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May 10, 2017

What’s in a Name? Inconsistent Formats and Name Changes

Chelsea blog 2  by Chelsea Lee

This post is part of a series on author names. Other posts in the series will be linked at the bottom of this post as they are published.

Although APA encourages authors to use one format for their name throughout their publishing career, inconsistencies do arise, and some authors choose to change their name for professional publication. This post addresses how to cite works in each of these circumstances.

Inconsistent Presentation

Sometimes names are presented inconsistently across publications. If the author has used different forms of the same name on different works, then your reference list entries should match the form of the name on the work being cited for reasons of retrievability. For example, sometimes the author may use a middle initial and sometimes not (e.g., perhaps Jacob T. Baker sometimes publishes as Jacob Baker).

Because both names refer to the same person and the differences between names are minor (namely, a missing initial), it is not necessary to adjust the order of the works in the reference list to account for the missing initial or to put the author’s initials in the text citations to distinguish the references. (Read more about the order of works in the reference list and see examples.)

Name Changes

Another case is when an author has changed names, such as a surname change after marriage or divorce or a name change for a transgender author. Do not change the name on a work if an author has published under different names; cite the work using the name shown on the publication you read. In most cases, it is not necessary to note for the reader that two different names refer to the same person; just cite each work normally.

  • Example change of surname: If Morgan J. McDonald now publishes as Morgan J. Williams, then cite the works in the text as McDonald (2005) and Williams (2017), respectively; in the reference list, the works should be alphabetized under M and W, respectively.
  • Example change to a hyphenated or two-part surname: If Taylor T. Hartley now publishes as Taylor T. Hartley-Jones, then cite the works in the text as Hartley (2010) and Hartley-Jones (2017), respectively; in the reference list, all works by Hartley come before those published by Hartley-Jones because of the rules of alphabetizing the reference list. (The same principle applies if Taylor had decided to use no hyphen between the surnames, for example, Taylor T. Hartley Jones.) See this blog post on two-part surnames for more.
  • Example first name change for a transgender author (different initials): If John J. Smith now publishes under the name Rebecca L. Smith, and if you cite works published under both names in your paper, then cite the works in the text as J. J. Smith (2001) and R. L. Smith (2015), respectively; in the reference list, take the initials into account and put works by Smith, J. J., before works by Smith, R. L. Note: If you cite only works published as John or only works published as Rebecca, then no initials in the text or description of the author’s name change are necessary; just cite the works normally.
  • Example first name change for a transgender author (same initials): If Alicia K. Johnson now publishes under the name Adam K. Johnson, and if you cite works published under both names in your paper, then cite the works in the text as Alicia K. Johnson (2004) and Adam K. Johnson (2017), respectively—including the full name of the author because the initials are the same but the names themselves are different. In the reference list, put the author’s first name in brackets to alert the reader that the first names are different. The entries would be as follows:
    • Johnson, A. [Adam] K. (2017). ...
    • Johnson, A. [Alicia] K. (2004). ...

Note that if you cite only works published as Alicia or only works published as Adam, then no full names in the text and reference list or description of the author’s name change are necessary.

Making Note of a Name Change

Although in most cases it is not necessary to note that two different names refer to the same person, there are cases when it would be relevant or useful to do so.  For example, if you are reviewing multiple works by an author to describe the history of their research and a difference in name might confuse the reader, explain in the text that the two different names refer to the same person. Be warned; this might require some finesse to straighten out the citations. For example, you might write,

Smith-Hartman (publishing as Smith, 2010) pioneered treatment for depression and anxiety. In particular, she discovered a novel therapy involving the use of animals (Smith-Hartman, 2016).

Other Questions

Do you have more questions on author names in APA Style? See these other posts, or leave a comment below:

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