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Usage of first names in biograpical article? (1 Viewer)

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I'm writing a biographical article about a slightly obscure celebrity from years ago. It's intended to be somewhat authoritative but overall casual in tone, and borders on being a tribute.

My question is this: is it proper to commonly call the person by his or her first name after the introduction?

The following is not an actual excerpt from my article, but just an example to give you an idea of what I mean:

John Smith was born in Passaic, New Jersey on February 2, 1903. [A paragraph or two detailing his early life].

[A paragraph or two later:]

Despite his thirst for adventure, John decided to take on a stable occupation. He was hired as a clerk in a local store. [A bit farther on, after the story of his life as a clerk has been told.] But John eventually decided that he must satisfy his wanderlust, and booked the next train out of Passaic.

So, is calling a real person by his or her first name in such a way acceptable? Or is it only acceptable to use the last name, ie, "Smith" or "Mr. Smith"? Or is there some rule about alternating between using the first and last name?


WF Veterans
I haven't taken and literary or journalism courses, so I could be wrong about this. But, I think that when you're writing an article you're supposed to use their last name when talking about them after the initial introduction. However, I don't know if that applies to this same type of article.

Sorry I couldn't be more help. I had noticed no one replied yet and I wanted to give at least some form of advice. Maybe someone will see this again and have something more to offer.



WF Veterans
I'd say the "last name" rule would be most appropriate. Conversationally speaking, it may be appropriate to use their first name in certain instances, but only sparingly. ie: In a work on Einstein, "Einstein" is used most frequently. However, in passages that are more emotionally or personally appealing or intimate, "Albert" may be suitable. For instance, "Young Albert found school difficult." or "Albert and Elsa were married on..." In the first, we're going for imagery appropriate for a young child, experiencing trouble in his studies. In the latter, we're going for a more personal and intimate association by using both person's first names. It would not sound as intimate if "Einstein and Lowenthal were married on..." would it?


Senior Member
AP style guide, but you don't really need to look it up. On first introduction, use the *full name*. After that, it's up to you.
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