Writing Wednesday: Why it’s “Pope Francis” and not “Pope Francis I” (Or, why you can’t have an A without a B)

If you watched the news right after Pope Francis was elected, you may have heard some people questioning whether we should refer to him as Pope Francis I or simply Pope Francis. Any English teacher worth her weight in salt could have ended that debate. The answer can be found in the rules for writing an outline.

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013When creating an outline for an essay, we teach the students that you begin with Roman numerals for your main topics and then use capital letters for your subtopics.

Obviously, you’ll have more than one main topic. The first topic gets a Roman numeral I. The second topic gets the Roman numeral II. You’d never have just a Roman numeral I on your outline because you’ll always have more than one main topic. After all, if you were only going to talk about one thing, what would be the point of an outline?

If you divide a main topic into smaller divisions, you’ll end up with at least two subtopics. In other words, you can’t have an “A” if you don’t also have a “B.” It’s impossible to “divide” something into less than two parts.

The same logic can be applied to the Pope’s name. You can’t have a Francis I until a second person chooses that name, making him Francis II and the “original guy” Francis I. We don’t refer to Saint Peter as Pope Peter I because there’s never been a Pope Peter II!

Thankfully, the Vatican confirmed this shortly after his election. Now if only we could get everyone else to catch on. ๐Ÿ™‚

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3 Responses to Writing Wednesday: Why it’s “Pope Francis” and not “Pope Francis I” (Or, why you can’t have an A without a B)

  1. Ginny Marie says:

    Makes sense to me! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. AJ Cattapan says:

    Yay, I love it when I make sense. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. OneMommy says:

    I love it! So true! Can’t have I without a II or more.

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