Proper Names

Q. I am confused by how to style bacteria names. Merriam-Webster lists salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, as well as E. coli. Should they be treated as roman and lowercase (except for E. coli)? The bacterium Listeria is not listed. Is it inconsistent to style this as initial capped and italic if the other names are roman and lowercase?

Q. With reference to the NYPD crime data collection system, should I write COMPSTAT, CompStat, Compstat, or CompSTAT? All four seem to be used in journals.

Q. How do you handle real product names like Head & Shoulders Shampoo or Gorton’s of Gloucester? Do you italicize or put quotes around them, or just write them the way they are used on the product?

Q. The author of a journal article argues that the terms listed below should be capitalized because they are “descriptive units.” The terms are descriptive of the patterns seen on Native American rock art. However, they are not considered to be types of rock art and are capitalized unpredictably in published works. Should these terms be capitalized or not? Cross, Split Shield, Midpoint Band, Patterned Lines, Perching Crow, Teeth, Eyes, Face.

Q. I have a question related to proper names and varying scholarly conventions. I am editing a volume on Jews in the medieval Middle East and have to make some final copyediting decisions. The standard convention for Arabic names is to transliterate rather than anglicize (Ibrāhīm, not Abraham; Muḥammad, not Mohamed; Isḥāq, not Isaac; Sulaymān, not Solomon). But for Hebrew names, the convention in Jewish studies until a few decades ago was to anglicize (Abraham, not Avraham; Japheth, not Yefet; Isaac, not Yizḥaq; Solomon, not Shelomoh). This raises problems of consistency.

Now that English-language readers are accustomed to foreign-sounding names, anglicization seems outdated. I have stopped doing it in my own writing. But will transliterating Hebrew names alienate authors accustomed by long habit to anglicizing them, or readers who search the scholarly literature for Shelomoh ben Yizḥaq but find only Solomon ben Isaac? And in the short term, should I impose transliteration on my authors who anglicize?

Q. We are in a quandary over the surname Humphries. Per Chicago, all proper names ending in s form the plural by adding es. Thus Humphrieses. I argue that Humphries is the same whether it’s one Humphries or many—that is how most of us say it, and this conforms to the way we treat other nouns ending in ies. This name is used hundreds of times in this particular novel, usually in dialogue, and often in the possessive, both singular and plural. Should the plural forms be Humphries and Humphries’, or Humphrieses and Humphrieses’? Help!

Q. I’ve been copyediting textbooks for more than a decade. I removed the title Dr. in a section about Martin Luther King Jr. because I thought that once a person is deceased, titles are not used in subsequent references. The editor strongly disagreed with this edit and stetted all the Dr.’s. For me, it was a matter of consistency; we don’t refer to Jonas and Albert as “Dr. Salk” and “Dr. Einstein.” (At least I don’t.) For the editor, it was an issue of respect for a man and his ideals. Is there a difference between dead scientific doctors and dead academic ones, or is Dr. King an exception to the rule?

Q. I am editing an article for publication. The author is discussing a Yiddish tale entitled Simkhe Plakhte. The title is also the name of the central character in this tale, and the author also uses it as a genre, as in “the basic narrative elements of the Simkhe Plakhte tale.” Should “Simkhe Plakhte” be treated as a title and italicized, or is it used as a general term? In general, if a writer uses the title of a folktale as a genre, does it need to be treated as a title?

Q. In CMOS (chapter 8), I have read that one should italicize the genus name of an organism even without its species name written. Like the example in paragraph 8.120: “The Pleistocene saber-toothed cats all belonged to the genus Smilodon.” I am a BS biology major and have been taught not to italicize the genus name if it doesn’t have a species name with it or an sp. for unspecified species. Since the current guide the company I am in uses CMOS, do I have to write/type every genus name in italicized form? I am currently copyediting a book for grade 7 teachers and I have seen genus names such as Micrococcus, Diplococcus, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Bacillus, Proteus, Spirillum, Thiospillum, and Vibrio.

Q. Hi, Style Experts—I’ve found the discussion on indexing in the Chicago Manual (15th ed.) very helpful. Still, I’d like to ask if you could recommend a book specifically on indexing names. We’ll be creating name indexes that will include people of different nationalities. Thank you very much.