Going Anon: When Should I Cite a Pseudonym?

We all know the importance of correctly citing sources in academic work. However, whether you’re using MLA citations or APA citation format, there are times when it’s tricky to know what the best practice is. Citing pseudonyms is one of these times.

What is a Pseudonym?

A pseudonym is a fictitious name, and they’re often adopted by authors for a variety of reasons. Also known as a pen name, alias or professional name, an author may use one to hide their real identity.

The Bronte sisters, for example, used pseudonyms to conceal their gender. They also did it to prevent their neighbors from easily identifying themselves as the inspiration for characters in the Bronte sisters’ books.

An author might also decide to use a pseudonym if they write for very different genres and don’t want to confuse their readers. Lewis Carroll is one famous example—having written Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under his well-known pen name, and his mathematical papers under his actual given name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

In some cases, an author might choose to use a pseudonym simply because they think it sounds better, is more memorable, or somehow relates to their work. For example, Hollywood blogger Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr writes as Perez Hilton—a tongue in cheek nod to the famous socialite Paris Hilton and the world of celebrity in general.

How to Cite a Pseudonym?

The general rule regarding citations is that you should ‘cite as you see’. Therefore, if you’re referencing a book where the author has given a pseudonym, you should cite that pseudonym. There are, however, a couple of points to consider.

First, if the author is much better known by another name, and that could be of importance to the reader, then you may wish to provide this information in parenthesis.

Second, if the author has a pseudonym that doesn’t follow the traditional first name, surname style, this can affect how you present the name within the citation. A good rule is to go with the clearest and least confusing option.

Let’s Look at Some Examples:

APA Style

Reference list citation:

Orwell, G. (2004). Animal farm. New York, NY: Penguin.

In-text citation:

(Orwell, 2004)

 

Reference list citation:

Bachman, R. (2007). The long walk. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

In-text citation:

(Bachman, 2007)

 

Reference list citation:

Dalai Lama. (1995). Universal responsibility and the good heart. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

In-text citation:

(Dalai Lama, 1995)

 

MLA Style

Works cited page:

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Penguin, 2004.

In-text citation:

(Orwell)

 

Works cited page:

Bachman, Richard (Stephen King). The Long Walk. Hodder & Stoughton, 2007.

In-text citation:

(Bachman)

 

Works cited page:

Dalai Lama. Universal Responsibility and the Good Heart. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995.

In-text citation:

(Dalai Lama)

 

Cite This For Me can help you get your citations right—even if you have a tricky pseudonym situation! Cite in MLA, Chicago style format, APA, Harvard referencing and more!