Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. I’m editing a dissertation that quotes letters and interviews and other private documents. I understand that authors’ names in the bibliography do not include clerical titles such as Father, Bishop, and Archbishop. Does that apply to footnotes as well? And should the clerical titles be omitted for the recipients of the letters? Given that the dissertation concerns all manner of ecclesiastical matters, it includes many references to clergy at all levels of the hierarchy.

A. You were right to inquire! In scholarship, it’s much more important to include information that is relevant to the work than to follow a style guide’s preferences. Style must accommodate the work, not the other way around. As you suspect, in a dissertation concerning ecclesiastical matters, the titles of people can be very important, indicating their place in the clerical hierarchy, their manners, their viewpoints, or their power relative to the addressee. If the writer included them, they should not be removed without consultation, and the writer’s wish to keep them should take precedence over a style preference.