I was just wondering about academic names for publication. Why do some writers use initials then surname (for me it would be A.D.R MacLean), some their names with initials (Aidan D.R. MacLean), and some just their names (Aidan MacLean)?

What are the considerations and what would you pick if you were me?

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    Part of this is journal styles. Some journals do all initials + last name, and some let you pick. I am always (for example) Azor B.C. Ahai but some journals will make that A.B.C. Ahai. I don't know what fields do what. For me, Azor B.C. Ahai is my name, not Azor Ahai, so why wouldn't I use it? Jan 27, 2023 at 14:14
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    There is an Azor B. Ahai out there in a different field, but that was only a minor factor for me. Jan 27, 2023 at 14:16
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    The main thing is that you are consistent in the name you use. I had a colleague who signed with F. Middle Last because he personally didn't like going by his First name, and usually went by his Middle name, so signed his publications accordingly.
    – penelope
    Jan 27, 2023 at 14:31
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    When I was just starting out there was nobody with the same initials and last name as me to be found in recent decades. Still the case. On the other hand, my advisor used his full first name because there was a 'namespace' collision with somebody else in a related field. Do a few searches, pick what you like, and use Orchid...
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:20

3 Answers 3


Some concerns are:

  • Separating academic and private life. A "John Richard Doe" who publishes academic work as "J. R. Doe" might not want other academics to find their private Instagram account "John Doe" where they mostly post drunk party pictures.
  • Avoiding confusion. When there are already a "J. R. Doe", a "John Doe" and a "John R. Doe" doing related work, then this person might decide to publish under the name "Richard Doe" to avoid getting mistaken for one of their peers.
  • Personal preference regarding what "sounds better"
  • Also, in some cases, the style guide of the journal to which you're submitting your manuscript will tell you whether to use initials or full first forename. Jan 27, 2023 at 14:21
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    Some of my female colleagues prefer to publish as J.R. Doe rather than Jane Doe, to avoid their gender being immediately obvious to readers.
    – avid
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:41
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    A male colleague of mine uses his initials out of solidarity with female colleagues. He doesn't want to take advantage of readers or reviewers knowing he's male from his name Jan 28, 2023 at 0:58

I would not worry about it too much. It is largely personal preference about how you want to be professional known. Also, I have had co-authors use nicknames and not include my middle initial. None of these have impacted my career.

Simply setup an ORCID and use that number to identify your publications. Other answers highlight the benefit of ORCIDs (e.g., https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/100500/33210).

Other answers such as this one were more important prior ORCID and other tools like it that allow you to "claim" your publications (other tools include Google Scholar, Scopus, and Research Gate). Personally, if you only use one tool to link your publications, I suggest ORCID because it's a non-profit.


After you start publishing papers and books, they will appear in databases (like NASA/ADS). Your colleagues will, from time to time, look up your publication profile in these databases. (E.g., when a journal editor gets a manuscript, (s)he starts checking who is acknowledged in this field and can be approached with a request to referee this work.) If your name is, say, J.Smith, it will be difficult to single out your publications, because there are many J.Smith`s. So, you better publish under your full name, Jane Beverly Smith.

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