English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a sentence along the lines of

The heading reads, "a chart heading."

The comma seems a bit awkward to me, but I cannot seem to find any explicit guidance in the Chicago Manual of Style on whether or not it should be there, and a couple of searches of CMoS's Q&A find instances both with and without the comma (and a number of instances with a colon instead of the comma).

Is this better with or without the comma? Why?

share|improve this question
For anyone coming across this now, the sentence was actually more like "Notice this thing in the column with the heading that reads, 'title.'" and the solution I ended up going with was to reword it to something like "Notice this thing in the column labeled 'title.'" to avoid the colon/comma/nothing issue entirely. – Isaac Jun 16 '11 at 5:30
up vote 2 down vote accepted

If the Chicago Manual Style doesn't explicitly cover the issue, and uses the various cases interchangeably, you may feel comfortable a) not knowing for sure which is right, and b) not caring too much. Use whatever feels best to you. I normally would use a colon first, no punctuation second, and the comma would come in a distant third.

share|improve this answer
I've said more than once on EL&U that I generally approve the modern trend to use commas more sparingly. But I don't feel strongly one way or another about this particular case - as you say, "whatever feels best". And apparently it felt best to me to put a comma in that sentence. I know that's a slightly different context, but it does go to show how tricky it would be to set absolute rules. Whatever - "horses for courses", but I'd probably choose colon/comma/nothing for OP's example. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 20:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.