Proper Names

Q. I am a translator and in my work I always have to deal with proper names of works of art, locations, streets, cities, etc. What is the rule of thumb for that? Leave in the original language or translate into English? I have seen both. Would you kindly help me?

Q. My job entails editing and Americanizing books from the UK. We normally change British spellings to American for our audience, like defence to defense or centre to center. But what do I do in cases where one of these words is part of an official name, as in Ministry of Defence? or such-and-such Centre? If I leave the British spelling, it looks wrong compared to the text, but if I change it to the American spelling, it is wrong according to the organization.

Q. I am proofreading a nonfiction book which introduces new people in an inconsistent manner: sometimes they are introduced by first name, sometimes last, sometimes by a shortened form of their name. Sometimes the book goes several pages before completely identifying the person. Is there a rule which governs how names should be handled?

Q. We are working on a biography of Pope John Paul II in which the author refers to the subject alternately as Wojtyla and Karol. The question is, should it be made consistent throughout?

Q. When spelling last names, are there rules? We have family names like LaFleur—should there be a space between the a and the f? Should the L be in caps or lowercase? When spelling place-names, there is a space—Los Angeles would never be spelled without the space—right? I am confused—can you help?

Q. When one makes an adjective out of a proper name, does one retain the capital letter? For example, should “gram-negative,” the adjective describing a bacterium showing a certain result on Gram’s test, actually be written “Gram-negative” (as my spellchecker seems to “think”)?

Q. I wonder what your ruling is on using Latin-based (but non-Latin) characters as part of a person’s name. At my job, I am often required to write about Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan. English publications usually write it as “Erdogan,” but this has the side effect of people pronouncing it “Er-do-gan” and looking foolish. I would argue we should write it “Erdoğan,” as this more closely reflects the name’s pronunciation (as well as its actual spelling), and the alphabet is still comprehensible to an English speaker. However, what is your take?

Q. When using proper names in a book, what is the rule for subsequent use of that name? For example, in a book that mentions Herbert Hoover, if I use his full name the first time it is mentioned, and then do so again 20 pages later, can I just say “Hoover” or must I say “Herbert Hoover”? What is the longest you can go without repeating the full name? Does the beginning of a new chapter affect this?

Q. The author enclosed the translation of a name in both quotation marks and parentheses. I removed the quotation marks and left just the parentheses. Are both types of punctuation needed? What is the best way to handle this? Example: The Foreign Name (“translated name”) blah blah . . .

Q. My question is about the proper font of a boat name as a possessive as in “the Ibis’s lower decks.” CMOS 8.115 says italics for the boat’s name; 6.2 specifies the use of italics when the punctuation is part of the word. This seems a Talmudic moment. Thanks.