Jon vs. Jonathan
August 2, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Personal Branding in Academia: Jon vs. Jonathan?

I am at the beginning of a career in academia / research, and now that I have a journal article coming out, my adviser asked me how I wanted to be labeled: "Jon Smith" or "Jonathan Smith" (Smith is a fake last name).

The name you use is important in academia, since fellow scholars use your name to find your articles and work. Many women scholars do not change their name when they get married specifically because it would make their articles harder to find (some would be under the old name and some under the new name).

I have been called Jon my entire life but all my official documents call my Jonathan. I currently run a growing blog under the name "Jon Smith", but I see no reason I couldn't change it. Most of my colleagues think I should use "Jonathan" for everything printed or work related and use "Jon" for everyday informal stuff.

I have added a bunch of additional information below:

- I have been called "Jon" my whole life, but my credit cards, passport, licenses, and diplomas say "Jonathan".
- I am just starting my academic career in a semi-hard science.
- I run a semi-popular blog related to my research under the name "Jon Smith"
- There are 9 "Jon Smith" listed in Facebook, but only 1 "Jonathan Smith".
- There are 3,000 "Jon Smith" results in Google, only 27 "Jonathan Smith" (but a few hundred are from my blog).
- There is 1 "Jon Smith" listed in Facebook, but 0 "Jonathan Smith".

Question: If you were me, would you use "Jon" or "Jonathan" for your author name and by-line? Why?

Thanks everyone! I have been mulling over this for weeks and need advice!
posted by Spurious to Work & Money (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd use Jonathan, because it just reads as a little more distinctive than Jon. Everyone can still call you "Jon" in day-to-day life, but I think there would there'd be an advantage in terms of name recognition to publishing under "Jonathan."
posted by scody at 3:56 PM on August 2, 2008

It depends on how Jonathan looks and flows with your real last name. If your last name is common, do Jonathan. If it's something ethnic, odd or complicated stick with the short name.

I have a three syllable last name that is Italian. I use my short name because it's unpretentious-looking and it just flows easier.

I don't know your real last name so I can't answer this for you.
posted by Zambrano at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2008

Your name is Jonathan. Your intimates call you "Jon". What's the problem?
posted by reflecked at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2008

Oh, and following up on Zambrano: some of it does depend on what your real last name is. If your real last name is indeed a common, one-syllable surname like Smith, the distinctiveness of Jonathan helps. If your real last name is uncommon and/or multi-syllabic, though, the distinctiveness of Jonathan is perhaps less important.
posted by scody at 4:01 PM on August 2, 2008

I'm not seeing the downside of using "Jonathan" for publication. So, could you please spell out that downside? Do you think people aren't going to find them because they know you as "Jon" or something?
posted by amtho at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: My last name has the same pronouncability, number of letters, commonality, syllables as: "Hayman", "Neville", and "Ramden".

These are some great responses, please keep them coming!
posted by Spurious at 4:12 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: @Amtho, great question!

I am worried that 1) "Jonathan" is much longer than "Jon" and 2) many people already know my as Jon.
posted by Spurious at 4:13 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and one more thing:

I already own AND
posted by Spurious at 4:14 PM on August 2, 2008

I had a mentor who always, always went by Betsy and no one ever called her anything different. EVER.

But: her papers were published under her given name, Elizabeth. In her case (and, I suspect, yours) the last name (and the research institution) is really the critical key to locating someone's work or previous publications. I understand that you have a blog connected to Jon Smith and that might be one reason you want to publish under Jon Smith. But it's not like your blog is published by Jon Smith and your publishing name for academia is Tony Smith. So I wouldn't worry too much about this.
posted by kate blank at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2008

