The Supplement To The Treasure-House of Pearls (actadiurna) wrote in editorsupport,
The Supplement To The Treasure-House of Pearls
actadiurna
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Name and Birth/Death Dates Question - CMS

I am writing an essay where I give the name of someone and have their birth and death dates in parentheses: Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

But I was under the impression if you only had the birth year or death year you do it as follows:
Abraham Lincoln (b. 1809)
Abraham Lincoln (d. 1865)

A professor of mine stated that you use a question mark: Abraham Lincoln (1809–?)

I have never seen this before, and frankly it looks awful.

I cannot find where this is discussed in the CMS, although I have seen them use both dates in examples. Does anyone know how the CMS recommends handling this situation? I am using the 15th ed.

Any help is greatly appreciated!
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After doing more and more looking I found this:

6.84 With nothing following
An en dash may be used by itself after a date to indicate
that something (a publication or a person’s life) is still
going on. No space follows the en dash.
Professor Plato’s survey (1999–) will cover the subject in
the final volume.
Jane Doe (1950–); or Jane Doe (b. 1950)

I think it is the best I can hope for. Chicago does not address it directly. But at least I can show that there is no question mark. If anyone else has a better answer, please let me know.
I don't know that CMoS addresses it directly beyond the note you cite above. I think your professor is right, though only in cases where the person is dead. You'd only use the "b. 1950" or "1950–" forms for someone who's still living. If you know the person is dead but not the year of death, you'd use the (1809–?) form. And if you know the date of death but not the date of birth, you'd use "d. 1865" or "?–1865."
You're right. It is ambiguous otherwise. Thanks for the reply.
I have seen a question mark used in that context before, FWIW.
Thanks!