarded to the new bureau of musical notation.

Put up “Bureau of Musical Notation.”

Thus, by a judicious selection and arrangement of capital and lower-case letters, Boards and Bureaus of gentlemen may {p192} be readily dif­fer­en­tiated from mere furniture, mahogany or black-walnut boards and bureaus.

The principle of a change of style by reason of juxtaposition, is recognized in the following direction for printing an important work on the fisheries: “Put quantities, measurements, distances, and sums of money in figures; numbers of men and vessels spelled, except where large numbers occur together.”


In the preceding part of this chapter we felt it necessary to give many examples, and enter upon some discussion of styles. To save time and trouble in turning many leaves to find some particular rule, we give below, all the rules in compact form, with but brief, if any, examples in il­lus­tra­tion.

RULE I. The initial letter of every sentence should be a capital.

This rule has been long established. It scarcely requires an example.

RULE II. The first letter in every line of poetry should be a capital.

What though my wingèd hours of bliss have been
Like angel-visits, few and far between.—Campbell.

RULE III. Principal words in the titles of books, of important documents, of proclamations, of edicts, of conventions, and words of especial distinction in monographs, should be put up.

There is in the library a book entitled, “An Interesting Narrative of the Travels of James Bruce, Esq., into Abyssinia, to Discover the Source of the Nile.” {p193}

RULE IV. Names and appellations of the Supreme Being should be capitalized.

RULE V. Names of ancient Greek and Roman divinities, and of all pagan and heathen gods, should be put up.

Æsculapius restored many to life, of which Pluto complained to Jupiter, who struck Æsculapius with thunder, but Apollo, angry at the death of his son, killed the Cyclops who made the thunderbolts.—Lempriere.

RULE VI. The pronoun I, and the interjection O, should always be put up.

Here am I; send me, O king!

RULE VII. Some words which are put down when spelled in full, are put up when contracted.

The honorable the Secretary of the Treasury.

The Hon. the Secretary of the Treasury.

RULE VIII. Names of persons, of things personified, of nations, countries, cities, towns, streets, ships, etc., should be put up.

And well may Doubt, the mother of Dismay,
Pause at her martyr’s tomb.—Campbell.

RULE IX. A word usually put down may be put up, or vice versa, by reason of propinquity to some other word which is in the opposite category as to cap­i­tal­i­za­tion.

The Secretary of War complimented the Secretary of the Typographical Union, upon his skill with the shooting-stick.

Shall the Choctaw Nation or this Nation adjust the northern boundary? {p194}

Before leaving the subject of cap­i­tal­i­za­tion, we must observe that there is diversity among authors and printers in regard to the use of capitals when two or more questions occur in succession. The rule generally given is, “Capitalize each question”: but the exceptions are so numerous, depending on some common relation to a term expressed or understood (see Obs. 30 and 31, Rule 29, Chap. V., ante), that we forbear indorsing the rule to which we have above referred. Indeed, it often happens that questions occurring singly are so connected with what goes before, that they do not require to be capitalized. Each case must be settled by the judgment of editor or author,—there is no common standard of reference, as can easily be shown by comparing different editions of the same work. In Buckingham’s Shakspeare, printed in Boston, we read in As you Like It, Act 5, Sc. 2:

Orl. Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her? . . . And will you persever, etc.,

the last question having a capital A; but in the London edition of French & Co., we have—

Orl. Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her? . . . and will you persever, etc.,

in which the last of the several questions has a lower-case a. Every editor endeavors to capitalize correctly—by suiting himself.


Fonts of movable Types, from their firſt Introduct ligature, uprightion into England until late in the eighteenth Century, contained—owing principally to the long “ſ” (= s) then in Uſe—far more Ligatures than the Fonts of the preſent Day. Johnſon’s Dict ligature, uprightionary furniſhes a Liſt which we here inſert, with their more modern Equivalents:

ct ligature, upright = ct; ſ = s; ſb = sb; ſh = sh; ſi = si; ſk = sk; ſſ = ss; ſt = st; ſſi = ssi; ſſl = ssl: and in italic, ct ligature, italicct; ſs; ſbsb; ſhsh; ſksk; ſſss; ſtst; ſſissi; ſſlssl.

It was our good Fortune, at a very early Period of Life, to attend a dame School, where a Book, printed in Glaſgow, in the Year 1756, was put into our Hands. This Book contained the Weſtminſter Larger and Shorter Catechiſms, and a Direct ligature, uprightory of Public Worſhip,—the Intention perhaps being to teach us good Engliſh and ſound “Kirk” Doct ligature, uprightrines at the ſame Time. Fortunately or otherwiſe, the Doct ligature, uprightrines were above our Comprehenſion at that Time; but the long ſ ’s and the Ligatures {p196} became Part of our Eye-Vernacular (if we may be pardoned for ſuch an Expreſſion), at which we rejoice. We hope that the Young who have not had the Advantages of antique Catechiſms will peruſe the Old Style Pages of this Chapter until they become ſo familiar with ancient and nearly forgotten Letters as to be able to enjoy the many good Things to be found in old-time Books, whether printed in Glaſgow or elſewhere.

