Authors and Friends Newsletter
June has been a busy month here in hot, humid Albertville, Alabama. Robert and I have been heads-down on two editing projects, as well as fine-tuning upcoming books for production.
Following on last month’s newsletter entry on the great and powerful Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), I’m here to address some of the baseline rules when formatting scripture for your devotional or Bible study book. This advice comes from both the CMS and the Society of Biblical Literature Handbook of Style, 2nd. Edition. We follow those references except when it comes to the books of the Bible, where we use the full name rather than an abbreviation.
Scripture is a special type of quotation. Quotations have two main types: run-in and block. Most of the time, authors will use block quotations for scripture. CMS recommends that practice for those quotations that are “compared or otherwise used as entities in themselves.”
Block quotations do not use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quote; instead they are set off from any surrounding text. However, if there are internal quotations (e.g. Jeremiah 29:11) then they are placed in quotes. There are several ways to block off your references, including italicizing them, placing them in a different font, or creating a border around them. The book, chapter, and verse appear after the final punctuation of the quotation. So, a block quotation of John 3:16 would look like this:
For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB95)
The version can be omitted if it is one that you overwhelmingly (or exclusively) use in your book; otherwise it should appear one space after the verse number(s). If you publish with us, we collect the different versions used in your manuscript and create the necessary copyright declarations.
Run-in quotes are surrounded by quotation marks, and the citation comes right after the quote. If the quote appears at the end of a sentence, the ending punctuation appears after the citation. Here’s an example:
Many wonder if God is present in the world; if He answers to us when we cry out. Clearly, “in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2 CSB). It is to Him that we must turn.
I find that a bit distracting and awkward. If your style favors run-in quotes, then consider using footnotes instead. This reduces the number of interruptions a reader experiences and gives them the option of easily skimming past if the location of the scripture doesn’t interest them at the time.
Let’s look back at the last block quote in this section, the one with the run-in quote from Hebrews. There’s an oddity there: I capitalized He and Him when referring to Christ in my text, but did not in the run-in quote. The reason? Our internal style guide at WHP says scripture should be quoted exactly as it is presented in the version being quoted, except for the first word, which is always capitalized.
Here’s a quick reference to what I’ve talked about:
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