You're editing and and you come to a list that needs sorting into alphabetical order. Easy enough until you strike the mad Macs.
How should I order the following list of poets?
A. Dorothea Mackellar, Bill Manhire, Rachel McAlpine, or
B. Dorothea Mackellar, Rachel McAlpine, Bill Manhire?
Two conflicting conventions have claims—now why am I not surprised?
A. We can sort the names letter-by-letter (as-is), with no compromises. This is logical, simple, mechanical, and American: Manhire before McAlpine.
B. Or we can thoughtfully and kindly and time-wastingly recall that people get muddled when Mac-names like Mackenzie are separated from Mc-names like McAlpine. The more British (and old-fashioned) solution is to bunch all Mc- and Mac- names together, as if all Mc names started with Mac. That's called word-by-word (as if) ordering.
How to decide? Ask a librarian. She said: