J.T. vs. JT

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In a baseball game yesterday afternoon, the Phillies' catcher J.T. Realmuto batted several times against the Pirates' starting pitcher JT Brubaker. And one of the radio commentators pointed out that this was J.T. against JT, one with periods and one without.

This usage is echoed by Wikipedia entries for Jacob Tyler Realmuto and Jonathan Trey Brubaker, and by their Baseball Reference pages (here and here).

The AP story (reprinted e.g. here and here) agrees:

Four straight singles off JT Brubaker (2-9) highlighted a five-run fifth. Bohm and J.T. Realmuto got the first two, and Castellanos and Bryson Stott had another pair, driving in one run each.

But it seems that stylebooks generally don't endorse the sensible idea that people should get to choose how their initials are rendered.

The AP Stylebook says that we should "Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name: H.L. Mencken".

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says that "Although full first names with middle initials (in any) are preferred in most copy, two or more initials may be used if that is the preference of the person mentioned: L. P. Amiotis, with a thin space between initials."

In  8.4: Capitalization of personal names, the Chicago Manual of Style says that

Names and initials of persons, real or fictitious, are capitalized. A space should be used between any initials, except when initials are used alone. […]

Unconventional spellings strongly preferred by the bearer of the name or pen name (e.g., bell hooks) should usually be respected in appropriate contexts (library catalogs generally capitalize all such names). 

But in 10.12: Initials in personal names, the same source says that "Initials standing for given names are followed by a period and a space. A period is normally used even if the middle initial does not stand for a name (as in Harry S. Truman)", without any exception for the preferences of the person named.

In fact, I haven't found any authority suggesting that individuals who choose to go by initials should get to decide period-usage and spacing for their own monikers — though that's apparently what's actually happening Out There, at least in the world of sports. (Though Wikipedia's JT disambiguation page suggests that it's been happening for a while, and in several areas…)

Frankly, this seems to me to be just like deference to other orthographic variation in proper names — we don't insist that Jimmy and Jimmie and Jimmi and Jimi all adopt some standard spelling.

In other news about the intersection of baseball and orthography, there's this:



  1. Cervantes said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 7:12 am

    Basically, some people's initials are their nickname. Their friends address them as DJ or whatever. I had a college friend by that moniker. I assume Realmuto is known as Jacob or Jake while Brubaker's pals call him JT.

    [(myl) Actually it's clear from interviews and conversations on YouTube that people call J.T. Realmuto "J.T.".]

  2. Carl said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 7:16 am

    “L. P. Amiotis”? Is that supposed to be someone’s name? It has no G hits.

  3. joly kitten said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 7:40 am

    I don't find it such a "sensible idea" because this is about punctuation, not the spelling of a name. Punctuation is a matter of style and as such it's subject to general rules, or it's the writer's/publisher's choice.

    [(myl) But it would be strange for a publisher to insist that Jimi and Jimmi and Jimmie and Jimmey all need to be spelled "Jimmy", right? They could do that, but would they? ]

    LP Amiotis may be the the love child of JT (Joly Thwitten) Amiotis with John de Northwell: https://twitter.com/tnorthernway/status/1353759266834964487/photo/1

  4. Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 9:40 am

    Suppose some celebrity insists their initials have to be punctuated with exclamation points (e.g. P! T! Barnum). How many publishers would go along with that? Not many, I'm guessing.

  5. Robert Coren said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 10:02 am

    I have a friend whose given names are "John Thomas", and he has gone by his initials for as long as I have known him. I couldn't remember for certain whether he used periods (I thought not), so I just checked a piece of email I got from him a few weeks ago, and he signed off as "JT".

    The 33rd president of the United States had a middle initial of S which did not, in fact stand for any name, and mostly he did not put a period after it (Harry S Truman, in case anyone is wondering).

  6. Sanchuan said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 10:28 am

    If the spelling of proper names is to abide by punctuation (on top of orthographic) preferences, house style could get around the P! T! Barnum problem by agreeing to include or exclude punctuation as requested while still insisting that any punctuation default to full stops (or periods) in the interest of clarity and legibility, just like most house styles nowadays will obligingly italicise "the" in the name of some institutions but reserve the right to delete it if it clashes with a syntactic "the".

  7. KeithB said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 10:54 am

    Did anybody call Prince by that glyph?

  8. mg said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 11:24 am

    In medical journal, grant applications, etc. the required style has no periods after the initials. In author lists, I'm MG [Lastname].

    Then there was my college classmate who's first name was Z with no period after it. I guess he'd drive the news copy editors to distraction.