To Printers who have “ſerved their Time” in the Book-offices of the Eaſt or the early ſettled Cities of the South and Weſt, a Chapter like this may ſeem wholly ſuperfluous. But in a Country like ours, where new Towns and Cities are daily ſpringing into Exiſtence, daily Newſpapers ſpringing up with them, it often happens that Boys and young Men who have had but ſcanty Schooling are taken as Apprentices to learn the Art of Arts. Many of theſe become rapid and correct ligature, upright Compoſitors, and in Proceſs of Time drift to Cities where are Printing-offices with more Varieties of Type than the new Comers have been accuſtomed to,—among the reſt, Old Style, both in its ancient and modernized Forms; and it is, in good Part, for the Benefit of theſe that we devote a few Pages to Old Style.

In purſuing our Subject ligature, upright we ſhall paſs by {p197} Caxton, who, as Everybody knows, introduced movable Types into England in the ſeventh Year of the fourth Edward, make but brief Mention of Caſlon (1692–1766), who about the Year 1720, made Matrices and call genuine and beautiful old-ſtyle Type,—and come direct ligature, uprightly to the Fact ligature, upright that, in 1843, an Engliſh Printer deſired to reprint in Old Style a Book of the Time of Charles II. The old Matrices of Caſlon were found (v. Brit. Encyc.), and from them a Font was caſt, which, with improved Preſſes, etc., gave a better Impreſſion than had been obtained in Caſlon’s Time. Since then (1843), the Demand for Old Style has ſteadily increaſed, both in England and America, and our Founders have produced a modernized Old Style; in which, however, it is thought by many that Legibility has been ſacrificed to Beauty and general Effect ligature, upright. Our Purpoſe here is to treat of the earlier Style, which ſtill reaches Printing-offices occaſionally as Copy, and in which Programmes for “Old Folks’ Concerts,” and alſo ſome Pamphlets, are printed even in theſe Days.

In Old Style, s final is a ſhort s; in all other Parts of a Word, even if it is the laſt Letter of a Syllable of a Word divided at the End of a Line, the long, kerned “ſ” is uſed. To prevent breaking the Kern the long “ſ” was caſt in the ſame {p198} Matrix with ſuch Letters as it would otherwiſe interfere with,—the two, or in Caſe of double ſ the three, Letters forming one Type; juſt as “f” is now ligated to other Letters, as fi, ffl, etc.

And here, while ſpeaking of Ligatures, we would fain digreſs a Moment,—even at the Expenſe of lengthening our old-ſtyle Chapter,—to remark that there are ſome interfering Combinations for which Ligatures have not been caſt. We have ſeen Book-catalogues in which the Word “Illuſtrated” frequently occurred, having the Kerns of the italic I and its Neighbor l, one or both, broken off. The ſame happens when the Word “Illinois” is ſet in italic, unleſs the Compoſitor inſert a thin Space to keep the Letters from encroaching on each other’s Territory. The ſame Method muſt be obſerved when the Combination of f with b, h, or k, is met with; as in Hofburg, Hofhoof, and Hoffkirchen; otherwiſe one or more Letters will preſent a mutilated Appearance on the Proof-ſheet.

An italic ſhort s ligated with t, formerly in Uſe, does not ſeem to have remained long in the Printer’s Caſe; but—perhaps from the Beauty of its Curves—the ct ligature, upright,” both in roman and italic, retains its Popularity, and is found in Fonts of modernized Old Style which have reject ligature, uprighted the long ſ and its Ligatures. Indeed, we have what are {p199} called ct ligature, upright Books,” in which the deſignating Term is uſed as though it were as needful as “fi,” and the other Combinations of the kerned Letter f.

We conclude this Portion of our Work by preſenting ſome Fac-ſimiles of Old Style, produced by Photogravure. The firſt is Part of a Page from “Annals of King George,” printed in London, in 1717.

The next is a Fac-ſimile of four roman and three italic Lines from T. B. Reed’s “Hiſtory of Printing.” Theſe ſeven Lines were printed from Type caſt in the Matrices made by the elder Caſlon, in 1720. They ſhow an immenſe Improvement when compared with the Page of the “Annals” executed but three Years before.

The third Sample is from Fry & Steele’s “Specimens of Printing Type,” dated 1794; while the fourth, from the Foundry of Caſlon the younger, dated 1796, having dropped the long “ſ” and its Ligatures, informs us of the Period when the Old was giving Place to the New. {p200}

The above is a fac-simile from the second volume of Annals of George I.; London, 1717.
Facsimile of four roman and three italic lines from T. B. Reed’s “History of Printing”, printed in type cast in the matrices made by the elder Caslon in 1720.
Facsimile of ten lines from Fry & Steele’s “Specimens of Printing Type”, dated 1794.
Small Pica Roman. No. 1.
Facsimile of ten lines from the Foundry of Caslon the younger, dated 1796.


