A pen name, also called a nom de plume (French: [nɔ̃ də plym) or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an author and printed on the title page or by-line of his works in place of his real name.
A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise the author's gender, to distance the author from his other works, to protect the author from retribution for his writings, to merge multiple persons into a single identifiable author, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work.
The author's name may be known only to the publisher or may come to be common knowledge.
Europe and the United States
An author may use a pen name if his real name is likely to be confused with that of another author or other significant individual.
For instance, from 1899 the British politician Winston Churchill wrote under the name Winston S. Churchill to distinguish his writings from those of the American novelist of the same name, who was at the time much better known.
An author may use a pen name implying a rank or title which he has never actually held.
Authors who regularly write in more than one genre may use different pen names for each, sometimes with no attempt to conceal a true identity.
Romance writer Nora Roberts writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J. D. Robb (such books are titled "Nora Roberts writing as J. D. Robb"); Scots writer Iain Banks wrote mainstream or literary fiction under his own name and published science fiction under Iain M. Banks; Samuel Langhorne Clemens used the aliases Mark Twain and Sieur Louis de Conte for different works.
Similarly, an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction (such as the mathematician and fantasy writer Charles Dodgson, who wrote as Lewis Carroll) may use a pseudonym for fiction writing.
Science fiction author Harry Turtledove has used the name H. N. Turtletaub for a number of historical novels he has written because he and his publisher felt that the presumed lower sales of those novels might hurt book store orders for the novels he writes under his own name.
Occasionally, a pen name is employed to avoid overexposure.
Prolific authors for pulp magazines often had two and sometimes three short stories appearing in one issue of a magazine; the editor would create several fictitious author names to hide this from readers.
Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories under pseudonyms of Anson MacDonald (a combination of his middle name and his then-wife's maiden name) and Caleb Strong so that more of his works could be published in a single magazine.
Eventually, after critics found a large number of style similarities, publishers revealed Bachman's true identity.
Sometimes a pen name is used because an author believes that his name does not suit the genre he is writing in.
Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey, because he believed that his real name did not suit the Western genre.
Romain Gary, who was a well-known French writer, decided in 1973 to write novels in a different style under the name Émile Ajar and even asked his cousin's son to impersonate Ajar; thus he received the most prestigious French literary prize twice, which is forbidden by the prize rules.
He revealed the affair in a book he sent his editor just before committing suicide in 1980.
A pen name may be shared by different writers in order to suggest continuity of authorship.
Thus the Bessie Bunter series of English boarding-school stories, initially written by the prolific Charles Hamilton under the name Hilda Richards, was taken on by other authors who continued to use the same pen-name.
In some forms of fiction, the pen name adopted is the name of the lead character, to suggest to the reader that the book is a (fictional) autobiography.
Some, however, do this to fit a certain theme.
Authors also may occasionally choose pen names to appear in more favourable positions in bookshops or libraries, to maximise visibility when placed on shelves that are conventionally arranged alphabetically moving horizontally, then upwards vertically.
Some female authors have used pen names to ensure that their works were accepted by publishers and/or the public.
Such is the case of Peru's Clarinda, whose work was published in the early 17th century.
More often, women have adopted masculine pen names.
This was common in the 19th century, when women were beginning to make inroads into literature but, it was felt, would not be taken as seriously by readers as male authors.
French-Savoyard writer and poet Amélie Gex chose to publish as Dian de Jeânna ("John, son of Jane") during the first half of her career.
Victoria Benedictsson, a Swedish author of the 19th century, wrote under the name Ernst Ahlgren.
More recently, women who write in genres commonly written by men sometimes choose to use initials, such as K. , A. ApplegateC. , J. CherryhP. , N. ElrodD. , C. FontanaS. , E. HintonG. , A. RiplingerJ. , and D. RobbJ. . K. Rowling
A collective name, also known as a house name, is sometimes used with series fiction published under one pen name even though more than one author may have contributed to the series.
In some cases the first books in the series were written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers.
Similarly, Nancy Drew mystery books are published as though they were written by Carolyn Keene, The Hardy Boys books are published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, and The Bobbsey Twins series are credited to Laura Lee Hope, although numerous authors have been involved in each series.
Collaborative authors may also have their works published under a single pen name.
Additionally, the credited author of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, is an amalgam of the middle names of collaborating writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck respectively, while S.A. are the initials of Abraham's daughter.
Sometimes multiple authors will write related books under the same pseudonym; examples include T. in fiction. H. Lain
The Australian fiction collaborators who write under the pen name Alice Campion is a group of women who have so far written two novels together - The Painted Sky (2015) / Der Bunte Himmel (2015) written by five and The Shifting Light (2017) by four.
The three men chose the name "Publius" because it recalled the founder of the Roman Republic, and using it implied a positive intention.
Concealment of identity
Further information: Takhallus
In Indian languages, writers may put a pen name at the end of their names, like Ramdhari Singh Dinkar.
Sometimes they also write under their pen name without their actual name like Firaq Gorakhpuri.
In early Indian literature, we find authors shying away from using any name considering it to be egotistical.
Due to this notion, even today it is hard to trace the authorship of many earlier literary works from India.
Later, we find that the writers adopted the practice of using the name of their deity of worship or Guru's name as their pen name.
In this case, typically the pen name would be included at the end of the prose or poetry.
Composers of Indian classical music used pen names in compositions to assert authorship, including Sadarang, Gunarang (Fayyaz Ahmed Khan), Ada Rang (court musician of Muhammad Shah), Sabrang (Bade Ghulam Ali Khan), and Ramrang (Ramashreya Jha).
Other compositions are apocryphally ascribed to composers with their pen names.
Japanese poets who write haiku often use a haigō (俳号).
The haiku poet Matsuo Bashō had used two other haigō before he became fond of a banana plant (bashō) that had been given to him by a disciple and started using it as his pen name at the age of 36.
In some cases, artists adopted different gō at different stages of their career, usually to mark significant changes in their life.
One of the most extreme examples of this is Hokusai, who in the period 1798 to 1806 alone used no fewer than six.
Persian and Urdu poetry
Further information: Takhallus
A shâ'er (Persian from Arabic, for poet) (a poet who writes she'rs in Urdu or Persian) almost always has a "takhallus", a pen name, traditionally placed at the end of the name (often marked by a graphical sign ـؔ placed above it) when referring to the poet by his full name.
For example, Hafez is a pen-name for Shams al-Din, and thus the usual way to refer to him would be Shams al-Din Hafez or just Hafez.
Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan (his official name and title) is referred to as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or just Mirza Ghalib.
The French phrase nom de plume is occasionally still seen as a synonym for the English term "pen name": this is a "back-translation" and originated in England rather than France.
H. and F. G. Fowler, in W. FowlerThe King's English state that the term nom de plume "evolved" in Britain, where people wanting a "literary" phrase failed to understand the term nom de guerre, which already existed in French.
Since guerre means "war" in French, nom de guerre did not make sense to the British, who did not understand the French metaphor.
See also French phrases used by English speakers.
- Chinese courtesy name
- List of pen names
- List of pseudonyms
- Nom de guerre
- Ring name – the equivalent concept among professional wrestlers.
- Stage name – the equivalent concept among performers.
- Slave name
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen name.