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Ask the Book Doctor

By Bobbie Christmas

About Capitalization, Plurals, Consistency and Trademarks

Q: When I refer to a specific chapter in my book proposal or in my book, do I capitalize it? For example, when I say, "See Chapter Three for more information," should it be chapter three or Chapter Three?

A: I'm going to rely on intuition rather than going through a bunch of books to look up the definitive answer. As used, Chapter Three is the title of the chapter, so I would capitalize it as I would any title.

Q: I had an encounter with an English teacher the other day and hope you can clear it up. Driving past Pickens County Middle School, I read a sign: "PCMS Loves our Teachers." Nice thought, although it sounded wrong grammatically. Should it be "PCMS Love our Teachers"?

A: Because PCMS stands for Pickens County Middle School, a single entity, the verb should be singular, too ("loves"). The "S" is the problem in the initials; it makes you want to make the verb plural. To clarify, the correct statement would be "Pickens County Middle School loves our teachers, " so the abbreviated form would also be "PCMS loves our teachers." I won’t even get into the discussion as to whether a school can love or not. I’ll leave that question to philosophers.

Q: Bobbie – Which is correct?

His patience and soft-spoken sense of humor helps students make sense of the sometimes confusing world wide web.


His patience and soft-spoken sense of humor help students make sense of the sometimes confusing world wide web.

The latter, right? Lucky I don’t teach grammar, but the latter sounds correct.

A: The latter is correct, because of the plural subject (patience and humor). Strip the sentence of the extraneous words and use just the two abstract nouns as the subject, and it’s easier to see that it is plural: "Patience and humor help students…"

Warning: World Wide Web is the name of a specific entity. Capitalize it as well as references to it, such as the Internet and the Web.

Q: I am a writer and editor with five chapters of a nonfiction book written. It seems my style is a combination of AP and Chicago style. Should it be consistently one or the other when submitting for publication?

A: Absolutely. Consistency is vital, and most book publishers prefer Chicago Style. Periodicals—magazines and newspapers—tend to prefer AP Style. The biggest differences are how commas, capitalization, and numbers are treated. For a report on Chicago Style and how it varies from the style we learned in school, e-mail me and ask for Report #105 Chicago Style Variances. (Folks, this offer is open to all readers, and check my Web site at for all sorts of free tools for writers.)

Q: I was wondering about your trademark for the Find and Refine Method™ you discuss in your book, "Write In Style." I’ve placed a TM after [the name of my workshops], and several other names of methods I’ve conceived but have never filed any legal paperwork. Do I need to? Is yours legally registered? How much does it cost?

A: I'm not an attorney, but as I understand the law from a layperson's point of view, official registration is not required to use the trademark symbol. I use it so others won’t steal the names from me, and I must admit it adds a sense of legitimacy to the products I conceive. I have not registered the trademarks legally, but I can prove when I began using the trademarks, so I can defend them, legally, if necessary—I think.

You can register a trademark easily by going to the government site for the Trademark Electronic Application System at Here’s some information I gleaned from the site regarding costs: The filing fee is $325.00 per class of goods and/or services for an electronically filed application, but $375.00 per class if filed in paper, per class (i.e., an application may only have one mark, but may cover multiple classes; e.g., an application with two classes would be for both computer software in Class 9 and T-shirts in Class 25, making the filing fee $650.00 if filed electronically).

—Do you have questions for the book doctor? Write to Bobbie Christmas today at



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