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My name is Jorge Fernández de Cossío Díaz. In my country, we have two last names: the first (Fernández de Cossío) comes from the father side, and the second (Díaz) comes from the mother side.

I have been suggested various signatures:

  • "J. Fernandez-de-Cossio Diaz", without the accents, since I've been told that this helps search engines locate my paper. The hyphens supposedly help the search engines to not mistake Fernandez-de-Cossio with two or three last names.

  • "J. Fernández-de-Cossío Díaz" (with the accents, since that's how my is actually name spelled)

  • "J. Fernández de Cossío Díaz"

  • "Jorge Fernández de Cossío Díaz"

You can suggest new ones. I want to make sure that the search engines and citation indexes, etc, do not get confused. Also, if in my CV I write my name as "Jorge Fernández de Cossío Díaz", will it be ok if the papers are signed as "J. Fernandez-de-Cossio Diaz"?

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    This is a bigger decision than you might think -- whatever you decide, you should plan on using the same name on every paper you write in the future, so your papers can get properly indexed and found by search engines like Google Scholar. – Chris Gregg Mar 29 '13 at 17:30
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    just be consistent with it so the web crawlers can catch you :) – seteropere Mar 29 '13 at 17:37
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In principle, you can use any professional name you like to sign your papers. I have a few colleagues whose nom de plume (or perhaps nom de LaTeX?) is not the same as their legal name.

But by default, I would recommend signing your papers precisely as you sign anything else, including spaces and accents:

Jorge Fernández de Cossío Díaz

It would be helpful for people citing your papers to state, somewhere in your CV and on your professional web page, that your last name contains three spaces. And you'll have to correct copy-editors who incessantly abbreviate it as "J. F. C. Díaz", but you'd have to do that with the other suggested variants anyway. Modern search engines have no trouble with accents.

  • Definitely your professional web page needs to briefly address how your name works for those without the appropriate cultural background, and in particular how to refer to you using surname alone. This is really tricky if you don't know the specific case. For example, if someone publishes under the name "J. J. Jingleheimer Schmidt", do you refer to them as Schmidt or Jingleheimer Schmidt? Do you refer to "J. von Neumann" as von Neumann or just Neumann? Is "Erdős Pál" using Hungarian or Western name ordering? Etc. – Anonymous Mathematician Mar 29 '13 at 18:04
  • I also agree that search engines and citation indices have no trouble with accents. (If there is any difficulty, it's from lumping together cases with and without accents, not from artificially distinguishing between them.) There are some people who are compulsive about accents, and you will drive them nuts if you ever write your name differently (e.g., if your web page or CV uses accents but some publications don't), since it will be hard to tell how you want people to spell your name. If you are going to use accents at all in your professional life, it's best to use them everywhere. – Anonymous Mathematician Mar 29 '13 at 18:07
  • @Anon: It's not an issue restricted to non-English names, either: for example, John Maynard Smith's surname was not "Smith". – Ilmari Karonen Mar 29 '13 at 20:07
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    There are some people who are compulsive about accents — [raises hand] – JeffE Mar 30 '13 at 19:48
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While this decision should really be up to you, and all that you need to ensure is that you're consistent in using the same name, I'll share an anecdote, which might give you a different perspective on long names.

There was a researcher who, presumably from a similar culture/country as you, had a long name, which for the sake of anonymity, I'll call L. Ipsum Dolór de Sit Amét. In many journals, the rule for truncating multiple authors to et al. is (if using author names in citations, instead of numbers):

  • 2 authors — explicitly name both
  • 3 authors or more — explicitly name first and truncate the rest

(Some publishers name all authors if up to 3 total and name 2 and truncate the rest if 4 or more, etc., but the general idea remains the same)

Now someone I knew, had to cite a few papers of Dr. Ipsum Dolór de Sit Amét. Although the primary papers were by "J. SingleLongName and L. Ipsum Dolór de Sit Amét" and "L. Ipsum Dolór de Sit Amét and P. SomeoneElse", there was a closely related followup/auxiliary paper written by "P. SomeoneElse, L. Ipsum Dolór de Sit Amét and J. SingleLongName" which also briefly touches upon (as a background) the material in the other two and cite them.

Now this person was in a dilemma. Referring to the first two explicitly where ever they needed to, took up about three-four lines in a two column journal paper, leading to repeated breaks in the flow of reading. On the other hand, "SomeoneElse et al." was short, memorable and saved space and also contained the relevant idea being referenced to. So in the end, the person chose to cite all three once in the introduction, and use "SomeoneElse et al." everywhere else in the article (effectively making it seem more important than it is). You'd be surprised, but this is not an uncommon occurrence at all.

Now there are different ways to look at it — some might say it was unethical (extreme) or unfair to not cite the canonical article just because of the length of their name. Some might say that while they probably wouldn't do it, there is no real harm™ done, because regardless of the number of times it is mentioned in the body, it appears only once in the list of references and the web spiders will pick it up correctly. Few more might say that it doesn't matter since it's the same set of authors and if you drill down, it is obvious which is the canonical reference. Well, I'm not here to argue for or against any of that. But I will point out that a big impact of someone doing this is that your name loses visibility (not an issue in journals that use numbers for references) and people will only remember it as "SomeoneElse" and a bunch of others. Perhaps you're a special cookie that remembers all 5 authors of every paper, but I don't and many others I know don't.

So if this is a concern, you can use it in full, but abbreviate it to a short one. For instance, use Jorge Fernández de Cossío Díaz in the author list under the title, but in the "cite as" section, use J. F. C. Díaz or J. F-C. Díaz.

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