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In German, as well as in other languages, people have Non-English characters in their names. e.g. ß, the umlauts etc..

I frequently face problems when flying, opening bank accounts, etc., particularly abroad, since replacing the ß with ss changes more more than 25% of my family name as compared to how it's written in my passport.

Obviously it is desirable to write one's name for submissions, the way one's name is written correctly. Can one expect to run into problems, and will sooner or later end up with different publications being published under different spellings of the name, or is it safe to go for the correct spelling?

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People with names in foreign Latin scripts have been publishing in English-language journals under the native rendering of their name since the dawn of academic publishing. You should not expect to have any problem. –  Kallus Feb 10 '14 at 15:38
The problem might be in making sure you are searchable, but I think modern technology has come to cope with this issue well. –  Kallus Feb 10 '14 at 15:40
google (scholar) for example is aware of the similarity between ß and ss and manages to find ß-names when the search query uses ss (and vice versa). ideas.repec.org doesn't :/ –  sheß Feb 10 '14 at 15:46
Are there any other researchers with the same surname as yours? If so, picking the non-yet popular variant may be beneficial. –  Piotr Migdal Feb 10 '14 at 17:18
Well, according to the answers you got, you'll probably have trouble to some degree. I'm not sure how much this helps you feel better, but you can at least use a name that sort of looks like your real name, and can even use the real one if you really want to! You know, there are billions of people out there who don't have such a privilege. And to those people transliteration into the English alphabet can cause a serious problem that makes it quite difficult to identify a person online, e.g., how many Wei Wong's are there when their original spellings may be different in their native language? –  Yuichiro Fujiwara Feb 11 '14 at 1:35

6 Answers 6

First of all, always be consistent. Whatever you decide, that is what you will always have to use.

Considering the first point, might be better to strive and use your real name as it is with the non-english characters. You will have less problems in the future to prove your authorship in case questions rise. Complain to systems who do not accept your non-english characters...

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Unfortunately. this is a very real problem for many people. Any major "irregularities" in the name of an author—particularly the first author—can cause problems. You don't even need to use non-English characters.

I know this from first-hand experience. I have very little problems with most of my papers—except for those I have published with two colleagues as first authors, one of whom has a hyphenated last name and the other whose name contains an apostrophe (compound Dutch name). On a regular basis, I need to write places like Web of Science to correct the publication records (e.g., the paper is listed as a cited reference, but somehow they can't seem to connect it to the original record, depriving us unfairly of citations). This has actually been a bigger problem with the hyphenated last name—the paper has about six or seven citations (provable!), but only one is listed in Web of Science. (Google Scholar seems to find them all, though.)

Other problems will also crop up in attendance lists, email accounts, registration for conferences, and other things where Unicode acceptance in databases is limited.

Note, however, that your professional name does not need to match up with your legal name. For instance, many female academics keep their maiden name if they started publishing under it when they were graduate students. This is the case even if they've legally changed their name after getting married. And I agree with Armand that it is more important that you use a consistent name—once you decide which version you want to use, stick with it!

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I would think one should always use the standard tranliteration (ß->ss; ö->oe; zh and kh for those uncommon sounds in English; etc.). Starting to use non-standard versions can only cause problems for those trying to find you. I think the consistency is not with what you have used before but what everyone has done before. –  earthling Feb 11 '14 at 1:08
The "standard internationalization" of my name includes an apostrophe, which, as I've mentioned above, would make my life substantially more difficult. –  aeismail Feb 11 '14 at 6:26
You don't even need compound names, hyphens or apostrophes, people frequently misspell my name for no apparent reason. –  Relaxed Feb 11 '14 at 12:54
@user11596: mine, too. Fortunately the typical misspelled version is even more uncommon as name and both google and pubmed search engines suggest the correct one (though who knows what kind of search history they have of me) –  cbeleites Feb 11 '14 at 13:00

For the given problem which I assume to be "Heß", I'd go with the ß spelling:

  • For me the most important reason for this recommendation is that in German "Heß" and "Hess" two different last names, and both rather common ones. Thus using the transliteration not only creates confusion whether or not the name was transliterated, but also roughly doubles the basis of people who could possibly be meant (e.g. inside Germany ca. 20000 Heß + 18500 Hess)

  • Over the last decade or so, there has been a tremendous improvement of dealing online with characters outside the absolute standard latin character set. I think this will continue, so using the ß will become less and less of a problem. As you say, google already knows how to deal with it.

