Proper Names

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?

A. At proofs stage, you can query any omissions that cause problems, but it may be too late to insert complete identifications. Unless the point is to keep the reader guessing, it’s best to provide the full name at the first mention, along with other introductory details. After that, surnames ought to be enough, although sometimes it’s good to remind the reader. And of course some familiar names need no introduction.