Posts in citation style

You can quote me on this one (3/4)

enero 13th, 2012 Posted by arabic, authors’ names, blog, chinese, citation style, portuguese, spanish, The sorcerer's apprentice No Comment yet

What was the name again?

Of course, citing your references shall not fail just because you don’t know how to put the author’s name right. This is not so difficult when there is just one first name and one surname but, what if there is more than one name at either end of it? What about name affixes as Spanish de? What about names originally written in Chinese? This third post of the series on how to quote provides you with some answers to the above questions. Let’s have a look at some of the differences in some major world naming systems.


The bad news is that there are no universal guidelines on how to cite a Spanish name; the good news is that, for our purposes, it is quite simple: In general, Hispanics have two surnames which are used especially in official documents, while in most situations of life only the first surname is used. You may think that the second last name is somewhat akin to Anglo-Saxon middle names but they are not, because in Spanish and Portuguese usually each last name refers to either the father or the mother.

Now, I am sure you have already guessed that in the case of referencing a Spanish author’s name you should always cite both surnames as well, as in López Vegas, Carmen. That’s fine for the bibliography. However, in the continuous text of your scientific work you should only mention the first surname, as in López (2011), unless you quote two authors with the same first surname and the same year of publication. Then, the second one may be used to disambiguate, as in López Vegas (2011), López Carrillo (2011). Please don’t hyphenate both surnames anywhere. It’s just a matter of respect.

Married women never drop their surname to take their husbands’ instead, although sometimes you might still find a married woman’s first surname followed by the preposition de and then her husband’s first surname (e.g. Carmen López de Bolívar). This is a social use that is never adhered to in scientific literature. Sometimes you will find the Spanish preposition “de” (“of”) between the two surnames for other reasons; in this case, you may follow, for example, the MLA style and always add the preposition to the given name, like in Algeciras, Ramón de. Other style convention systems, however, place the preposition with the surname. Finally, the Hispanic system of surnames is a little more complex than what I have explained here. There are regional and national, even continental differences; you can find further information on it here; if you find a problem identifying the elements of a Hispanic name, just have a look here.


Portuguese names are similar to Hispanic names, but there are some differences. They are both compound but, traditionally, the order is reversed. That is, in Portuguese the mother’s first surname comes first, followed by the father’s first surname. There is no universal rule on how to quote an author with a Portuguese name, but dropping the mother’s name and keeping only the second one (the father’s surname) is quite usual. When Portuguese names are very long, they are usually indexed by the father’s surname, anyway. If you need to know more about it (for example, on where to put the Portuguese equivalent to Junior (which is Filho), just click here.


Most Chinese family names consist of a single syllable, some have two (read more about it here). Family names are written first, and not only when referencing someone’s work. For example, Mao Zedong’s family name was Mao, and his given name was Zedong. In your references, you should give the surname first, followed by the given name. Chinese children normally get their father’s surname. Married women usually stick to their maiden name; sometimes they add their husband’s name to it, but their own is rarely dropped completely. When referencing Chinese names, Harvard suggests that the Hanyu Pinyin transliteration system be applied in cases where the name has not been transferred yet into the Latin alphabet.


Arabic names traditionally have five parts (sometimes even more), namely the given name, the honorific name (which normally ist not printed), the father’s family name, a religious or descriptive epithet, and a last name, which is either the true family name or describes the occupation, a geographical location, or a tribe. In Arabic-speaking countries under Western influence, these names are more and more simplified Women keep their maiden names. The MLA style manual suggests you should write the anmes of Arabic authors the way they appear in the cited work, that is, you would write the author’s name in Arabic, followed by the transliteration between square brackets. Please note that transliteration establishes bridges between two languages and therefore there are English, French, Spanish versions of Arabic names that do not totally coincide. You should make sure that all names you quote follow the same rules, those of the language your text is written in.

So now, what?

You may wonder now which way to go in this labyrinth of referencing styles. I think there is mainly one thing you should consider: No matter which way you choose to cite the authors’ names, it is essential to apply just one style and not to mix them.


by K. Klimant

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