  • Worst thing that happens in addition to maybe sometimes being transliterated to "ss" or even "sz" (which is very uncommon in German, so while Germans would be aware of the possibility that Hess could be a transliterated version of Heß, Hesz would be considered something really different) would be that you find your name misspelled with a β (beta instead of s-zett). However I don't think that this will happen much more frequently than people misspelling my "natively pure ASCII" last name by exchanging the last "e" by an "i" - and having a common problem means that scientific data bases know better how to correct it.
  • People may not know how to pronounce it, but that is very common with any kind of foreign name.
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I'm strongly advocating for keeping your name unchanged, as far as:

  1. most software can write it down (software = Word, HTML and LaTeX probably);
  2. it's based on latin alphabet (that is, to every character you can assign a character on the English alphabet).

If you follow the Rule 2, you should be safe since most indexing software strips off all "decorations" from the letters.

For me, I hate when my name is written without diacritics, because it's simply not me. And heavens, we're living in 21st century and we have unicode and stuff!

Actually, ß is a true nutshell, since it has a unique transcription to English (ss), but it's not based on stripping diacritics. I'm not aware of how big difference is ß and ss in German.

With my journal typesetter hat on: I would allow ß in your name in an article. I wouldn't allow a cyrillic name, for instance, if the author insisted, I would keep both forms -- cyrillic and transcribed.

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In the new orthography, ß means that the previous vocal is long, while ss means previous vocal is short. In the old orthography, ss would only be used between two short vowels (otherwise ß), and a lot of names (including the one in the question) are based on the old orthography, i.e. "Heß" is spoken just like "Hess". –  Paŭlo Ebermann Feb 11 '14 at 21:45

To make less problems with computer search and indexing tools of various perfectness, I would suggest to use consistently English characters only in your English publications. If the non English character is basically an English character with extra crown or something the like, probably it will not be any problems with the proof of the authorship.

While of course keyboards can be easily configured to support national characters as well, think about the foreign users. Would they be capable of typing your special character into search box? Most likely, they will type the Latin equivalent instead. Smart search engines will treat it as the same, others may just not find the results. Various specialized sites with own databases may be important to you yet have less search capabilities than Google or Yahoo.

The possible alternative is to use the widely known several letter Latin alternative of that character that may exists (sch, zh, etc). However search tools are even less likely to treat special character and its multi letter alternative as the same. Also, doubts if it is the same name are much more likelty.

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Sorry, no, I'll never be Tomas, since that's not my name. –  yo' Feb 11 '14 at 13:30
Would they be capable of typing your special character into search box? — Oh, come on. It's really not that hard to enter Meškauskas (or Tomáš, or Heß, or Erdős, or Łącki, or Ølår, or whatever), even using a foreign keyboard. Now, whether they'd bother is a separate question. –  JeffE Feb 11 '14 at 15:02
Finally, I've been mentioned right next to Erdős... A counter argument to the above would also be that (scientific) search service providers have low incentives to improve their search engines if everyone starts publishing under names based on the English alphabet. So all those named Tomáš, or Heß, or Erdős, or Łącki, or Ølår face a public good problem.... –  sheß Feb 11 '14 at 20:03
@sheß The point is, I'm still recognized as "Tomas" in most search engines. If "Heß" is easily recognized as "Hess", the go for it without any doubts. Most scientists have a brain and know that when searching for you, they might need to use ss. –  yo' Feb 11 '14 at 23:18

eventually the web will be internationalized and yes, by all means, no worries...

unfortunately we still have work to do, so yes, by all means, be yourself...but be wary of compatibility issues: be they server, browser, ua, country-specific, etc., you're more than likely to run into an issue here or there trying to implement a non-english character in your name across the web...

one example: i'm fairly sure that while approved for urls, the double german s in your name is not supported by iso-159, which unfortunately, seems to be the charset flavor of the month...i bet you can't have it in a twitter handle, per se; and even this example is going to widely vary, as each service is going to have its own details, and implementations....

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You appear to be using persay (a misspelling of per se) to mean for example, which is not what it means. –  TRiG Oct 3 '14 at 10:51
its meaning would have helped in your diatribe –  albert Oct 6 '14 at 13:53
The phrase per se means "by or in itself" as in "Using a word incorrectly is not a problem per se, however it often conveys to the reader that the remaining content might also be incorrect." –  David L Oct 6 '14 at 14:54

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