For some years now, I've had a pet peeve about the alphabetization of last names beginning with Mc or Mac (there's a Mc name in my family). You've got to watch out for those pet peeves; they'll get you every time. Apparently not only did I get the rule wrong, but the rule has been changed.

It had stuck in my mind that names beginning with Mc or Mac should be alphabetized as if they began with MAA (putting them at the beginning of the Ms). It turns out that the rule was actually that names beginning with Mc, Mac, or M' should be alphabetized as if they began with Mac (on the grounds that the other forms are alternate spellings for Mac). It also turns out that this rule is obsolete.

Alphabetization rules for names turn up primarily in citation style guides since they're used for ordering the bibliography. The ALA style (a more modern but now widely used citation style in the United States) has apparently recommended that Mc, Mac, and M' be alphabetized letter-by-letter for some time (so Mabury comes before MacDonald, which would come before McDaniels). Doing some web searches today, I discovered that the 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style now also recommends the same thing.

Chalk up another victory for computers, although alphabetization and capitalization of multipart names such as "de Lint" or "van der Graaf" should still follow the preference of the person named, so the computers still can't apply stock rules.

I suppose I could cling passionately to the old alphabetization rules, or try to find disagreement from British or Canadian sources, but it's good for me to give up a pet peeve. It's getting harder and harder to be an elitist about weird rules of English!

I think I'm also going to get a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style to read; it looks rather fascinating. (Some strange part of me loves formatting rules.)

Posted: 2005-01-01 10:55 — Why no comments?

Alphabetization rules were changed partly because of increasing internationalization. When you're dealing with Asian or African names, clinging to exceptionalism solely for the peculiarity of Scottish clan structure seems rather provincial.

I do wonder whether the British style guides still apply the rule, since they presumably have a greater percentage of the world's Scots.

Posted by Lis Riba at 2005-01-11 17:22

By the way, if you want to see totally anal formatting rules, you should stop by your library and see if they have a copy of the AACR (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules) onhand. That's what librarians use to determine how to catalog objects.

"When the manifestations (other than revised editions, see 25.2B) of a work appear under various titles, select one title as the uniform title as instructed in 25.3-25.4."

Interestingly enough, under "Headings for Persons," the AACR2 includes special handling for names in several other languages, alphabets and nationalities, but no longer list special handling for Scottish names (then again, that's more a matter of how it is alphabetized, rather than the cataloging itself).

Posted by Lis Riba at 2005-01-11 17:32

I'm having a dispute at work as to how to alphbetize the following business name:

C. Abbonizio & Sons, Inc.

The crux of the argument is whether or not to use the phone book as the guide for proper alphabetization. The counter argument is that the phone book will list it however the owner wants it to be - whether correct or not.

Is it: Abbonizio & Sons, Inc., C. (this is how the phone book lists it)

Or is it: C. Abbonizio & Sons, Inc.

Do I look under A or C?

Posted by William Dougherty at 2005-03-28 15:22

It depends to a large extent on how the information is used. My office works directly with the client, who calls and says "I'm from F. Oliva & Sons". Therefore they are filed under "F", because someone new to the office will just hear the sounds over the phone and go looking for them. If they called themselves "Oliva's" regardless of the offical corporation name, we would use "O" because a new worker wouldn't know that "Oliva's" is really "F. Oliva".

However, that does spark another issue in the office. We work with a lot of doctors. Should Dr. Castillo's office be filed under "Dr"? We would then have a whole subcategory of "Dr"s. Or does he go under "C" for Castillo? And then what happens to Dr. Jim Smith? Is he "J" or "S"?

I get so confused...

Posted by Liz at 2005-04-04 15:47

How would you properly alphabetize a file titled St. Helena, CA? Our files are filed by the city name. Should it be filed after the city Stevens, CA, or, before Saint Paul, CA? :o)

Posted by Connie at 2005-08-25 10:29

The traditional way is to treat "St." as "Saint" and I don't think that one has changed.

Posted by eagle at 2005-08-25 11:30

We are having a discussion on the proper alphabetization of the following company name: 10EAST Corp. Please help.

Posted by Sharon at 2006-06-05 11:36

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04