I am about to publish my first paper, but there is a little question bothering me. I have two middle names and I've noticed that most authors with two middle names choose only one to use as a initial. So their abbreviated names become "Last AB", not "Last ABC" (which apparently doesn't look so good).

However, I've read the "instructions for authors" of many journals, and none of them says anything about choosing the initials you want to use, you just have to put your full name and (I suppose) they abbreviate it by themselves.

Can someone please clarify for me how it works and how people manage to choose the way journals publish their initials?

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    It is only up to you. Even using a nickname is not a crime. The editors should not distate you what to do and I not aware of any journals asking for identity proof before accepting the paper. I know many female scientists who use their maiden names although these names for many years after the marriage. Nov 15, 2015 at 11:47
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    "I've noticed that most authors with two middle names choose only one to use as a initial." How do you know what authors in your field have two middle names, especially when you claim they're mostly publishing with only one middle initial? Nov 15, 2015 at 14:45
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    If your name is Alfred Michael Edgar Smith, I would recommend including both middle initials, because who knows how many A. M. Smiths will be publishing papers in your field. If your name is Alfred Michael Edgar Stout-Worthington, I think zero, one, or two middle initials will all work fine. (And if people call you Fred, this opens a whole nother can of worms.) Nov 15, 2015 at 18:42
  • @phys_chem_prof I'd like to use my real name, with both names. I just would like exclude one middle name when my name gets abbreviated.
    – Trp
    Nov 15, 2015 at 20:26
  • @DavidRicherby they actually use all their names, I'm talking about the initials when the name gets abbreviated. Here is an exemple: see the full name of the last author, now see how it gets abbreviated.
    – Trp
    Nov 15, 2015 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


I have two middle names, and have faced a similar dilemma, since there is a great deal of inconsistency not just with journals and citations but in how pretty much all bureaucratic systems choose to handle names.

In making your decision, there are three main cases to consider about how your name will be used:

  1. How your name appears on your own papers: With pretty much any reasonable publication, you should be able to specify your name precisely as you wish it to appear. Just be consistent from publication to publication.
  2. How you are identified in databases: This is important because this helps guide other people's discovery of your related works, but you are at the mercy of whoever coded up the database and how many bad assumptions they made about names. Fortunately, this is why ORCID was created, because names aren't very good unique identifiers in the first place. An ORCID, however, provides an easy hook for programmers to organize your publications correctly.
  3. How people write your name in citations: This is (hopefully) the most common usage, but also the one you have least control over, since people and style guides may mutilate your name in any number of creative ways, especially if your name contains non-English characters. Even closely related languages like French, Spanish, and German often get mangled in transliteration (e.g., losing their diacritics). Fortunately, it matters somewhat less in this case, as the citation is really just a pointer to your own paper.

My personal solution has been to simply use no middle names, since I did not want to end up with one being picked over the other. That works for me partly because my name is relatively unusual to begin with---somebody with more common first and last names might be much more motivated to include one or both of their initials.

  • "you should be able to specify your name precisely as you wish it to appear" - I'd restrict this "precisely" to exclude shortening. If a venue/publisher wants to only indicate initials instead of full given names, nothing will stop them from reformatting the authors list (or bibliography items, for that matter) accordingly. Authors can, however, be reasonably certain that in the authors list, names the authors originally supply only as initials will not be expanded to the full form, and that names/initials not supplied at all will not be added. Nov 15, 2015 at 14:50
  • Thanks, jakebeal! But I think I'm still not getting it right. I am concerned about the abbreviation of my name, but I don't know precisely how it works. I see many authors that have two middle names, but have their name consistently abbreviated with only their last name plus two initials (ex: John Baker Brown Smith, Smith JB). I don't know if you have the option to choose the abbreviation when you submit the paper, but there is certainly something I am missing.
    – Trp
    Nov 15, 2015 at 20:36
  • Here is an exemple: the last author of this paper is called Robson Augusto Souza Santos and always uses his full name. But when the name is abbreviated (in PubMed, for example), it always becomes Santos RA.
    – Trp
    Nov 15, 2015 at 20:37

You're doing the right thing to consult the 'instructions for authors'; but if you have any lingering doubts, it would not hurt to email to the journal's publishing team.

Having said that, in the journals that I have published in, there has not been any restrictions as to how many initials can be included in your manuscripts. One of my co-authors also has 2 middle names, and has not had any problems including all of them. The author can specify how they have their name expressed - I have done this, some papers have my middle initial, some don't.

Sometimes, when papers are indexed by a different party other than the publisher, the initials maybe shortened.

  • Thanks Ghost! But what if I want to use only two initials? I've seen many authors that include all their names on the paper, but when they are cited, only two initials are used. I don't know if I'm explaining myself right, but here is an example: see the last author of this paper, using all his names but just two initials.
    – Trp
    Nov 15, 2015 at 8:28
  • @Trp I have clarified (I think)
    – user41783
    Nov 15, 2015 at 9:16

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