The “New Yorker rule”

M. and I work together on many editing projects. Yesterday, the author of a journal article, reading her galleys, said that she thought that expressions such as “sui generis,”  “axis mundi,” and “Weltanschauung” should be italicized as foreign expressions. (I had them in roman.)

I consulted the holy scriptures, where in chapter 7, verse 52, I read, “Foreign words and pases familiar to most readers and listed in Webster’s should appear in roman (not italics) if used in an English context. . . . German nouns, if in Webster’s, are lowercased.”

I assume that the online Webster’s is all right. But what about “most readers”?

I propose “the New Yorker rule.” Although The New Yorker is not an academic journal, its writers and editors seem to expect a level of comfort with common phrases from other major world languages (Chinese excepted, thus far).

Therefore, if The New Yorker puts a phrase like “sui generis” in roman, so shall we. A quick search of the phrase on their website will tell us. They do capitalize Weltanschauung when writing in English, however, which is a deviation from the true Chicago path.

* I have read too much Eliade to ever put axis mundi in italics anyway.


2 thoughts on “The “New Yorker rule”

  1. As a Japanese translator, I use italics for words that the average guy is unlikely to know, but not for samurai, karate, sushi, etc. Of course, a lot of words are in the grey area.

  2. I fight this war re: legal writing, all the time. I want to italicize “via,” and “inter alia,” and “i.e.” My paralegal, following the latest edition of The Bluebook, wants to remove my italics. But I figure that the judges reading my work learned under the old Bluebook, as did I.

    I think, though, that we can all agree to italicize “Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.”

    At least, so far.

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