CASE. A frame divided into boxes, or compartments, for holding types. The upper case contains capitals; the lower case, small letters.

CHAPEL. An association of workmen in a printing-office.

CHASE. An iron frame in which the pages of matter are locked up.

DOUBLET. A portion of a take repeated by the compositor. For instance: “It is of no use to lament our misfortunes, of no benefit to grieve over past mistakes.” Suppose the compositor to have set up as far as the second “no” inclusive,—he then glances at his copy for the following words, but his eye catches the first “no,” and he resets what is already in his stick. Of course the proof will read thus: “It is of no use to lament our misfortunes, of no use to lament our misfortunes, of no benefit to grieve over,” etc.

FORM. The pages of matter inclosed in the chase.

GALLEY. A frame which receives the contents of the composing-stick. When the stick is full, it is emptied upon a galley.

IMPOSE. To lay the made-up pages of matter on the stone, and fit on the chase in order to carry the form to press.

INDENTION. The blank space at the beginning of a common paragraph, or of a line of poetry, etc. When the first line is not indented, while the following lines of the paragraph have a blank space before them, the paragraph is said to be set with a “hanging indention.”

Specimen of Hanging Indention.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same.

JUSTIFY. To insert spaces between the words of a line of type, so that the line shall exactly fit the width of the stick.

To LOCK UP A FORM is to drive quoins (wedges) in such a manner as to hold the type firmly in the chase.

To MAKE UP is to adjust the matter in pages of equal length, as nearly as may be, for imposition.

MATTER. Types set up, so as to form a word or words. When it is to be distributed (put back into the cases), it is known as “dead” matter. If not yet printed, or if destined for further use, it is called “live” matter.

OUT. A portion of a take, accidentally omitted by a compositor. An “out” is generally referable, as in the case of the “doublet,” to the recurrence of some word, or sequence of letters. For instance: a take had in it, “He injured his foot, by wearing a tight boot.” The proof had, only, “He injured his foot.” The compositor had the whole sentence in his mind; and having set the final letters “oot,” referred these to the last word, “boot,” and thought he had set the whole sentence.

QUÆRE, or QUERY, variously abbreviated, as Qu. Qy. or Qr., and sometimes represented by an in­ter­ro­ga­tion point, is written in the margin of the proof-sheet, to draw the author’s attention to some passage about which the proof-reader is in doubt.

REVISE. The second proof is a revise of the first, the third is a revise of the second, etc. To REVISE is to compare the second, or any subsequent proof, with a preceding one, to see whether the proper corrections have been made.

SHOOTING-STICK. A wedge-shaped piece of wood for tightening and loosening the quoins that wedge up the pages in a chase.

SIGNATURE. A letter or figure at the bottom of the first page of every sheet. It denotes the proper order of the sheets in binding.

SPACE. If a line of type be divided by vertical planes into exact squares, each of these squares occupies the space of an em, or em-quadrat. Ems are used to indent common paragraphs, and to separate sentences in the same paragraph. {p204} The next thinner space is the en, or en-quadrat, which is one-half of the em. The next is one-third of the em, and is called the three-em space; next, one-fourth of the em is the four-em space; then, one-fifth of the em is the five-em space. Thinner than any of these is the hair-space. The three-em space is generally used in composition; the other sizes are needed in justifying.

STICK (COMPOSING-STICK). A frame of iron or steel, in which the compositor sets up the type. By means of a movable slide, it can be adjusted to the required length of line.

STONE. A table of marble, or other stone, on which forms are imposed, and on which they are placed for correction.

TAKE. That portion of copy which the compositor takes to put in type (or “set up”) at one time.







Prepared by Professor LEWIS B. MONROE Founder of the Boston School of Oratory

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Original spelling and grammar have been generally retained, with some exceptions noted below. Original printed page numbers are shown like this: {p52}. Footnotes have been relabeled 1–7, and moved from within paragraphs to nearby locations between paragraphs. I produced the cover image and hereby assign it to the public domain. Original page images are available from—search for “penstypes00drew”.

The turned comma in ‹MʻDonough› on page 119 is a glyph (Unicode character [‹ʻ› U+02BB; modifier let­ter turned com­ma]) that is not well sup­port­ed in cur­rent brow­sers. It is retained in the simple text edition, but an image is substituted in the html, epub, and mobi editions. On page 122, the x with combining cedilla has been rendered as an image in all but the text edition. Other Unicode characters rendered as images include: Arabic semi­colon, double high-reversed-9 quo­ta­tion mark, single high-reversed-9 quo­ta­tion mark, as­ter­ism, double ver­ti­cal line, and white right point­ing index. Many glyphs that are not included in the Unicode system are represented as ‹[Symbol]› in the text edition, and as images in the other editions.

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