Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

What’s in a name? Everything

Presentation #214.03 in the session Workforce and the State of Our Profession (iPosters).

Published onOct 20, 2022
What’s in a name? Everything

A name is a fundamental part of a person’s identity and individuality. A recurring theme in folklore is that knowing the name of a person can give power over them. But there are indeed tangible effects from knowing and using names. Correct use of a person’s name can help that person feel respected and seen. Incorrect usage can make a person feel demoralized, excluded or even threatened. However, incorrect naming is a common occurrence. When faced with unfamiliar names, there is a tendency to mispronounce the name when speaking and misspell it when writing. Others may avoid talking to a person for fear of mispronouncing their name, leading to isolation. Another common infraction is to refer to someone by a name they no longer use and which may not reflect their current identity. This is of particular relevance to the transgender community, for whom “deadnaming” can reopen past trauma.

Failure to correctly use a person’s name, whether through ignorance or malice, can be demoralizing at best and dehumanizing at worst. As a community it is imperative that we do better. Here, we present some common naming issues, offer recommendations to increase the respect shown for our colleagues’ identities, and to create a culture of inclusivity, respect, and safety.

  • Use the name an individual identifies themselves as, regardless of any other names they may have used previously. Set up a centralized mechanism (e.g., through ORCID) to request name changes and push these to the publishers.

  • Do not alter the spelling of names. Preserve the diacritical marks. For names from a language that does not use the Latin alphabet, identify the transliteration scheme when practical to do so.

  • Make a good faith effort to pronounce names correctly, or use the closest approximation for names that contain phonemes not found in English. When in doubt, ask the individual how to pronounce their name rather than guessing or giving up. Even if you don’t get it quite right on the first try, most people will appreciate the attempt and provide feedback.

  • Conference registration pages should collect phonetic spellings to be printed on badges and to assist session chairs when making introductions.

  • Include a guide on how to pronounce names in email signatures.

  • When a mistake is made, acknowledge the error, and use the correct name going forward.

No comments here