I.M. Tiresome.


Why do writers abbreviate their names? I know S.E. Hinton abbreviated hers cause the publishers thought she’d sell more books if they could convince readers the roughneck characters from The Outsiders and Rumblefish were written by a hardscrabble dude and not a 16-year-old girl. I’m sure some other lady authors have pulled that trick in the past too. People do it now because they want their names to sound fancier than they are, and thus more credible maybe? If you’re name’s Jane Smith then J.R.R. Tolkiensmith is definitely got more panache to it. The worst is when they only abbreviate one name, like S. Steven Stevenson. Like that first name is of national security.

Personally it’s an immediate red flag whenever I see it in the submissions inbox or on the book table, sends a message that someone’s trying to be a fancy boy, or girl. We know this is why people imitate it, but why did authors originally do it? Anyone know?


  1. Roxane says:

    Some people do it for gender neutrality, some do it for a bit of anonymity, and some do it to be pretentious and to sound like a fancy boy or girl.

  2. chris says:

    Fancy boys make my skin crawl.

  3. ryan says:

    I guess the same can be said about using a middle initial :) I know using mine probably sounds more pretentious. I started using the “W” in my name when my grandfathers died when I was in middle school. It was a family last name and it seemed like a nice way to pay tribute to them. But I also think it works having a fairly benign and common name to set it apart from the many other people that exist with the same name.

    Whether it’s the same for using initials rather than a first name I don’t know, but I imagine some of the same reasonings could be present. Because of certain projects I’m working on I’m considering using a pseudonym, and I think that could be a similar discussion?

    Maybe it’s like actors changing their names to fit a “Hollywood” acceptable model?

    Just spit-balling.

  4. Ryan says:

    J. Robert Lennon has a decent excuse. I wouldn’t want to go by John Lennon, not even if, like his, my books were great.

  5. Dawn. says:

    I always assumed writers did it for gender neutrality. I don’t understand the first name only abbreviations, though.

Leave a Reply