Posted by: Jack Henry | July 19, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Alphabetizing Foreign Words

As I’m sure you can tell, I am very much enjoying my new book But Can I Start a Sentence with “But”? Advice from the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A. Here’s an item that usually comes up closer to the winter holidays, since that’s when people usually send out tons of greeting cards. This one is from close to home.

Q. I have a disagreement with a coworker about how to alphabetize street names with foreign words in them. I live in San Diego, so there are a lot of Spanish street names. I, for example, would file Via Hacienda under V. She argues that because Via means “Street,” it should be under H instead. She reasons that if it were House Street, we would file it under H. My argument is that since we are not speaking Spanish, we should follow standard English alphabetizing rules.

A.You are right; there could be any number of foreign-language terms among the street names in San Diego, and unless all readers knew all the languages, the list would be useless. You can see the city government of San Francisco puts Via Bufano under V in its street guide (, under Geographic Locations and Boundaries: Street Names). Another solution is to list such names in both locations, or to put in blind entries:

Via Hacienda. See Hacienda, Via
Hacienda, Via. See Via Hacienda

Note: This advice is similar to the advice that CMOS gives on the plural version of lots of words we learned different endings for when we were younger. For example, more than one appendix used to be the “appendices” and more than one index was referred to as the “indices.” CMOS, instead, recommends appendixes and indexes, so that we are following English rules for plurals rather than Latin rules.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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