My first name (legally) consists of two names separated by a space, but I only go by the first in everyday use. I'm from Scandinavia and having a first name that is a compound of two names is not that uncommon. I also have a middle name that I rarely use.

Let's say my name is "John Andrew Smith Fitzgerald" in which "John Andrew" is my first name, "Smith" my middle name, and "Fitzgerald" my last name.

What would be the appropriate way to cite the author's name in an academic publication?

  • John Andrew S. Fitzgerald
  • John Fitzgerald (omitting second first name and middle name).
  • John S. Fitzgerald (with second first name omitted)

Personally, I would prefer to use the last format.

Does it actually matter or is consistency key? I apologize if this has already been answered. Most replies that I found pertained to the use of middle and last name, not a compounded first name.

  • The last format is not uncommon.with the first option I could see some problems that people/systems could get confused what your first ans last name is.
    – user111388
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 13:16
  • 1
    I think the first one makes it clear "John Andrew" is your first name, because it would be unusual to abbreviate only the second middle name. Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 14:11
  • 2
    Also, what do other people with your name in Scandinavia do? Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


The most important thing is consistency. Choose now, and write the exact same name on all future publications.

A few things to consider:

  • This is the name that everyone, except the people that know you personally, will use. So make sure you are not going to regret it.
  • It is better to choose a name that identifies you as well as possible. If your first and last names are very common, it may be beneficial to add the second part of your given name, or your middle name, so that people are sure who wrote the paper just by looking at the name. If your name is already uncommon, this is a less pressing concern.
  • Many people, especially in North America as I have found, are completely unfamiliar with the idea of compound names. Somehow, even generally open-minded people are reluctant (I do not use this word light, if I wanted to write "surprised" or "unfamiliar" that's what I would have written!) to accept that a name might not fit their traditional "GivenName MiddleName Surname" mental framework and will try to fit your name into their expectations, not the other way around, even after you have explained it to them. It is really frustrating and invalidating, but be prepared.
  • Computer systems are also a beast to be prepared to fight. The big international ones are almost always written with North American expectations in mind.
  • If you decide to use both parts of your given name, I strongly recommend joining the two with a dash, even if that is not culturally appropriate for you and/or does not match your ID card. This makes things a lot easier as it is clearer that these two parts are linked and cannot be taken apart. My surname is from a language where dashes do not even exist, and until I decided to use a dash I had to face incomprehension, even from people to whom I had carefully explained what's what.

For your particular case, if you are willing to be called "FirstName M[iddleNameInitial]. LastName", that sounds perfectly fine. Dropping the second part of your compound given name is fine if you are okay being called with just the first part, in emails or daily conversations. There is no requirements, legal or otherwise, that your legal name must match the name on your publications.


If you're writing a paper and putting your name on the top of it, then (at all the journals where I've published) you can use whichever of those you please, and you're under no obligation to be consistent from one paper to the next (although being consistent may be somewhat beneficial to you, in terms of making sure you get full credit in bibliometric scores for everything you've published).

If you're citing the paper in some other document that you're writing, then I suggest you tell your reference management software the fullest information you've got about the author's name, i.e. the full "John Andrew Smith Fitzgerald", perhaps with a non-breaking space or thin space character instead of a normal space between "John" and "Andrew" [*]. If some of the information you've got about the author's name did not appear explicitly at the top of the paper, you can enclose those bits in square brackets, as described on pages 13-14 of this software manual. If your reference management software is any good, it should then work out automatically how to typeset the name to be consistent with the style guide to which you're writing.

[*] Actually, the non-breaking space or thin space might be useful when you're authoring a paper and putting your name at the top of it, too.

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