Writing about matters that touch on religious commitment and practice inevitably raises a question about the proper stance of the author to the subject. Although some writers adopt the language and tone of an adherent in order to reach the community of faith, scholarly writing, as a rule, seeks to communicate in as neutral a manner as possible. This post offers suggestions for referring to those canonized as saints in the Christian tradition, but its principles apply equally to the use of similar religious honorifics in other religious contexts.

1. In academic writing, it is generally unnecessary to include the title saint before a personal name (here we depart from CMS §10.26).

Augustine (not Saint Augustine)

Catherine of Siena (not Saint Catherine of Siena)

Francis of Assisi (not Saint Francis of Assisi)

John Chrysostom (not Saint John Chrysostom)

John wrote his gospel … (not Saint John wrote his gospel)

If, for some reason, it is necessary to include the honorific, it is best to spell out the term.

            Saint Augustine (not St. Augustine)

Either way, do not include the word saint in an index.


            Catherine of Siena

            Chrysostom, John

            Francis of Assisi

2. One should include the word saint or an alternate form if it is part of a family name or place name. For example:

Camille Saint-Saëns

Elmaro Camilo dos Santos

Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal

Saint Louis, Missouri

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Susan M. St. Ville

William P. Le Saint

As the above examples illustrate, when saint, st., san, or santos appears as part of a family name, follow the usage of the bearer (CMS §10.27). However, when it is used as part of a geographic location, it is best to spell out saint (CMS §10.31).

In bibliographies and indices, alphabetize the name according to the form of the term that appears in the text (Saint, San, St., etc.) (CMS §§16.75, 16.93):

Le Saint, William P.

San Cristóbal, Ana Isabel Jiménez

Saint-Saëns, Camille

Santos, Elmaro Camilo dos

St. Ville, Susan M.

3. If the word saint or its alternative form appears as part of a bibliographic reference, follow the form of the official title.

8. Morna Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark, BNTC 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 223.

Augustine. The Letters of St. Augustin. In vol. 1 of series 1 of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Philip Schaff. 28 vols. in 2 series. 1886–1889. Repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

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