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In my language, name structure are different to Western names, and they have a lot of diacritics. To make it less confusing and easier to use for international work, we usually "transliterate" it to a non-diacritics version and reorder the position of components. The problem is, for different people, they will choose different way to change. For example, in my language, the name Nguyễn Ví Dụ will have these kinds of transliterate (I'm not going to list all "combinations"):

  • Du Nguyen
  • Nguyen VD
  • NV Du
  • Du NV
  • or keep using Nguyễn Ví Dụ

Since the complexity of how a name is formed in the language is large, I can't really say which kind of "transliteration" is better than the others (it may even depend on the policy of the journals). And honestly, I don't think this is a problem to the authors if they decide to use a particular "transliteration". I know that I should keep those names as they are when citing the authors because that's how they get the credits.

Question: However, when I list some authors (say in my CV), one will easily notice the differences between how the names represented. If the reader doesn't really care about that, that's fine, but if they do, I don't know if they will have bad impression? For worse, three professors who wrote LORs for me referred my name in three different ways, same as how they write their names. And I myself have decided to just write my name as it is, which will make my application has four representations of my name. Should I worry about this?

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    'we usually "transliterate" (...) and reorder' - and so, the problem begins. – O. R. Mapper Apr 27 '15 at 8:42
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    you can always mention this in your cover letter, in a subtle way (perhaps when you mention your international background). Alternatively if you are sending your CV via email, it could be mentioned there. – posdef Apr 27 '15 at 8:45
  • Nguyễn is your family name, correct? How did NV Du or Du NV ever end up being used? Are they used in any of your publications, or only your reference letters? – curiousdannii May 11 '15 at 5:11
  • @curiousdannii it is the family name (but not mine :) ). People only expose Du because in our culture, the only name you use to refer to a person is the name at the last (not the last name), regardless how formal the situation is. Some people can easily accept to be called by their surname (last name), some people just feel to be strange. I'm just a neophyte, so I don't have much publications, so far the name trouble is only in my reference letters, but I suspect that it will come in my publications soon. – Ooker May 11 '15 at 6:02
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Among those names you listed, the only place for concern about confusion is that the second representation (Nguyen VD) is not obviously the same as the the third and fourth (NV Du or Du NV). Now in your question you seem to have a couple of concerns.

1) You're worried about authors' names on your CV (I guess in your list of publications). Here the only likely concern should be for it to be clear which author you are. If you're in a field like math, where author order doesn't matter, you don't even need to list your name, just say "(with ...)" to list your coauthors. Otherwise, it's normal to list names as they appear on the paper. If you want, you can take some liberties by expanding to full names or adding diacritics as long as it is easy to identify the author list on the published paper with that on your CV. If for some reason it is still not clear which author you are (e.g., if other authors have some abbreviated name which might be yours), you can highlight your name on each paper (e.g., with an asterisk or use a different color).

2) For your LORs, it's common that different professors refer to people in different ways. Since these will be LORs for you, there should be no confusion of who they're referring to, as long as it's reasonably related to your name on your application. Also, if you list them as references, enter their names in their preferred format is reasonable, at least if you are writing in free form (e.g., you're not given certain spaces for family name versus given name). The committee will then see that the way you entered their names matches with the way they wrote their own names on their letters.

  • for the references, it is what I'm talking about. I just afraid that the committee will find something weird in the names be inconsistent. – Ooker Apr 28 '15 at 8:28
  • @Ooker That list of references does not look at all strange to me. Most people in academia are exposed to researchers in many different countries, who may write their names in different ways. Personally, I also like consistency when possible, but different people do things differently, and you have to accomodate that. – Kimball Apr 28 '15 at 8:46
  • that's what I'm looking for. Thank you so much. – Ooker Apr 28 '15 at 8:47
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It's only part of the solution, but you could look at ORCID, which gives you a unique ID to link together all of your publications etc. regardless of the exact form of your name you use. Use isn't widespread yet, but more and more publishers are starting to adopt it, as are increasing numbers of research institutions (at least in the UK).

  • Related to that, there is also a Researcher ID, and as Scopus ID, that can be linked with the ORCID. That way, you can claim authorship of your articles, and you can even provide links as reference. – juandesant Apr 27 '15 at 21:02
  • which one should I use? Is using those sites depend on which field I am in? – Ooker Apr 28 '15 at 8:11
  • Use any or all of them — they're not mutually exclusive and there's no clear indication yet which one will become standard. – Jez May 10 '15 at 18:47
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    Use ORCID. It's open, not for profit and being adopted by most universities and funders. It will link to the other two if necessary. – tom Oct 13 '15 at 19:28
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I don't think this will make a bad impression with anyone. If this were to make a bad impression on someone, then you'd probably not want to work for that person.

In particular in the U.S. (but mostly in all Western countries at least), nowadays, it doesn't matter which name you choose. What matters is that you decide on one name, and stick to it. If you don't, you create unnecessary confusion and, at least until you'd be well-established, a never-ending need to clarify simple things.

If it's not too late, I would consider discussing this with your letter writers, and ask them to kindly all use whichever name you decide on. If it is too late to ask them, but you haven't sent anything out yet, do as the comment suggests and add a few explanatory words to your cover letter. And if you've already sent your application out, I wouldn't worry too much about the name issue.

  • On re-reading your entire question, I noticed that my formulations are throughout addressing what I took as your main concern - the 4 different names across an application. If you already have publications under different (apparent) names, the second paragraph still applies: don't worry about this for the past, but don't do it in the future. – gnometorule Apr 27 '15 at 9:47
  • Thanks for your answer. I want to know if the inconsistance of the professors' names in my CV is the big deal? – Ooker Apr 27 '15 at 11:05
  • I'm not sure I understand. Do your professors' names appear in your CV as part of a publication list as co-authors, and you worry that others don't recognize them because in your CV, their name is spelled differently from in the publication? Or what is the issue with spelling professors' names in your CV? – gnometorule Apr 27 '15 at 14:26
  • something like this. They are not consistent in the way they present in my CV. – Ooker Apr 28 '15 at 8:17
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    @Ooker: I see. I think the accepted answer by Kimball addresses this nicely though, so there isn't really much to add (and it's again no reason for worry, but you need to decide now how to avoid this from happening again in the future). – gnometorule Apr 28 '15 at 14:47
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It's not entirely clear to me what your worry or question is.

In your first question, you mention that "when I list some authors (say in my CV), one will easily notice the differences between how the names represented." But why would you as a Vietnamese person order the names of other Vietnamese people in multiple different ways in your own CV?

In your second question, you say that "three professors who wrote LORs for me refered me in three different names". But the only reason they did that must be that you failed to inform them how you wanted your name to be rendered (in English, I presume?).

My suggestion to you is to mention at the top of your CV (and on your website) that in the East Asian tradition, your name (using the same example name as you did) is rendered as Nguyễn Ví Dụ (family name - middle name - given name), but in the Western tradition, it is rendered as Dụ Ví Nguyễn (given name - middle name - family name). Once you just mention that Nguyễn is the family name, no one should have any difficulties figuring out how to refer to you.

  • 1) No I don't. They order their names themselves. 2) Yes. I didn't aware of that until I read the LORs they send. I haven't had website (yet), but I have thought about it. And in CV, how should I mention this? By having a Disclaimer section? – Ooker Apr 28 '15 at 8:32

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