Proper Names

Q. When referring to Orville and Wilbur Wright as a unit, should the word “brothers” be capitalized—Wright brothers vs. Wright Brothers?

Q. What is the CMOS standard for alphabetizing names that are hyphenated and not hyphenated? This would apply mainly to persons who, instead of hyphenating their name upon being married, make their pre-marriage last name their middle name. For example, Pat Doe Smith and Pat Doe-Smith. Should both examples of this name be alphabetized under the Ds, the Ss, or would the first example be alphabetized under the Ss and the second example be alphabetized under the Ds?

Q. When a proper name begins a sentence, is it always capitalized, even when it’s a name commonly seen as lowercase (e. e. cummings, for example)? I’m also unclear about names with particles. CMOS 8.7 says de (or d’) is always lowercased and is often dropped when the surname is used alone. How would I know that it’s dropped from Tocqueville but not from de Gaulle if neither of these names were in Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary?

Q. I notice in your online Q&A that you put a period after Harry S. Truman. I was told that there should be no period after the S, when I took a copyediting class decades ago, and doubted that, so I wrote to him. I have a letter from him saying that since it doesn’t stand for anything in particular, it does not take a period. Shouldn’t we go with his own stated preference? I’ll be glad to send you a copy of the letter.

Q. Dear CMOS: Several of my coworkers have balked at a copyedit I have made repeatedly, and I want to get to the bottom of it, whether I’m proven right or wrong. The University of Texas specifies on its website that “the” is part of its name and that it should therefore be capitalized in every reference to the university. However, I have done extensive research on the matter and have found that most respected copyeditors do not capitalize “the” when it also functions as an article in a sentence, as in “We evaluated the University of Texas’s enrollment data.” I have met with staunch resistance to lowercasing this “the,” especially from coworkers who happened to attend the university in question. Will you please resolve this for me?

Q. If someone has a PhD and is a professor at a university, what would be his or her title? Doctor or Professor?

Q. Since the Great Depression can be shortened to simply the Depression, how does one deal with a document that includes both usages? Sometimes the word “Great” adds the right amount of emphasis or helps the cadence of the sentence. Other times, just “the Depression” will do. Must one keep consistent by choosing one over the other?

Q. Hello folks. I’m editing a travel brochure on South America, and one of the natural wonders featured prominently is Iguaçú (or Iguazú) Falls, which sits right where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. While this is a single wonder, it is accessible from three different countries boasting a total of two different national languages, and as such it has two possible correct spellings: Iguaçú (Portuguese, on the Brazil side) and Iguazú (Spanish, preferred in Paraguay and Argentina). National Geographic Atlas of the World (8th edition) uses both spellings (Iguazú National Park in Paraguay, Iguaçú River in Brazil, for example), showing the border where the spelling (and political jurisdiction) changes. They refer to the falls in Portuguese (Foz do Iguaçú) on the map, but use both spellings in the index and on their website. I e-mailed them to ask if they knew which country if any maintains physical ownership of the falls, and apparently it is a shared natural wonder. They suggested that I use both spellings in my brochure, Spanish in the sections on Spanish countries, and so on. This was not a feasible solution for this type of project, so in the end I just chose one (Iguazú: another editor’s son is named Zheid, pronounced “Zed.” We established a new house rule that whenever there is a choice between two spellings, pick the one with a zed. If there is no z and no other clear solution, flip a coin). How would CMOS handle this one?

Q. When printing the name of someone whose last name is instantly recognizable and unmistakable like, say, Warhol, would you still advise that the person’s given name be included upon first mention? Or is it acceptable to refer to the individual by his/her last name right off the bat (Bach, Shakespeare, Warhol, etc.)?

Q. How should I list an author’s name when it is given in different forms in different works I am citing (e.g., John Smith, John R. Smith, J. R. Smith)? In the case of an author’s name in a non-Roman script, if the name has been transliterated differently in different publications, shall I list the name as given in each publication, or choose one form? If a name in a non-Roman script is transliterated differently from the system of transliteration I am using, what shall I do? Thank you!