Proper Names

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. 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. 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. Does the CMOS have a preferred spelling list of prominent Iraqi proper names, cities, and towns? Different publications use different spellings, but I would like to adhere to the CMOS preferences.

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?