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February 02, 2012

How to Cite Pseudonyms

DBby David Becker

“Whom do I cite: Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens?”

In this post, I provide some basic guidelines and suggestions for citing pseudonyms. There’s no official APA Style rule on this, but a few criteria can help you decide how to present the information.  I use republished books as examples here—to learn more about citing republished works, see a recent post on citing sheet music.

Citing pseudonyms can seem tricky at first, but it becomes much simpler when you take into account one of APA Style’s key mottos: Cite what you see.  When it comes to citing an author, cite whatever name is used by the source, whether it be a real name or a pseudonym.  For example, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer lists Mark Twain as its author, not Samuel Clemens, so you should cite the author’s pseudonym rather than his real name: 

Twain, M. (2010). The adventures of Tom Sawyer. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1876)

In-text citation: (Twain, 1876/2010)

However, some pseudonyms can still be difficult to cite.  What if you’re citing a work by the Dalai Lama, for example?  Do you cite him as “Lama, D.” in the reference list and as just “Lama” in an in-text citation?  Well, the “Dalai” cannot be removed from “Lama” without losing meaning, so the author’s name should be spelled out in full as “Dalai Lama.”  Also, “Dalai Lama” is a title, so spelling it out in full makes that especially clear:

Dalai Lama. (1991). Freedom in exile: The autobiography of the Dalai Lama. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

In-text citation: (Dalai Lama, 1991)

This same rule applies to Dr. Seuss, where the “Dr.” and the “Seuss” cannot be separated from one another without creating some confusion:

Dr. Seuss. (1985). The cat in the hat. New York, NY: Random House. (Original work published 1957)

In-text citation: (Dr. Seuss, 1957/1985)

You might have noticed that in both of the above reference list examples, there is a period after the author’s name.  If you’re wondering why that is, then read this post about punctuating reference list entries.

You may have also noticed in a previous post about citing recorded music in APA Style that Dr. Seuss is cited as “Geisel, T.” in a sample reference list entry for the song “Welcome Christmas!” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Why was he cited by his real name, Theodor Geisel, for this song but by his pseudonym for the book The Cat in the Hat?  This is where the “cite what you see” motto comes into play again.  “Dr. Seuss” is listed as the author of The Cat in the Hat, whereas the lyricist for “Welcome Christmas!” is listed as “Theodor Geisel.”  In each case, you use whatever name was provided by the source you’re citing as the author in your citations.  This rule also applies to the Dalai Lama who occasionally goes by his birth name, Tenzin Gyatso, when authoring some books.

The “cite what you see” motto helps to keep your citations simple and uncomplicated without struggling to find extraneous information, yet it still provides readers with enough information to follow your sources.  It is an important rule of thumb to keep in mind when you are citing any source.

See sections 6.11–6.15 and 6.27 in the Publication Manual for more information about citing authors in in-text citations and reference lists.

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