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I recently asked about "HP Lovecraft", with no stops in the initials.

I've seen that style in many another post here but I've also seen "H.P."

In the case of my post, I think someone trying to be helpful edited my "HP" to "H.P."… which I see as vandalism.

Most of the time, that matters not a "." but when searching previous posts, it seems to matter a lot…

I'm interested only in whether there is a general SE, or a more specific SF&F house style, or such things are solely at the discretion of members.

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    If you do a Google image search for "hp lovecraft books", you'll see that the name is usually printed as "H.P. LOVECRAFT" on actual book covers. That said, I think users here should have the discretion to write it either way within their own posts. Jan 3 at 22:47
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    m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41+-3-N9hGL._AC_SY580_.jpg - It's not vandalism to correct your misspellings
    – Valorum
    Jan 3 at 22:57
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    In the scheme of things, if having someone edit “HP” to “H.P.” Is the worst offenses plaguing your questions, you’re doing pretty good. Jan 3 at 22:58
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    @LogicDictates Thanks and that's helpful, but not with house style. In general I'd wholly agree, Users should have discretion but that's also not helpful. The point is that SE's search engine seems to mind exactly what it's asked about, so "HP" and "H.P." do not give the same results. Jan 3 at 23:00
  • @Valorum Thanks and in this case, you're proving the point. If SE says that when searching on an author's name, we must use the published style, that's partly what I'm Asking. Don't you think merely referring to an author is a different thing? Jan 3 at 23:06
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    @Robbie Goodwin - Now you're making a case for the usefulness of conforming to one specific style, rather than allowing for individual discretion. And if we're going to conform to one style, then it seems more logical to go with the formal spelling rather than an informal one. Jan 3 at 23:09
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    @RobbieGoodwin It's vandalism to correct someone's name to what they used? I would think that we should use the name that people choose for themselves.
    – DavidW
    Jan 3 at 23:12
  • @LogicDictates I am Asking whether there is a specified style and if so, what that is. You're welcome to make a case against that idea and that case won't help here. If you see a way for SE to accommodate both - or any other - styles in searches that's better than I'd hoped for. Otherwise, how is being web- rather than paper-based a reason not to use a commonly accepted style? (DavidW, too…) Jan 3 at 23:16
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    @Robbie Goodwin - As far as I know, there's no prescribed way of writing that name on this site, but the question is begged: is it a good thing for the site to write it either way at our own discretion, or would it be better for the site to encourage a uniform spelling. My initial instinct to was to favour individual discretion, but you raised a good point in favour of the case for uniformity. Jan 3 at 23:24
  • If there's no house style, there's no house style. In normal Posts that won't matter; in searches it might matter a great deal… how much time do we have to work through various combinations? It happens that "H.P." was the main style of his time and that "HP" is the main style of ours… and try Searching on "JK" or "JRR" without a surname. In paper publishing, writers and editors can yell across an open-plan office "Style point: how do we say (whatever)…" but sadly that's no more available to Members here than it is to Readers there. Jan 3 at 23:42
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    @Robbie Goodwin - If there's no house style, then that means we don't have to write it a specific way, but it can still be argued that we should encourage users to conform to a uniform style, and look favourably upon edits seeking to increase the level of uniformity. You've yet to make a good argument against that specific point. Jan 3 at 23:49
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    How about we just search for "Lovecraft"? On this site that seems pretty unambiguous. Jan 4 at 1:00
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    You seem not to be a native English speaker, did you really mean vandalism? That seems like an overreaction. Jan 6 at 19:06
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    @RobbieGoodwin Your comments read as if you are not a native speaker of English. "Vandalism" seems like an extreme word to use for this case, so I was wondering if it was a mistranslation or a "false friends" situation. Jan 8 at 22:11
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    @PaulD.Waite - Spider-Man became hyphenated. On multiple occasions in his early history he was two words; dyn1.heritagestatic.com/…
    – Valorum
    Jan 20 at 22:26

2 Answers 2

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The correct (as in 'widely accepted to be grammatically correct') form for initials is with punctuation, e.g. with a full stop after each initialised letter (so, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, etc.)

It's noted in grammar guides and elsewhere that forms of punctuation for initials are rapidly changing, led at the charge by certain newspapers and journals like The Guardian, but usually with the caveat that this is, at least for the time being, incorrect usage, even if it's becoming more popular over time.

Some British writers also omit the full stop after initials for names (‘open punctuation’, as in J Smith), but it is still expected in American usage and is also fairly widely advocated in Britain.

So, anyone amending them is in fact correcting them, that is to say, making them right where they were previously wrong and hence not vandalism, merely editing.


Merely as an aside, I would note that H.P. Lovecraft initialised his own name.

enter image description here

All of the above being said, I can certainly see a solid argument to be made that where authors have themselves expressed a preference for non-standard punctuation for their own names, that these should generally be preserved (e.g. e e cummings).

