Harry S Truman or Harry S. Truman?

I was reading the NYT this morning, and one article referred to President “Harry S. Truman.” I said, “aha, another screwup by the Times’ copy editors!” My father-in-law disagreed. He acknowledged that President Truman was not given an middle name by his parents, and that he had later given himself a middle initial - S - that didn’t stand for any name. But, my FIL said, Truman may have given himself a period to go with that lovely S.

I disagreed, because I seem to recall reading elsewhere that the “S” was naked - no period. Which one of us is right? (It’s proven hard to Google this question)


Taken from: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/speriod.htm

There more there, but the above seems to answer your question. Including the factoid that

If his middle name is just S, then his middle initial is S, so if you’re writing his whole name, it would be Harry S Truman, whereas if you’re abbreviating his middle name to an initial, and your style guide denotes you should use a dot in such circumstances, it would be Harry S. Truman - although I think many established styles don’t use the dot after any initials nowadays anyway.

Done from memory, so if someone can provide substantiation, it would be appreciated:

Truman’s middle name was “S” – not adopted by him, but given by his parents, as a compromise between middle names honoring father’s and mother’s ancestry, the two preferred of which both began with S. So it “stood for” (but was not an actual abbreviation for) Solomon Young and the Shipp(e) family. Mr. Truman signed it indifferently, more often with the period than without. (Technically, his middle initial was S., and what it stood for was S with no period. ;))

Are you talking about in the US? I know that the British drop dots after “Mr” and “Ms,” and leave out the last comma of a list of items (“I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God”), but I was not aware of any US customs that drop these marks.

“US”? Don’t you mean “U.S.”?

Dunno… maybe I’m just not noticing the dots, but I’m sure I’ve seen, for example, H G Wells quite a lot, in preference to H.G. Wells

Thanks for the answers, and for the bonus information that Pres. Truman hadn’t self-adopted the “S”, but it was given to him by his parents. Both I and my FIL got that wrong.

I think I’ll start off by berating FIL’s stupidity about that point, before slipping in that he was right about the period. :smiley:


And mumble the latter.


Whose parents are Ayn Rand and G-d? Is this about the second coming or something? :stuck_out_tongue:

An apocryphal book dedication. Chaim, from someone who eschewed the serial comma.

Note: Before calling it “apocryphal” I did a quick Google for its origin. Would you believe that nowhere on the net is that documented; even Snopes has no listing! This calls for the diligent researchers of GQ to correct this oversight. :wink:

Note that this page also shows Truman’s own signature clearly placing a period after the S.

Many modern style guides, at least in the UK, do omit the full stop after an initial. It makes life easier and looks less fussy, IMO.

The proper spelling is “Harry $ Truman.”

Could I add a quick question to this thread? Was HST’s given name Harry or was that a nickname?

[Mrs. Grundy mode] Can one use the abbreviating period when one is not actually abbreviating? The middle name S is not being shortened when the period is applied, and is therefore not an abbreviation. [/MGm]

His given name was indeed “Harry”.

I have a middle name that is a letter plus a period, but not an abbreviation.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

The quote is from the biography by David McCullough.
How hard could it be to “Google” this? :dubious: :confused:

There’s a little girl in my son’s kindergarten class whose first name is “K”. I wonder whether she should put a dot after her name?

Although “Harry” is originally a diminutive of “Henry” (or, less commonly, “Harold”), I’ve never personally met someone named “Henry,” although I have met a small number of Harrys.

Aside: “Harry” is also Indian English slang for a Bihari. “Bihar” = “Harryland.” Joke derivation that the state was named after an Engilshman named “B. Harry.”