Skip to main content

Names and Titles

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Foreign names: Accents

It is very important to preserve the accented spelling of a text from another language. When using names of foreign and domestic authors, make sure you are using correct spelling and you represent accents. The most convenient way is to copy and paste the name with the accents from a reliable source on the Internet. This will save you time when looking for appropriate letter. You can also find appropriate accented letter in the Word processor.

Some languages use Latin alphabet, with additional accented letters that are typical for that language, for example: Wisława Szymborska, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Sándor Petőfi.

Romanization of Names

When you are using names and words in English that are originally written using different writing system (e.g. Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic and other alphabets), you can provide the Romanized spelling alongside the original spelling. As you write, for the second and following instances you can use just the latinized version:

Imru' al-Qais ( امْرُؤُ الْقَيْسِ ابْنُ حُجْرِ الْكِنْدِيِّ)
Guo Xiaolu ( 郭小橹)

Using the original spelling of the name can help recognize the name in the original language, when Latinization removes the important aspects of the name (tonal aspect, any special character used).

Order of First and Last (Family) Name

In certain languages the convention for writing names is different from English. For instance, in Chinese the last (family) name comes before the first name, e.g. Guo Xiaolu. According to the MLA Style Manual and Guide for Scholarly Publishing,* such convention can be preserved when writing in English. (108)

When you come across a name in a text of a publication in which the family name comes first, and the first name comes second you might re-use it in that order in the works cited page. In that situation you will not add a comma. For example, you are talking about the work of Gao (family name) Xingjian (first name). In the works cited entry you would be as follows:

Gao Xingjian. Soul Mountain. Harper Collins, 2009.

There is no comma separating the last and first name, because you have not reversed it.

Titles in Languages Other than English

You can translate the titles of works written in languages other than English, if you think your audience might not be familiar with the language or the original title.

Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote the novel Der Kunzenmacher fun Lublin (The Magician of Lublin) in Yiddish, his mother tongue.

If the title is written in a non-Latin alphabet, you can provide the original spelling and a translation:

ثرثرة فوق النيل‎‎ (Adrift on the Nile)

or a transliterated spelling

Thartharah fawqa al- Nīl (Adrift on the Nile)

Use the chosen convention consistently throughout your writing.

In the works cited page, the translation of the title is also put in square brackets.

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Ра́ковый ко́рпус [Cancer Ward]. Dial Press. 1967.

In APA format, if a non-English source is used you can provide the title in the original language and, in brackets, the English translation.

Gao, G. (2009). Língshān [Soul Mountain]. Taipei: Lianjing Chubanshe.

*Note: As of the release of MLA Style 8th Ed. in 2016, the MLA Style Manual and Guide for Scholarly Publishing will no longer be updated or kept in print. We cite it here because it provides additional guidance on incoporating foreign languages not found in the general MLA Handbook.