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I am currently an undergraduate who likes to think about research a lot. My email is “zachary.hunter@university.edu”, however in all my papers I am listed as “Zach Hunter”.

Frequently I will email people about their preprints, asking questions and pointing out slight typos or gaps in their proofs. They typically react very positively to my feedback, and often will put me in the acknowledgements. However, a large amount of the time I get acknowledged as “Zachary” rather than “Zach”.

I think it would be best to always be listed as “Zach” for consistency’s sake. Does this make sense? If so, how should I also about ensuring this?

Approaches I’ve considered

Personally I would feel quite awkward/presumptuous to preemptively say “By the way, if you do acknowledge me, please use ‘Zach’.” I want to avoid asking a “do X without Y” question, but I really want to avoid overselling the value of my comments which are just asked out of curiosity.

Another approach I’ve consider is using the signature “Zach (formally Zach Hunter)” in my first-time emails to people. However I fear this may be a bit too eccentric and not the most clear.

Any thoughts to these approaches or alternatives are welcome.

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    This also depends on the citation style. I would expect many to name you "Z. Hunter".
    – Stephan Z.
    Feb 4 at 14:41
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    @StephanZ. I don't usually see initials in acknowledgements. Maybe that's more common in math? Feb 4 at 16:41
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    my field is math. while I see first initials in citations, I have generally seen spelled out first names in acknowledgement sections. Feb 4 at 16:52
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    Do you care about this because it bothers you when people call you Zachary, or just for consistency so people are attributing these contributions all to you? In the latter case, I feel you are overthinking it, unless you have a really common name.
    – user151413
    Feb 4 at 19:39
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    Beyond being eccentric, if I saw "Zach, formally Zach Hunter" in an email signature I would assume it was a typo for "formerly" and then get confused about you possibly removing your surname.
    – dbmag9
    Feb 6 at 14:33

6 Answers 6

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If you want consistency, the solution is to be consistent yourself and not send out emails that present you as either Zach or Zachary. If your emails give people the information that your first name is either X or Y where X is a common abbreviation for Y, they will assume that Y is the legal/formal name, and assume that that is the correct name to use for acknowledgements. And this is what you are doing now by sending your emails from the address “zachary.hunter@university.edu”. So, get your university to change your email address, or create your own email address using a non-university email service.

I suspect that that will largely solve the problem. It’s possible that some people will still assume that Zach is short for something else even without any indications that that’s the case due to a strong cultural conditioning (just like some people from certain cultures occasionally assume my real first name is something other than Dan), but by and large people will go with the information you give them.

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    Even changing the name next to the email address in the "from" field might already do the job.
    – user151413
    Feb 4 at 19:37
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    @user151413 Not necessarily. A lot of people will assume that if the email address has a more formal/complete sounding name that it must be "official" and use that for acknowledgements. Feb 6 at 2:48
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    assume that Zach is short for something else even without any indications Fortunately, Zach is ambiguous - can be Zachary or Zachariah - so if there is no expanded name anywhere then they have no choice but to stick with the stated "Zach". Even more interesting is a name like "Pat" which can be short for Patricia or Patrick - no way to safely guess which one it is and the problem of getting it wrong is far worse than Zachariah for Zachary. Feb 6 at 2:49
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    @manassehkatz I don't think most people look for the most formal form of the name they find in an email. It is just that the way people sign off their emails is sometimes less formals (initials etc.) than they would like to be referred to as, so one might pick the name as it appears in one of the formal parts of the email. Moreover in the "From" field said "Zach Hunter <zachary.hunter@uni.edu>", people would understand that "Zach" had been put there on purpose. And finally, many email readers will not even display the email address by default if there is a name as well.
    – user151413
    Feb 7 at 8:04
  • @user151413 I may not be typical, but if it were me in the exact same situation and I didn't know Zach really well (i.e., well enough to know he always wants to be just "Zach") then I would likely (a) be too embarrassed to ask "what do you want to be listed as"; (b) not actually want to ask out of fear of getting a "don't bother to list me, it was no big deal" response and then being unable to list him; (c) default to reasonable formal name based on email address out of sense that "Zach" isn't likely to be the real, searchable, documented name listed "everywhere". Feb 7 at 16:15
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Does this make sense?

Not really, no.

In all English-speaking countries, it's normal for people to commonly be called an abbreviated version of their name, especially for longer names. Formally, their name is the full unabbreviated version. There is no inconsistency between the two, and no-one native to an English-speaking country or familiar with English names could ever find this inconsistent.