There doesn't seem to be any real downside to using Jonathan. Many successful scholars publish under a more formal name. If you become really well-known, well-known enough that academic blogs name-drop your informal name, the two identities can easily co-exist without any real confusion. In economics, for instance, N. Gregory Mankiw is really Greg, Martin Feldstein is Marty, Edmund S. Phelps is Ned, Daniel Kahneman is Danny, while Robert M. Solow, Robert F. Engle and Robert A. Mundell are all Bob.
posted by matthewr at 4:20 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: @Kate Blank

You hit the nail on the head. I would not have thought of using "Jonathan" except that it keeps appearing whenever someone uses my name that does not know me personally, like the department website or conference proceedings.
posted by Spurious at 4:28 PM on August 2, 2008

Another Jon/Jonathan here. I use Jonathan for professional writing and speaking engagements, and Jon for virtually everything else.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:38 PM on August 2, 2008

Jonathan, please.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:44 PM on August 2, 2008

Is anyone in some even vaguely related field publishing under either Jon or Jonathan? (Or otherwise in the news?) Choose the other. If not, go your instincts. I'd be vaguely tending to Jonathan. In the end, I doubt the choice is going to have a major effect on your career.
posted by jeather at 4:46 PM on August 2, 2008

Total personal bias, but I tend to feel that Fullname Lastname is much more professional than ShortName Lastname. My full name is Jonathan DistinctiveLastName, most people know me as Jon DistinctiveLastName, but everything professional--resume, business cards, email address--is Jonathan DistinctiveLastName.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:50 PM on August 2, 2008

Your official name is Jonathan. Make your life easier. Keep Jon for the friends!
posted by ddaavviidd at 4:57 PM on August 2, 2008

For what it's worth, my name is Christopher Cardinal. But I've converted that to Chris Cardinal in everything: credit cards, my business operating agreement, anything i've ever written... I've never been published in a scholarly manner, but I've been quoted in newspapers and magazines as Chris Cardinal.

About the only holdouts are my passport and my drivers license. And ironically, I can check my credit against "Chris Cardinal" so I might just change those over too, since my bank account is in Chris Cardinal as well.

This post is gonna screw my Google name search results up something fierce.

But ironically, I prefer Jonathon for scholarly articles. I think "Jon" is a bit too informal, almost in a way that Chris *isn't* from "Christopher." I have no basis for that assertion except how it subjectively sounds to me.
posted by disillusioned at 5:00 PM on August 2, 2008

It's just conventional to use your full name (and usually middle initial) for the author cite in academic publishing, and that is an area where defying convention is pointless. Unless you want to stand out for the odd quirk of using your shortened name, definitely stick with "Jonathan." I can think of two colleagues who publish under their short names immediately, and some famous ones like Dick Hebdige (seriously). But the vast, vast majority use their full names.

Be original and unconventional in your thinking, and be conventional with your apparatus. (Up to a point, the older I get and the more bad manuscripts I have to review, the more I think this includes prose style -- the most original things can be said *best* in the plainest of prose). and don't worry about this kind of thing for very long. The only "branding" that really matters is in the part underneath your byline.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:14 PM on August 2, 2008

As a fellow Jon, I say go with Jon.
posted by jonmc at 5:27 PM on August 2, 2008

It may depend on your field. Are you a social scientist who is likely to be cited as J. Smith, regardless of how you sign your articles?

Fredric Jameson signed his first few articles as Fred Jameson. The informality certainly did not hurt his career, but that was before the internet. Consistency is probably the only thing to take into account nowadays.
posted by Morpeth at 5:44 PM on August 2, 2008

I'd go with what sounds better. And not knowing your last name, I'd assume that would be Jonathan. (Jonathan Smith sounds more professional/scholarly than Jon Smith.)

My professional name happens to be my nickname and my last name -- simply because it rolls off the tongue really well. It's catchy in a way that my legal name is not. So if Jon ____ is catchy, then consider that.

However, a friend of mine whose name is Jonathan was honestly surprised that I use the nickname as a professional name as he wouldn't.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:29 PM on August 2, 2008

Publish under whatever is your legal name (I'm assuming Johnathon). It makes all the contract stuff easier (e.g. legal agreements to allow publication) and is what people who don't know you personally are going to default to anyway (i.e. conference listings, department website, you've seen this already). It has the highest chance of remaining consistent across what is written about you.

