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I have a main title of a chapter: "Eureka!"

My subtitle, right below that, is: "Or, Archimedes in the Bath"

I'm not sure about that comma.

What are common practices? Are there any authoritative rules for how to punctuate a subtitle?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Edwin Ashworth, user66974, tchrist, curiousdannii, GoldenGremlin Aug 17 '16 at 14:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Subtitles are often separated by colons, but that would be messy here. I've read that on occasion, a smaller font has been successfully used (with no added conjunction). But writing style questions do not fit well with the ELU format. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '16 at 23:26
  • Yes, I used a slightly smaller font, and I'm fine with using a carriage return instead of a colon to separate the title and the subtitle. What I'm not sure about is the comma after "or". – aparente001 Aug 16 '16 at 23:31
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    @aparente001 Jasper Loy deleted his answer (I presume the examples provided convinced him that such a comma does have historical legitimacy), so the comments to the answer also disappeared. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 16 '16 at 23:54
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    Examples of differing style choices are at mentalfloss. These also seem authentic: <<Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse>> / << Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly>> / <<Walden, or, Life in the Woods>> / <<Vanity Fair, A Novel without a Hero>> and <<Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero>> / <<Candide: or, Optimism (1947 translation) >> / << Oliver Twist, or The Parish Boy's Progress>> and <<Oliver Twist or the Parish Boy's Progress>> and <<... Oliver Twist, or, The parish boy's progress >>. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 17 '16 at 0:48
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    I suppose you might consider the example by the Oxford professor as definitive "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again" – user23614 Aug 17 '16 at 8:59
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This is a style issue. The Chicago Manual of Style has this to say:

8.165 Double titles connected by "or." Old-fashioned double titles (or titles and subtitles) connected by or are traditionally referred to as in the first [of the following] examples, less traditionally but more simply as in the second. Chicago prefers the first form, but either form is acceptable if used consistently.

England's Monitor; or, The History of the Separation

England's Monitor, or The History of the Separation

Thus, since your punctuation after "Eureka" is already established with the exclamation point:

Eureka! or, Archimedes in the Bath

However, no comma is not incorrect. Note that in either example, "or" is lower case.

0

Eureka!

or Archimedes in the Bath

I can't seem to center what's in the block quote....

(I'd like to credit whoever suggested looking at Frankenstein -- I'm really not sure where those comments went. One of them was a comment of mine! And they've disappeared!)

  • I'd still like to see the two alternative titles set off somehow from the non-titular 'or' (if you insist on keeping it; modern practice seems largely to be to drop it). Different fonts and/or font sizes would seem a fairly non-controversial way. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 16 '16 at 23:56
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    However, after looking at quite a few examples on the internet, my suspicions that the inclusion or not of a comma after or is an arbitrary style choice rather than something a reasonable person could say has an unequivocal answer have been 99+% confirmed. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 17 '16 at 0:54

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