    [(myl) This is not true according to PubMed, which returns this for "M.G." and comes up empty for "MG"…]

  9. tsts said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 12:50 pm

    @Gregory Kusnick: A long time ago, while working at Yahoo!, management told employees that they should include the ! whenever mentioning the company name in publications. This obviously made for a lot of strange sentences, plus spacing issues in word processing software that adds additional space after each sentence, so many people just ignored this request.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 3:32 pm

    As a point of interest, tsts, was there corporate guidance as to how the name should be pronounced ? For me it has always been /ˈjɑː huː /, but a former colleague invariably pronounced it /jɑː ˈhuː/, presumably honouring the intent of the exclamation mark. Our tonal contours differed as well, mine being H-L whilst hers was L-H.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 4:49 pm

    This wikipedia article consistently refers to the nom de plume or "literary persona" (or "hoax"/"fraud" depending on who you ask) created by Laura Albert as "JT LeRoy," without periods, but includes a picture showing a title page of [his? her?] debut book giving the author's name as J.T. LEROY, so perhaps the publisher overruled the author's stylistic choice there? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JT_LeRoy

  12. Michael said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 5:17 pm

    As I librarian, I contest the Chicago Manual's assertion that "library catalogs generally capitalize all such names." The name "bell hooks," for instance, appears correctly in my library's catalog with lower-case letters. So far as I know, this is standard today, though it may not have always been the case. There was a time, hearkened to in my library school days, when all of Mark Twain's books were found under "Clemens, Samuel." So, such things do change.

  13. Chips said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 6:58 pm

    And things change across a lifetime.

    A prominent Aboriginal politician here in the Northern Territory of Australia–indeed the first Aboriginal minister, John Ah Kit–had a variety of names and punctuations. His father was always known as Jack, and in the early 80s was universally known as "Johnny". He was "renamed" Jack by the late 1980s. Then, on getting into parliament he started signing his name as JAK–no punctuation. Last week saw a Condolence Motion in parliament, the invitation was billed as:

    "for the late Hon. Dr John (JAK) Ah Kit"

    Punctuation for "Honourable", none for Doctor!

  14. Steve Morrison said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 8:28 pm

    @Gregory Kusnick: Sometime around the 1980s, the city of Hamilton, Ohio started insisting on being called “Hamilton!Ohio”; as I recall, not too many people ever went along with it.

  15. Garrett Wollman said,

    August 1, 2022 @ 8:45 pm

    I find myself on the one hand sympathetic to the proposition that people get to say what their name *is* (although not all cultures would give completely deference to the subject), but on the other hand inclined to the view that names are first and foremost nouns, that is, words in a particular language, which are both subject to the consensus practices of that language community, and *different words* when transferred to a different language. I don't get a say as to what my name is in Japanese of Telugu, let alone how it might be spelled in those languages' writing systems.

    With respect to the "JT" issue, this seems to be an area in which English-language practices vary quite a lot, but most people would assert that "J.T." and "JT" are different ways of writing the same name, in much the same way as we recognize that "I.B.M." when it appears in The New York Times has the same referent as "IBM" in the Washington Post (likewise "NATO" in the NYT and "Nato" in the Guardian).

    Another context where this comes up is mandatory gender marking of names in Slavic languages. Many Americans are the descendants of immigrants from Slavic peoples, and by and large, they use the masculine-marked version of their ancestral surnames. But someone talking or writing about them in their ancestral country — say, when a story about the American swimmer Katie Ledecky shows up in a Czech newspaper — will adjust the gender marking. It would be silly to get bothered about this, because names are nouns and (in Slavic languages) get inflected for case, so it's not like the English spelling can be regarded as in any way sacrosanct. (Even in non-gender languages, there's often no way of escaping inflection, as I have personal knowledge of from Finnish.)

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 4:46 am

    "Punctuation for "Honourable", none for Doctor" — perfectly normal for British English, where a period following an abbreviation is used only when the abbreviation does not end with the same letter as the unabbreviated word.

  17. Francois Lang said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 8:31 am

    FWIW, a quick Google turns up about as many hits for
    TS Eliot and T.S. Eliot and T. S. Eliot

    same thing for CPE Bach

  18. Peter CS said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 11:26 am

    While I remember Philip Taylor's rule about 'Hon. Dr' from my 70-year-ago schooldays, common British usage today is to avoid full stops (= US periods) after almost all abbreviations, whether names (J B Soap), initialisms (HMG, plc, UK), honorifics (Dr, Maj, Prof, Hon) or Latin abbreviations (etc, eg).

    Companies have also largely dropped apostrophes – Barclays Bank, Harrods – with the laudable exception of Sainsbury's supermarket chain. However, I once had to write a report commissioned by them and wondered about 'Sainsbury's's policies dictate …' before resorting to 'the policies of Sainsbury's dictate …'.

  19. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 11:59 am

    Note this 2013 obit for the philosophy professor Richard Ieuan Garth Hughes. When I was an undergraduate (I never took a class with him but heard him referred to) his name was typically given in writing in the course catalog and so on as R.I.G. Hughes and he was referred to in speech as "Rig" (like "Rick" with the final consonant voiced). He was *not* referred to in speech as "are-eye-gee Hughes." But in comments in the obit people are referring to him as RIG – unpunctuated yet ALLCAPS.


