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

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  • 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

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.



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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