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  • You've been inconsistent in this answer though :D Not with your use of full stops, but of spacing... Jan 4 at 14:03
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    If you were writing for the Guardian it would not be "incorrect usage" to omit the dots - it is not a case of sloppy editors not correcting it, that is the official position of their style guide. It's perfectly fine to say that the style for this site shouldn't follow suit, but who are you to call someone else's style guide "incorrect"?
    – IMSoP
    Jan 4 at 22:23
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    @IMSoP - The Guardian is free to use non-standard usage if they want. If you want to propose that we do so as well, go ahead and post that as an answer so that I can downvote it.
    – Valorum
    Jan 4 at 22:27
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    @Valorum If you feel that the dots serve a useful purpose, go ahead and argue as much, but save us from the ridiculous idea that there was once some Platonic ideal of English grammar and spelling from which any deviation must be avoided.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 4 at 22:30
  • @IMSoP - There's an accepted usage and there's various forms of non-standard usage. I think a good rule-of-thumb is that we should stick with the common one unless there's a damned good reason not to.
    – Valorum
    Jan 4 at 22:35
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    @Valorum I am happy to agree on "common". I draw the line at calling any official style guide "non-standard", because how else can you define "standard" other than by somebody standardising it? You probably wouldn't suggest we use the spelling "coöperative", but it was once common, and is still the standard style in some publications, so it's nonsense to call it "non-standard" or "incorrect".
    – IMSoP
    Jan 4 at 22:44
  • @IMSoP - If the common way of doing it is one way and you're choosing to do it another, then your way is non-standard. If pretty much everyone agrees one way and you're choosing to do it another, I'd probably go so far as to suggest that your way is simply wrong.
    – Valorum
    Jan 4 at 23:00
  • Sorry I didn't notice the "meta" tag here. Oops! Jan 5 at 0:18
  • Could some of us stop Posting as though I'd been suggesting what the style should be? I didn't. I Asked, with no faint suggestion of what it should be… which makes it doubly galling that anyone took it upon himself to "correct" the Question. Jan 5 at 0:27
  • Can we be quite clear about two things? With great respect for the effort obviously expended, Valorum's Answer is so far off topic as to be in no way helpful. If Valorum wanted to a new thread suggesting there should be rules, or even what those rules should be, I might support that. Here, however, everyone seems to agree that there is no official SE SF&F style guide. Jan 5 at 0:37
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    @RobbieGoodwin - You're always welcome to self-answer if you have a different opinion
    – Valorum
    Jan 5 at 0:38
  • @Valorum Your view is very clear, and equally off topic. You're always welcome to self-Question if you want a platform, and this ain't it. Thus far here, the one welcome development on my original theme has been LogicDictates' case for the usefulness of conforming to one specific style. Even there, "… the formal spelling rather than an informal one…" might have lost me. Opinions on what, if any style might be adopted deserve plenty of space elsewhere but they have no place in this thread. Jan 5 at 0:49
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    @RobbieGoodwin Your question: “What's supposed to be the style for initials?”. Valorum's answer: “This is supposed to be the style.” I don't see how that's not an answer to your question, as per How to Answer.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 5 at 22:11
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    Sometimes, I feel like e e cummings at a capitalization and punctuation benefit dinner. Jan 5 at 22:41
  • It's so sad so many so obviously miss the point, including Valorum. LogicDictates suggested a fine solution but even that was outside the parameters Asked and so, clearly, off topic. The Question remains "What's supposed to be the style…?" For those with no experience of publishing, the Answer is either "This (specification)…" or "There isn't one. We don't (yet) work that way." If SE SF&F has no house style then that's a fact, and that's all. Neither my - please note: neither my! - nor anyone else's opinion of what any set style should be could matter; never. What's so hard? Jan 20 at 22:17
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I'd really rather not Answer my own Question… else, why would I have asked?

Still, most Answers and even Comments here show first that many Users care nothing about style, order or harmony.

I stress again, I am not advocating any particular style; merely that a standard style would be helpful. Does anyone doubt that?

I have no faint idea why SE's search mechanism returns different results for "AB" and "A.B." and two facts remain:

  1. The results are sometimes different: try it

  2. That is not, nor could ever be helpful.

I see how - and how strongly - Valorum, et al, hold clear views about what style might be right and I stress again, those views have no place in considering whether there should be a prescribed style. Please, Valorum et al, stop flogging your horse. It died too long ago.

I happen to have worked for around 100 newspaper or magazine publishers, over a period of 30-odd years.

I do not suggest any of them had the right, nor even the best style, but I insist all their publications would have been less respected had they not used a common style.

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    FWIW SE's search is terrible I'd generally suggest using Google and the site: modifier. Hopefully search on SE will be improved at some point.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jan 8 at 21:48
  • @TheLethalCarrot Thanks and that's helpful on the topic of searching but how does it help here? Jan 8 at 21:51
  • I'm replying to your point about how SE's search returns different results for the different formats. Google or other search engines should avoid that.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jan 8 at 21:58
  • @TheLethalCarrot Yes and again, for making searches now, that is helpful… very helpful. Rather sadly, in the scope of my Question, it can't be relevant. Jan 8 at 22:07

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