Providing the surname, only

Some people need no introduction.

I was plowing through some author’s writing of the crime movies of the 1930s. I came across an actor’s surname I know, but the first name was missing.

However, I know Bogart, the surname, without being told. Just say Bogart and everyone will know who you are talking about. And this is what the author did.

Providing only the surname does not work in every situation as one would be aware of. If one is writing out a name of someone you usually write out the full name first, so your reader knows who you are addressing from the start. They could be famous or unknown, the rule applies in both cases.

Sometimes, if the form of writing allows it, people are so well known they need only be introduced by their surname especially in specialized works. But one should show discretion here.

Someone would need to have an iconic name to use only the surname or nickname. Other than that, the surname needs to be universally understood by your reader. For example, Bogart is a name which is iconic and universally recognized as standing for the star Humprey Bogart. To use only the surname, it must be firmly established in the public’s mind as standing for an identity.


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