I have a hyphenated surname, namely Kinara-Williams. I intend to be published in the future when I graduate and during/after my PhD.

But Kinara-Williams seems like a mouthful to cite. After reading other threads, it appears pseudonyms are frowned upon in the scientific/academic community; so what do people usually do? Just go with the preferred one?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – StrongBad Nov 28 '17 at 15:01

As other have commented, the length of your hyphenated surname is not problematic at all: keep it and don't worry.

Fun fact. Uh, well, it took me years to discover that Lennard-Jones was actually just one person and not two, and that the Hanbury-Brown-Twiss experiment was devised by two people and not three, Hanbury Brown (no hyphen) and Twiss. For Jaynes-Cummings, instead, I tought they were two and they were actually two - amazing! But I would count this as a minor inconvenience, which actually taught me not to make assumptions on surnames (and, as suggested by E.P., this popular page discusses other false assumptions).

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    In the "Hanbury-Brown-Twiss" case, I'd argue you're not at fault: It was whoever introduced that abbreviation that unwisely connected the name parts in such a way that the information which ones denote one person and which ones denote two was lost. – O. R. Mapper Nov 24 '17 at 13:48
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    Right, according to the AMS style guide (ams.org/publications/authors/AMS-StyleGuide-print.pdf), it should be "Hanbury Brown--Twiss" (where the '--' is LaTeX shorthand for an en-dash). – Christian Clason Nov 24 '17 at 13:52
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    Which stresses @O.R.Mapper's point (as I meant to do): The books and lecturers didn't care that you realized that these were two people, so it's their fault and not yours. – Christian Clason Nov 24 '17 at 14:05
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    @ChristianClason Sorry, I phrased the sentence in the wrong way, but I wasn't contrasting yours and O. R. Mapper's remarks: I should've written "in fact" instead of "but" at the beginning. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 24 '17 at 14:10
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    @aeismail Double-barrelled surnames without a hyphen are nowhere near unique to Britain, unless you restrict your attention exclusively to English-speaking countries; for one, a majority of Spanish-speaking countries use two surnames. You're less likely to have seen them in the English-language scientific literature, which forces authors to hyphenate, drop a surname, or risk their (main) paternal surname getting mistaken by a middle initial, but it doesn't mean it isn't the case. – E.P. Nov 25 '17 at 15:49

In Spain, Portugal and Iberoamerican countries this happens often, since two surnames are used (one for the father, one for the mother). A long name is not a problem. My reference manager is full of Sánchez-Martínez, Prats-Rodríguez, Jiménez-Muñoz, Gómez-Rodríguez and the like.

The main advice in this situation is be consistent in the usage of your name to avoid confusions and that your publications are considered as made by two different authors (e.g. Kinara and Kinara-Williams).

Then you have two options:

  • Use your complete name. This decreases the probability of being confounded with another researcher.
  • Use one of your names. In this case it may be preferable to use the less common, again to decrease the probability of confusion with another author.
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    These names are all misspelled, incidentally: Portugal and (as far as I know) Spain don’t hyphenate their compound surnames. But since journals and reference managers deal so terribly with non-hyphenated multi-word surnames, they adapt. Ridiculous. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 24 '17 at 17:14
  • Thanks for your reply @lodebari. And that's an interesting occurrence @KonradRudolph! – Keron Nov 24 '17 at 20:22
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    @KonradRudolph That's only partially true. Most authors that introduce hyphens between their surnames (in my personal experience as a Spanish speaker) do so personally as a conscious decision, so calling them "misspelled" isn't quite there - it's just a conscious choice by the author to use a non-standard spelling. Moreover, in my experience, the primary pressure to adapt the spelling isn't from journals, it's from university bureaucrats and to avoid English-speaking academics who are prone to errors in citations. – E.P. Nov 25 '17 at 16:06
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    @E.P. Right, that’s what I meant (hence “they adapt”). But you’re right, University systems are actually even worse at handling names correctly than journal publishing systems. A friend of mine was flat out told that his employer’s personnel management couldn’t deal with the umlaut in his name. — It’s a small, poor employer, unaccustomed to technology or international personnel; it’s called “University of Oxford”. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 25 '17 at 16:57
  • @KonradRudolph Indeed, it is most often a conscious choice. I usually use my first surname, but occasionally I have used both without a hyphen. The result is that when Google Academic and other tools reference those articles they consider my first surname as my second name. so, better use it. – lodebari Nov 27 '17 at 10:14

Side comment:

If the hyphenated name is due to marriage, it is common to use the premarital name, especially if papers have been published before the name change. This has nothing to do with a name being too long, but rather to preserve an academic identity that has been established before the marriage.

Assuming you don't have a pre-hyphen identity you wish to hang on to, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I also have a hyphenated name and as far as I can tell, the only difference it makes is that my name is more likely to be abbreviated on posters, slides or SO usernames.


Like others said, be consistent. Both myself and my wife's names (which are different) are longer than yours and hyphenated and it's not a problem.

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