Many acclaimed and well known authors do not use their full name, but only their initials. This causes confusion on many levels. Is the author male or female? And what’s their real name? In today’s article, we want to have a look at why it became and still is common for some authors to use initials instead of their first names. Of course, in the process, we will also have a look at famous authors that are known by their initials and find out what the initials stand for.
Why Are Authors Using Initials?
One reason why many female authors are using initials instead of their real name is a rather unflattering one. Take J.K. Rowling for example.
By now, we know that the creator of Harry Potter and his wondrous universe is a woman. However, when the books first came out, the publishers decided to use initials instead of Rowling’s real name. This was to disguise her being a female so the Harry Potter novels would appeal to a young, male audience more than it would probably have if her gender had been known.
This was also part of the reason why Rowling donned the name Robert Galbraith to publish three of her non-Potter novels.
Unfortunately, it seemed like this had been common practice by both authors and publishers to make sure a broader audience would pick up a novel (unknowingly) written by a woman. This also happened to S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, who’s publishers suggested the use of initials to not bias any reviewers based on Hinton’s gender.
Yet, there are of course other reasons for authors to reduce their names to their initials.
Back when authors and writers relished a higher status in society, using initials added formality. Giving out or introducing yourself with your first name was seen as casual and informal and was craftily avoided by just giving one’s initials.
Nowadays, this is not the case anymore. Instead, it is often used by authors to stand out, to create an aura of mystery around them – or to simply shorten a long name on a book cover. In a world where social media makes everyone rather transparent, however, the choice of initials over full names may, however, come off as pretentious.
What’s Behind These Initials?
Now that we know some of the reasons, lets find out who’s hiding behind some of the most well-known initials.
- J.M. Coetzee: John Maxwell Coetzee
- T.S. Eliot: Thomas Stearns Eliot
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: Francis Scott Fitzgerald
- S.E. Hinton: Susan Eloise Hinton
- P.D. James: Phyllis Dorothy James
- C.S. Lewis: Clive Staples Lewis
- H.P. Lovecraft: Howard Phillips Lovecraft
- G.R.R. Martin: George Raymond Richard Martin
- A.A. Milne: Alan Alexander Milne
- E. Nesbit: Edith Nesbit
- J.R. Rowling: Joanne Kathleeen Rowling
- R.L. Stine: Robert Lawrence Stine
- J.R.R. Tolkien: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
- H.G. Wells: Herbert George Wells
- E.B. White: Terence Handbury White
- W.B. Yeats: William Butler Yeats