You may prefer that people call you by the abbreviated version, and that's fine. You can tell them that when you meet them, and you can put that in your email signature and on your business cards. But it doesn't make any difference for anything except what they call you when you meet.

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    What you say used to be the position. But now, in these days of electronic transactions and ID checks, things are changing -- unfortunately. Anyone with identity documents showing 'Christopher' who books into some transactions as 'Chris' is increasingly at risk of being excluded, upon presentation and inspection of ID, as not the person who made the booking! The machines are blockheads, and sometimes the people who operate them are encouraged, if not forced, to act like blockheads too.
    – terry-s
    Feb 6 at 17:58
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    @terry-s For a passport check, that's always been the case. For academic papers, it's never been the case, nor is ever likely to be.
    – Graham
    Feb 6 at 18:44
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If it was me, I probably wouldn't mention it to them directly. When you have publications and an 'academic presence', you can go by Zach (although Zachary would be slightly more normal). But if some people refer to you as Zachary in acknowledgements, it's fine. It won't hurt you down the line, as acknowledgements don't go in a database and nobody will be confused anyway.

If you happen to be emailing someone and you know their current draft is not final (e.g. they have acknowledged you on arxiv but the paper isn't published yet), you could definitely mention it as an aside. But I wouldn't bring it up otherwise, if it was me.

It's good advice to try to get an email address with your preferred name and always use it in signatures, etc. But again, I wouldn't worry too much if this isn't possible.

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I don't see a solution, since you want to use something non standard for scientific/academic work. Most people prefer a more formal name rather than one less formal. I'm Buffy (no not really) but everyone IRL calls me Buff (ha ha). But for any formal purpose most people who haven't been told otherwise will default to the formal version.

I think that if you really want to be Zach then you need to keep informing people of it. If you want a non-default solution then you need to be vigilant about it. They aren't going to grok it on their own.

Alternatively, since you are still at the beginning of the academic journey, you could, perhaps switch to the formal version for formal communication. Even my university email signature (applied automatically) has the formal version of my name.

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    Thanks for the insight. I realize that it is non-standard to use the less formal name. I intend to stick with Zach though. Feb 4 at 14:25
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    You could also ask a court to make the change formal, though people will still think "Zachary", unless you are a famous internet cartoonist
    – Buffy
    Feb 4 at 14:27
  • @Buffy Zach Braff achieved the same as a movie actor.
    – usr1234567
    Feb 6 at 14:20
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    I've seen people get everyone to refer to them by an informal name - even the strictest style guide wouldn't refer to Bill Clinton as William, Joe Biden as Joseph, or Ted Cruz as Rafael. Of course, it's more difficult if you don't have a few million dollars to spend on billboards bearing your preferred name....
    – mjt
    Feb 7 at 15:01
  • @mjt William, Joseph and Rafael are the first names used to begin Wikipedia's articles about those three people; certainly in some formal contexts their formal names are still used.
    – kaya3
    Feb 7 at 16:47
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Is it possible that you just see a problem where there is none? Do you really need to seek consistency or perfection in this matter? You seem to be OK with people using the short form of your name, then why worry when people use your legal first name?

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    This seems non-responsive. It seems pretty clear what the OP's goals are here. "You shouldn't have these goals" isn't an answer. Feb 7 at 15:07
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    @ScottSeidman : No, it is not clear "what the OP's goals are here". The OP wrote: "I think it would be best to always be listed as “Zach” for consistency’s sake. Does this make sense?" And my answer is "No, it doesn't". So, clearly, the OP is not quite sure if he should do something about this matter at all. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with your comment.
    – akhmeteli
    Feb 7 at 15:52
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In business (at least at the academic hospital where I work) I usually look at how an email to me is signed to choose a response name.

So if RobertEatonSmith@fancy.edu writes to me:

"Can you send me a copy of the NPO guidelines?

Bob"

I know how to respond.

And when someone writes to you as Zachary, respond as Zach. The second time: "Please, just Zach -- only my mother uses Zachary"

And these days we also have pronouns to list and check, so being pedantic about your name is not a big deal.

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    I think the downvotes may be because you've misunderstood the issue. The question is not about the response in emails, but about public acknowledgment in papers. I can certainly see someone responding to the email using the shortened form of the name thinking that Bob/Zach uses an informal tone in emails, and then using longer and more official-sounding version of the name in the formal publication.
    – Anyon
    Feb 5 at 17:40

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