But beyond that no one will care. I know many senior level scientists who go by shortened names and I only know their full names (and middle names, heh) from their publications. None of them publish under a nickname. I move around a lot between organisations and the extended scientific network knows who these people are and what they've published despite the disparity. I also know a couple of older scientists who have reverted to the longer name for whatever reason, none of them planned that when they were younger. Why ask for trouble? Just use your legal name on your formal publications and call yourself whatever you like the rest of the time.

As an aside, there are plenty of ways to keep track of publications even when a name changes and I know many female scientists who changed their name without issue. I'm not saying there aren't some who keep their old names too and it's definitely common, but a name change (or even two) isn't actually as big a deal as you might think. So whatever you decide you're not stuck with it forever. Stop over thinking this small detail and focus on writing those publications.
posted by shelleycat at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: Jonathan B. Smith

The use of formal first names is the norm, as is the use of middle initials. When you are referenced, it will be Smith, J. B. (2008). People who know you personally will call you Jon, people who have only seen your work in print will call you Jonathan or Dr. Smith, allowing you the opportunity to say "please, call me Jon."

Using your example, I go by Jon in person and on my business cards, but Jonathan B. Smith on all publications. There are other J. Smiths in my field, but no other J. B. Smiths. This makes it easy for people to find my papers online (except for my most cited paper, in which my coauthor did not include my middle initial).

[The only thing better would be if your name were B. Jonathan Smith]
posted by i love cheese at 7:09 PM on August 2, 2008

Do you have a middle name? IIRC, PG Wodehouse used his whole name in academia to become Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. I use John E.S. Parman on some professional correspondence. Often, if it fits and I'm addressing someone who also has a number behind their name, I'll use J IX P and then sign my whole name, which is more than 22 characters and took me a long time to figure out how to write in complete signatory style.
posted by parmanparman at 7:16 PM on August 2, 2008

I would go with an initial: J. Smith. Or, preferably, if you have a middle name, then two initials: J. P. Smith.

I also follow my own advice in my academic writing I use initials (I let the editorial department cow me into using my full first name and middle initial on my masters. Never again, I say!)
posted by oddman at 7:23 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: Jonathan B. Smith

The use of formal first names is the norm, as is the use of middle initials. When you are referenced, it will be Smith, J. B. (2008).

As an R&D librarian, I can tell you that I really appreciate it when this is the case. For example, one of my scientists would come in and say "I heard there's this really great research out there that was just published by John Smith. It might be Jon Smith though. It's on XXX topic or maybe XXX topic, but I don't know, just get it for me." So the more distinct that you can establish yourself in a professional publication the easier it is to find.

It's one thing for me, a professional searcher, to try to track you down, but if the scientist wants to just google you themselves - make it easy on them. Most technical databases have an authority file that would list you as Smith, J.B. anyway - but make it easy for others in your field.
posted by librarianamy at 7:26 PM on August 2, 2008

Response by poster: @Librarianamy

That a great comment, exactly the kind of perspective I was looking for.
posted by Spurious at 8:12 PM on August 2, 2008

my credit cards, passport, licenses, and diplomas say "Jonathan"

and so should your research papers.
posted by flabdablet at 3:17 AM on August 3, 2008

For my Brother: Academically and professionally, Jonathan; Family and long-term friends, Jon. I can't tell you why as I've never asked, although I will next week when I'm at his home. He has his PhD in Organisational Theory and teaches and performs research in a number of programs in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

It was around 15 years ago that he let me know that he'd be using his formal first name around most of his colleagues and wanted me to know. I think it came down to a trade-off between professionalism and allowing a level of personal familiarity for closer researchers and students.
posted by michswiss at 5:08 AM on August 3, 2008

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