I'm currently undertaking my PhD and I have plans to get married before I complete my candidature. In particular, I will be double-barreling my current surname with my fiancée's current surname. We are indifferent to which name will appear first, and/or hyphenation. I have not begun publishing yet, however, I do have a first-authorship on a conference paper from my undergrad, though it is not likely this will contribute towards my PhD.

The core questions I have are:

  1. How should I identify myself on publications produced before I am married (still >12 months away)?

My goal is to achieve consistency despite my decision to change my surname. My current thoughts so far:

  • Use my birth surname before marriage (First Birth), and initial my fiancée's birth surname before my own on post-marriage publications. (First F. Birth). In this case, I'll likely continue to be referenced by my birth name (e.g. Birth et al).
  • Continue to just use my birth name in publications, even after I change my surname. This seems like the lazy option: the option which is most convenient/appropriate at present but will become more inconvenient in the future as I continue to publish. I do have female collaborators in this situation, though they had more publications with their birth name before their name change.

A third option would be to simply change my name before I get married, and use that name on all publications. But, officially changing my name doesn't happen overnight, and I'd like to be prepared should I have to put my name on a publication before my name is officially changed.

  1. This is a lesser concern, but I'd still like to consider: In academia, what are the implications of:
  • a hyphenated surname?
  • a double-barrelled, non-hyphenated surname?

I appreciate any thoughts and contributions. If it matters, I'm in STEM, and my surname is already quite unique, ~30,000 according to [1]. My fiancée's is ~300,000.

[1] https://en.geneanet.org/genealogy/


3 Answers 3


I know you aren't considering this possibility, but a lot can happen in a year. What happens if, for any reason, you don't wind up getting married?

There is some advantage to keeping a permanent name throughout your career, but it isn't overwhelmingly important. Eventually your future work will dominate your current work and a few exceptions probably won't be a (serious) issue. Just a bit of inconvenience at times.

I suggest, as a first option, that you just keep your birth name as your publishing identity into the future. It may be "lazy" but it causes the least problems overall.

If you don't like that idea, then a hyphenated name is probably best, though you might use the hyphen only for publishing identity, with some other form in every day usage (and even legal usage).

But neither of these is a firm suggestion, just a way to avoid the inconvenience attached to the alternatives.

A third option is to adopt a pseudonym, unrelated to your legal or common-usage name and stick with it. It isn't especially common to do this, but it has some history behind it.


I think you’re overthinking and overoptimizing this issue. No one cares what name you publish in, as long as there is a modicum of consistency (i.e., you don’t change your publishing name more than a few times during your lifetime), and no one cares what name you choose to adopt as your legal name. So just decide on what names would be most preferable to you based on your own personal preference and sensibilities, and go with that.

Separately from that, if you do end up publishing in more than one name, you could preempt any potential confusion this might create by maintaining a clear online presence where people who want to look up your papers or other information about you can find them regardless of which of your known aliases they are searching for. This can take the form of a personal web page or web site, a google scholar profile, an ORCID ID, or some combination of those things.


Journals do not ask for birth certificates or name change forms. I changed my name while a paper was in revision and they said "Okay."

I had a colleague who signed her name "First Birth M." (where M. is her married initial), and used "First Birth" on papers. Really, the choice is yours as to the details.

Hyphenation does make things clearer for everyone, but if you are opposed, you can hyphenate only for papers.

But, officially changing my name doesn't happen overnight, and I'd like to be prepared should I have to put my name on a publication before my name is officially changed.

Name changes don't take that long ... especially not compared to the length of time a publication takes from submission to publication. If you submitted a paper now and started the process of a name change, I would be extremely surprised if the paper beat out the name change.

If I was in your boat, I would hyphenate upon marriage, and put my birth name after my fiancee's.

  • Just to make things clear, you're suggesting that while the details are rather inconsequential, hyphenation upon marriage would be your preference despite the inconsistency with my pre-marital publications? Mar 19, 2021 at 22:11
  • @thesurnamedilemma Yes, because you only have one (and a conference paper at that). Mar 19, 2021 at 22:18

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