I am submitting a paper with my brother as a co-author. We share the same initials and surname, and neither of us has a middle name.

How should we deal with being required to use the format Initial. Surname?

  • 8
    ORCIDS sounds like a suitable solution. They can probably consult with the relevant editor for whatever journal they're publishing in about the matter. If they work at different universities, or their first names are distinguishable (just same first initial) and evident in their email addresses, then the formatting of the author list alone may make it clear that there are two people at two different universities. May 7, 2017 at 2:24
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    I don't know of any journal that requires first names do be abbreviated, but maybe that's field dependent. But I'd agree that one should go with F.Coto & F.Coto.
    – Shake Baby
    May 7, 2017 at 4:28
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    @ShakeBaby: I have seen several publications where two authors only differed by an initial. So it’s only to be expected that some cases exist where they are completely identical. I also remember publications which contained identical twins as authors, which I think also had identical initials (I cannot find them anymore though).
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 7, 2017 at 7:24
  • @Wrzlprmft I just now remembered a pair of (twin) brothers that seem prominent in number theory that this would apply to, and might be who you're looking for: Zhi-Wei Sun and Zhi-Hong Sun. I've seen either's name abbreviated as Z. Sun, though some use Z.W. Sun and Z.H. Sun or some similar variation to distinguish them (creating a de facto middle name). And they have published papers together. Not seeing one right now that used "Z. Sun" for both in the article title data, though. May 7, 2017 at 7:54
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    Why are you required to use initials instead of a full first name? That's absurd. I wouldn't publish anywhere that did that.
    – Matt Reece
    Jun 4, 2017 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


The computer scientist brothers Marcin and Michał Pilipczuk have written many papers together. I think I've seen them referred to as "Ma." and "Mi.", though I can't find an example in writing. This is similar to an older style of initials for non-Roman alphabets which would, e.g., initialize Yuri as "Yu." and Phokion as "Ph."

However, journals seem to handle them inconsistently. For example, Algorithmica says we should cite one of their papers as "Cygan, M., Marcin Pilipczuk & Michał Pilipczuk". However, the same authors have a paper in the SIAM Journal on Computing which consistently cites the brothers as "M. Pilipczuk, M. Pilipczuk". There are also papers on ArXiv where they use initials in citations and just refer to themselves as "M. Pilipczuk", which suggests they don't feel a strong need to disambiguate. (I don't know them personally so this is pure speculation on my part.)

So, if it's possible, you could try using the second letters of your first names to make your initials unique but, if you do this, there's a good chance that the journals (and other authors!) will mess it up and you'll both be "J. Doe". And this doesn't work very well if you're James and Jason. An alternative would be to invent middle initials. There's no requirement to publish under your legal name, and there are famous cases of people having middle initials that don't stand for anything (e.g., Harry S. Truman and Ulysses S. Grant). However, the downside of this is that whoever chooses the initial earlier in the alphabet will always be listed first if your discipline orders authors alphabetically and, again, people will mess it up and not realize that they need to use both initials, especially for papers where only one of you is an author.

Another, rather off-the-wall suggestion is that some English names have abbreviations that were often used in company names up to, I'd guess, about a hundred years ago. So you'll often see "Wm" for William, "Thos" for Thomas, "Jas." for James, "Geo." for George and so on. But that only works for certain, traditional, English names, it's archaic and I doubt the journals would go with it.

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