All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for treatment of terms pertaining to academic subjects, courses, and lectures according to The Chicago Manual of Style; revise emphasis as necessary:
1. He obtained a master’s degree in Economics.
2. I’m studying for my final for “Literature of the Victorian Era.”
3. She attended a lecture called Social Satire in the Works of Charles Dickens.
4. They’re petitioning to save the Ethnic Studies Department.
5. The lecture series “Explorations in Pre-Renaissance European Art” is sold out.
Answers and Explanations
Capitalization and other forms of emphasis differ in the naming of various academic entities and educational presentations. Here are the basic rules:
Original: He obtained a master’s degree in Economics.
Correct : He obtained a master’s degree in economics.
Academic subjects are styled in lowercase unless they are proper nouns.
Original: I’m studying for my final for “Literature of the Victorian Era.”
Correct : I’m studying for my final for Literature of the Victorian Era.
Course titles are capitalized but not enclosed in quotation marks.
Original: She attended a lecture called Social Satire in the Works of Charles Dickens.
Correct : She attended a lecture called “Social Satire in the Works of Charles Dickens.”
Lecture titles are capitalized and enclosed in quotation marks.
Original: They’re petitioning to save the Ethnic Studies Department.
Correct : They’re petitioning to save the Ethnic Studies Department.
Words in specific names of academic departments are capitalized. This sentence is correct. (However, names similar to the official name are generic, such as “the journalism department” in a reference to the Mass Communication Department.)
Original: The lecture series “Explorations in Pre-Renaissance European Art” is sold out.
Correct : The lecture series Explorations in Pre-Renaissance European Art is sold out.
Names of lecture series are capitalized but not enclosed in quotation marks or italicized.
6 thoughts on “Style Quiz #3: Academic Subjects, Courses, and Lectures”
I thought the last sentence should be:
The lecture series, Explorations in Pre-Renaissance European Art, is sold out.
Commas should frame the series title only if that particular series was mentioned previously in general terms, and now this subsequent reference explicitly states the name of the series. In that case, a parenthetical nonessential clause is appropriate. However, if it is a first reference, the series name is essential—the existence of other series is likely, so the series name is integral to the sentence, and there should be no internal punctuation.
Lecture titles are enclosed in quotations, but lecture series titles are not? Whence comes that rule? Any idea why that would be? Seems arbitrary.
The distinction makes sense to me: Quotation marks indicate that the lecture title refers to the event’s content, whereas the series title pertains to the totality of the multiple events. (That’s my educated guess.)
“He obtained a master’s degree in Economics.”
I despise the use of the word “obtained” here**. Something can be “obtained” through cheating, fraud, bribery, theft, and blackmail, as well as by legitimate means. I think that the word “earned” is necessary. I earned my degrees in engineering and mathematics, and my mother earned her degree in English.
Someone else might have obtained his/her degree in business by bribing the dean or the academic vice-president, and someone might have obtained his degree in parapsychology though sheer fraud. Someone might have obtained his degree in anything by cheating all the way through — though I believe that this is quite impossible in mathematics or engineering.
**”Obtained” is also a Briticism. I have seen this used by writers from the former British Empire, but very unusually by Americans. “Earned” is a one-syllable word, whereas “obtained” has two, and it is thought that using multisyllable words makes one sound like a “chrome dome”.
I just found out today that “Britishism” is not a word, but rather the word had been shortened to “Briticism”.
That one makes me wonder about “Briticriticism” ? We don’t have that word, either.