Q. I work in a bookstore. Usually keeping my section in perfect order is a lost cause, but when trying to alphabetize I sometimes have questions about special situations. First of all, would you put O’Shaughnessy before Omartian because it has an apostrophe, or would you pretend the apostrophe isn’t there for purposes of alphabetization? (I have been assuming that an apostrophe would count as a letter just before A in the alphabet.) I would also appreciate it if you could enlighten me as to whether there is an order for punctuation—if apostrophes come before hyphens and whatnot. In alphabetizing names that have abbreviations in them, should I treat author St. George as “Saint George” or “S-T-period-space-George”? It makes a big difference as to whether to put him in the STs or the SAs. Thank you for your attention.
A. The answer to your first question is no: names beginning with O’ are indexed as if the apostrophe were missing. The answer to your second question depends partly on whether you are using letter-by-letter alphabetization or word-by-word. In the letter-by-letter system, “St. Cyril,” “straight,” and “St. Zeus” would appear in that order; in the word-by-word system, “straight” would come last. Beyond that, I’m afraid the two systems are a bit too complicated to type out here. But I’m sure your store has a copy of CMOS, so check out section 16.61, where the two systems are compared side by side.