I am writing a book, and in its bibliography I would like to include a paper whose title has the German word "Über" printed as "Ueber". As far as I know, this is an equivalent way of writing the word, but the former way is the normal way. It is definitely spelled as "Ueber" in the (nineteenth-century) journal in which it appeared - the body text uses umlauts so I assume there was some typographic obstacle with the title font.

I can see three options for me:

  1. Ueber
  2. Ueber [sic]
  3. Über

I have a soft preference for (3), because I think it looks nicer. I do not like (2) because it carries the implication that Ueber is an error, which it isn't. But (1) is the original form. I could just about imagine somebody failing to find the paper because I wrote (3) instead of (1), but it seems unlikely - search services like Google "know" about the equivalence, and readers will have the volume/page/date information regardless.

The publisher has asked me to follow Chicago Manual of Style guidelines if in doubt. Unfortunately, I cannot find a definitive ruling there.

Am I bound to use the precise conventions of the original publication, or should I adapt to a more normal modern style?

2 Answers 2


I would always prefer the original title of the paper (only ignoring all-caps or similar), even if it contains spelling mistakes, as this is the most likely search term, somebody is going to use (and not all search tools do autocorrections). This in particular applies to titles in spelling conventions that readers might not be familiar with. A German paper from that time might use the spelling Oscillator instead of the modern Oszillator or Maasssystem instead of Maßsystem¹ – would you also change these?

As a sidenote: Uppercase umlauts (such as Ü) only came up in German in the nineteenth century and were only fully established as a consequence of the spelling reform/establishment of 1901. Thus, it’s very unlikely that Ueber was used due to typographical restrictions and one could argue that it is the more correct spelling here. Also note that nowadays, substituting Ü with Ue is only allowed as a makeshift solution and the two are not regarded as equivalent.

¹ Taken straight from Max Planck – Ueber irreversible Strahlungsvorgänge.

  • One might want to add a "modern" version and/or a translation (into the main language of the article) of the title as BibTeX note.
    – Raphael
    Jan 21, 2015 at 21:17
  • Do you have any reference that Ü and Ue are not equivalent, as I have never heard that before. I tried to google it, but couldn't find anything relevant. Wikipedia (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) mentions it in a way that I would interpret as they are in fact the same.
    – dirkk
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:54
  • 1
    @dirkk: The substitution Ü→Ue is not even mentioned as a fallback solution in the current official German spelling rules. Thus writing Ueber instead of Über is as clearly a spelling mistake as it can be. I do not see something supporting your claim in the linked Wikipedia article as well. On the contrary, it states: “Die Darstellung eines Umlauts mit nachfolgendem ‚e‘ […] ist inzwischen bis auf wenige Ausnahmen aber nur noch üblich, wenn der verwendete Zeichensatz keine entsprechenden Buchstaben zur Verfügung stellt […].”
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 21, 2015 at 23:09
  • 1
    I wonder about the "(only ignoring all-caps or similar)" part of your answer. How would you handle "MASSENFLUSS" in the title of a publication prior to the last Rechtschreibreform? Leave it as is, change to "Massenfluß" (correct spelling at that time) or "Massenfluss"?
    – user9482
    Jan 22, 2015 at 8:35
  • 3
    @Roland: If a word is used in the title of a publication, it’s very likely to be used in the body as well (though I know a long review paper about complex networks that uses this word in the title but never bothers to explain what a complex network is), so I would use whatever spelling is used there. That being said, the ß→SS conversion is a really nasty, unparalleled special case for which every solution has big drawbacks (all hail the capital eszett).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 22, 2015 at 8:51

You should follow the spelling of the printed publication. The purpose of the references is for others to be able to trace your sources. Obviously most search engines would possibly suggest other spellings by similarity but this is no excuse for changing the spelling in your reference list so go with your option 1.

A similar effect is caused by people doing things the other way, changing umlaut spelling to a spelling without umlauts because they are not familiar with the spelling or do not have the letter on their keyboard. This can cause slight confusion in searching for the literature down the line. It is however, in most cases not a severe problem.

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