My legal name is Barbara but I have gone by Babs since I was in the 4th grade. I have written a children's book and wanted to list my name as Barbara (Babs) but my editor said that it might not appear very professional. She has never heard or seen anyone use parentheses as an author. Would the use of parentheses in an author's name seem amateurish?

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    Usually a nickname would be written like: Barbara "Babs" Surname. However, I am curious as to your reasoning for including Barbara at all if it is not what you want to be known as? Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 21:02

5 Answers 5


If your editor says something might look unprofessional, you should listen to your editor. Your editor is a professional, whose task is precisely to make your work appear at its best. We, on the other hand, are a bunch of internet amateurs with good intentions.

As @ArkensteinXII mentions in a comment, if you wish to go by "Babs", you can go by "Babs", no need to include "Barbara" at all. As an example, Sir Terry Pratchett always used "Terry Pratchett", never "Terence David John Pratchett", not even "Terence Pratchett".

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    Seconded. I would also add that you can have your nickname on the cover as Babs Surname, or even a complete pseudonym, and your legal name can still appear on the copyright inside the book. You can also have an "about the author" section where your bio can say Barbara "Babs" Surname is blah blah...
    – wordsworth
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 23:28

Edward Elmer Smith is not well known but E. E. 'Doc' Smith certainly is, punctuation and all, among the right classes of science fiction fans.

As other people have said, brackets may look odd but if you want to go by a nickname then there seems to be no reason not to - though your editor is the expert here.

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    I am sorry that I have to downvote this answer, but it contains false information. E. E. 'Doc' Smith may have been "known to his fans" by that name, but he began publishing under his given name as Edward E. Smith. As far as I know the fan name was only used on book covers after his death.
    – user40570
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 8:50
  • 1
    It's worth the downvote for the extra knowledge so thank you. Indeed, looking through various publications, I see he was usually Edward E. Smith PHd. Correction noted.
    – Alchymist
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 13:05

The given name I've been known by since High School is not the same as the name on my birth certificate or driver's license, but it is, like yours, a known nickname for my legal name.

I used to use my legal name on nearly every document but, starting a few years ago, have started using my nickname instead. My legal name is still on my identity documents, bank accounts, taxes, and medical information.

Anything I've published in the last few years uses my nickname. When I signed the contract for my story that's coming out next month (so we're told!), I used my legal name, but my byline is the nickname.

For example, take one of my favorite authors. Her legal name is Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis and her pen name is Connie Willis. She doesn't hide her full name but there's no need for her to make it obvious in her work.

Don't use parentheses, it's just not done. Use the name you want. If you find yourself needing to use your legal name in a place other than a document, you can put your nickname in quotes, as Arkenstein XII has suggested, but that would be more for the author of the piece about you to decide. It would never go on the book.


Anything goes.

Musicians often use unconventional pseudonyms, from Royce da 5′9″ to , but sometimes writers use uncommon punctuation or orthography as well.

There's a German crime author who published his books under the pseudonym -ky:

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But these cases are rare – in fact I could not find another contemporary example, only 19th century writers such as Abbé *** or El…y –, and for a writer publishing today I agree with what @Galastel says.

Barbara (Babs) Surname and Barbara "Babs" Surname sound unprofessional to me, and I have never seen the name of any author represented in this way on a book cover.

I would do the following:

  1. In your author bio, both on your website and in your books, call yourself Babs (and do not mention your full name Barbara there at all). E.g. "Babs Surname lives in Kentucky with her husband and three dogs. She..." Everyone knows that Babs is a common nickname for Barbara, and everyone will be able to understand that Babs refers to the Barbara on the book cover and in the website headline.

  2. Sign all posts and comments in your blog and on social media with Babs.

  3. When you are interviewed, ask the interviewer to "please call me Babs. Everyone does."

Soon readers and reviewers will pick up your nickname.

I wouldn't use Babs Surname as your author name. Bob Surname, Kate Surname, or Bill Surname all work well as authors' names for Robert, Katherine, and William respectively, because they are also common as full given names, while Babs (to my knowledge) is not, or at least not a common, given name in itself.


The conventional way to write a nickname is in quotation marks between the first name and the surname. For example, E. E. “Doc” Smith.

Either Babs Benge or Barbara “Babs” Benge works, but I’d go with the first, myself. A lot of people publish under a nickname or middle name.

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