  20. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 12:05 pm

    Also note by the way that at least in AmEng while the more common formal style may still be to use periods for initials when last name is spelled out, when the surname is itself reduced to an initial the periods almost always disappear.

    T.S. Eliot but TSE (not T.S.E.)
    R.F. Kennedy but RFK (not R.F.K.)

    and even
    J.W. Brewer but JWB (not J.W.B.)

  21. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 12:19 pm

    Finally, consider the rapper who goes by "Jay Tee" rather than either "J.T." or "JT": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Tee

  22. Robert Coren said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 1:35 pm

    @Michael: With reference tot eh cataloguing of Twain/Clemens, I have a vague memory of a long-ago library that filed Twain under "Clemens" and Lewis Carroll under "Dodgson". I have a not-vague memory of my 6-8 months working the desk at (what was then) the Radcliffe music library, and constantly having to redirect students who couldn't find any Tchaikovsky – because the library had a policy of using the modern transliteration system for all Russian names, and hence all recordings and scores by the well-known 19th-century composer were filed under the less-well-known spelling "Chaikovskii".

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 2:31 pm

    Elsewhere in the Philly sports world, the Sixers' roster currently includes NBA veteran P.J. Tucker (initials usually given punctuated). At least until the early part of last season — it's unfortunately a bit unclear if he'll be back this fall after a serious injury in late 2021 — another team in the NBA had PJ Dozier (initials usually or at least often given unpunctuated). Their respective wiki bios respect the two different styles, but I could not quickly find a news story about a game they both participated in that respected the two different styles. But I didn't invest very much time in looking so it may be Out There.

  24. Kakurady said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 3:30 pm

    On academic publishing: Google Scholar will strip periods out when searching by author. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=author%3AMG and https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=author%3AM%2EG%2E return the same results, with every result on the first page not having periods in the initials.

  25. @Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 10:40 pm

    I believe that when Kesha was still stylizing her name as Ke$ha, a lot of publications respected that. But it seems easier to do when the strange character is in the middle of the name.

    A quick Google search makes it seem like everyone puts a period after the 8 in "Jennifer 8. Lee", even though I can't come up with any logical reason why.

  26. Matt said,

    August 2, 2022 @ 11:26 pm

    These issues are so strange. When I was a kid, I was very into two related bands which styled themselves as “fIREHOSE” and “MINUTEMEN” (though on at least one early record cover they were “minutemen”). Whenever I would see a publication call the former “Firehose” this seemed an egregious error, but I myself was happy to refer to the latter as “the Minutemen”, including an added “the”. Still today, “Firehose” seems very wrong, and “the Firehose”… unimaginable.

  27. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 3, 2022 @ 8:59 am

    @Matt, the stylized non-standard orthography of fIREHOUSE is one thing, but I don't recall the Minutemen ever being stylized in running prose, as opposed to on album covers or t-shirts, as MINUTEMEN in ALLCAPS. Nor were they anarthrous in running prose: it's easy to google up interviews with Mike Watt himself in which he says "the Minutemen." In other words, they weren't a band like Talking Heads where self-consciously eschewing the "the" where it would feel natural was a signal of insiderness.

  28. Rodger C said,

    August 3, 2022 @ 9:55 am

    the modern transliteration system for all Russian names

    By "modern" you mean Library of Congress without diacritics, the clumsiest of all common ways to romanize Russian, and also the commonest because catalog cards.

  29. Robert Coren said,

    August 3, 2022 @ 10:04 am

    @Rodger C: Well, I mean whatever was most commonly used in English-language publications in 1969.

  30. Philip Anderson said,

    August 3, 2022 @ 10:50 am

    Re pen names, I once saw a book in a secondhand bookshop with the author’s name shown as Acton Bell. That would normally be classified under her real name.

  31. Robert Coren said,

    August 4, 2022 @ 9:16 am

    @Philip Anderson: I'm guessing that was a fairly early edition.

  32. Brett Altschul said,

    August 5, 2022 @ 4:25 pm

    Regarding: "I haven't found any authority suggesting that individuals who choose to go by initials should get to decide period-usage and spacing for their own monikers," The AP's style prescription is (or was for a at least half a century, from the 1940s to the 2000s that for somebody like Harry Truman, whose middle (or, I suppose, first) name was a single letter, the default should be to follow the initial with a period; however, if the individual was known to prefer to have their name written without the period, that should be honored.

  33. Francis Boyle said,

    August 6, 2022 @ 5:20 am

    Mention of Yahoo! brings to mind a certain tech publication which cheekily insists that any headline mentioning the company be provided with an explanation mark after! each! word!

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