Subscribe to The Chicago Manual of Style Online
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Now that English-language readers are accustomed to foreign-sounding names, anglicization seems outdated.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?
A. Styles that are in transition should be applied (or not) with the particular academic discipline, author preference, the document’s content, the readers, the likely longevity of the text, and any number of other factors in mind. A ruling from a style manual would only result in inappropriate enforcement. I’m sure you can see my point: these kinds of editorial decisions are best made by people like you and the writer, who are in a position to judge from experience.