A lot of people ask me if they should blog under a pseudonym. They ask me because I started writing under a pseudonym eight years ago, and it ended up being such a mess that I turned it into my real name. So I advise everyone to start out using their real name. Here are the reasons why:

1. Your blog could get very popular, so plan for that. Blogging takes a lot of time. If you’re going to put in the time, you may as well do it assuming that you will gain a very big readership.

Imagine you get phone calls from the New York Times and they ask for you using your pseudonym instead of your name. What do you say? Imagine you get an inquiry from someone who might hire you and you have to explain that you are not exactly the person they’re calling. Mostly, though, imagine that when you use your real name and people don’t know who you are. No one wants to hear a long-winded explanation for a name. They just want you to use a name that works. Take it from me.

2. Blogging is good for your career, if you allow it to be. Picking a topic helps you focus your career energy on the intersection of your strengths and your interests. And really, it’s hard to blog and not become an expert in your topic. You read about the topic all the time, you think about it when you think about your posts, you have conversations about it constantly via links and comments. One of the best benefits of blogging is that it’s a great education. But how can you get credit in your field for this expertise if you blog under a pseudonym?

If you’re worried about how to keep a personal blog while you have a corporate job, check out Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion. He is employed at Edelman and is sort of inventing the wheel as he goes along. He makes mistakes very publicly, and we all learn from them, and he’s a great model for making a blog and a corporate job work together. Other examples of bloggers who have personal blogs and corporate jobs are Tim Bray and Melanie Parsons Gao (both at Sun Microsystems) or the hundreds of bloggers at Microsoft.

3. Blogging is a great way to network – if you are being yourself. Blogs are one, big conversation, so your ability to meet people and make real connections with them increases geometrically through blogging. People were very unsatisfied to hear that they thought they knew me but in fact I was not giving them my real name. And people who were just getting to know me got hung up on the name issue – they couldn’t believe that I was so well known by a name that wasn’t my name. Having a pseudonym is like having a wall up between you and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s usually how people perceive it when they find out.

4. Technology can make your life feel more coherent, if you plan for that. One of the great things about social media is that we can integrate our work life and personal life so well because we can work remotely and on our own time. But this sense of an integrated life is undermined with dual identities. If you always tell people you have two names then your pseudonym will start to feel fragmented and fake. And if you never tell some people and not others then you won’t remember who knows you as which name, and you will feel inauthentic.

5. A pseudonym will not protect you from sexual harassment. It’s true that women bloggers get harassed online way more than men. Kathy Sierra is an extreme and terrible example, of course, but harassment happens in not so dramatic a way every day .

Online men pick on women because they are women . For example, Mike Arrington, a highly influential technology journalist, inexplicably insulted, the topic (knitting) of a very successful web site aimed at women. And each week I receive many comments on Yahoo Finance rife with misogynist accusations about sex and intelligence that the male columnists at Yahoo Fiance do not endure nearly as often.

But is this a reason to hide? There is a 70% chance that a knowlege worker will be harassed on the job. Women are more likely to be harassed in their office than online. Does it mean women shouldn’t show up to the office? No. Women have gotten good at dealing with harassment. Probably because it’s a fact of life. It starts when we are twelve years old and a guy whistles from a car as he drives by. And it looks to me like it never ends. We cannot stop this. At lest not today.

The best we can do is not suppress ourselves behind a pseudonym as a measure of protection. Otherwise, men get all the benefits of blogging and women don’t, and we create an all-new Web 2.0 version of the gender divide.

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  1. Lady Impulse
    Lady Impulse says:

    But what if what you write gets you in trouble due to people who know you, reading your blogs. I doubt my writing will ever be noticable by someone who wants to publish it, but if they do, they will be smarter than to think someone’s real name is Lady Impulse. It is obviously a fake nickname, and they will dig to find the true writer. Although you have very clever reasons, I just don’t agree. Good blog though!

  2. Catharina Anna Maria van Vliet
    Catharina Anna Maria van Vliet says:

    Thanks to damomma I found your blog today. So far I love your blog.

    I have to agree to this topic. For me though there are a few people I'd rather not have read my blog, among them are my parents. I told them about my blog but I found I hated them to know the details about my life.

    So I started a new one. Instead of a pseudonym or my IRL name I use my (real) birth names. Hard to find if you don't know how to look for me. But still the real me.

  3. Brad
    Brad says:

    Christine, I think that’s a great idea you starting a blog on depression – which is often a very misdiagnosed and confusing topic for many. If you’re that worried about an employer finding out, use the name “Administrator” or “Host”, that way, you aren’t using a ‘fake’ name per se, you just are protecting your identity.

  4. Racer X
    Racer X says:

    For those of us with more risque blogs, blogging under one’s own name would be a very risky thing indeed. We live in a very puritanical and intolerant society when it comes to sex. In several states it is still illegal to sell or purchase a vibrator.

  5. J M Lennox
    J M Lennox says:

    I came to the right place, it seems. I have just started a new blog, and included my pen name (which is also a form of my real name) as part of the title.
    I wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice, although the blog will be about writing (thus – the pen name in title).
    I was dubious about doing it because I have always been a bit hesitant to advertise anything personal on the internet.
    However – you have given me the assurance that I needed, so – thank you Penelope!

    ~Janette

  6. Clara
    Clara says:

    Hi there,

    Love this advice. However, I have just started a blog about theatre and theatre reviews with the ‘stage name’ concept in mind. Kind of like the author comments made above. I revealed my real identity in my first post so there is no issue there. Quite frankly my real reason for changing my name is to do with emancipation from the negative side of my family, which I think is fair enough.

    Thanks for your continued wonderful posts Penelope.

    Clara

  7. Julie
    Julie says:

    I love that you wrote this in 2007 and it is even more of a no brainer today in 2011, do not blog under a pseudonym. I subscribe to several dozens of blogs now through google reader and I would say that none of them have any intention of hiding their real identitities. Merciful heavens.

    I speak as someone who started online journaling back in 99 where people still thought they could have an alter ego or whatever. Biggest pile of nonsensical drama ever created for no reason. Nobody cares, and the whole ‘secret’ aspect of it is somewhere off in the last millenium, and good riddance to it. Not interesting, not funny, not clever.

    Carry on writing about what matters to you and OWN what you write or it is usually pretty much worthless if it’s just a throw away line from a disposable identity. That’s my take.

  8. metrow
    metrow says:

    For those of us with more risque blogs, blogging under one’s own name would be a very risky thing indeed. We live in a very puritanical and intolerant society when it comes to sex. In several states it is still illegal to sell or purchase a vibrator.

  9. Mason Pinheiro
    Mason Pinheiro says:

    I'm impressed, I have to say. Actually hardly ever do I encounter a blog that's each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve gotten hit the nail on the head. Your thought is outstanding; the difficulty is something that not sufficient individuals are talking intelligently about. I am very completely happy that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something relating to this.

  10. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    I’m about to start a blog, and I’m torn. I want to write accurately and honestly about my experiences growing up in a particular religious tradition, and writing under a pseudonym seems like getting off on the wrong foot right from the start. Yet I live in a community in which reprisals for expressing frank views are a real possibility. I’ll have to give this some real thought. To change the subject briefly, harassment can be a serious problem for women, but it may also affect men. It’s happened to me twice on the job, and besides verbal comments actually included a couple of public pats on the rear end from a woman I worked with. Nobody who witnessed this seems to have said anything to the higher-ups about it, which I doubt would have been the case had the sexes been reversed. Anyway, thanks for the food for thought.

  11. I Robinson
    I Robinson says:

    Great article until you revealed a one sided chip on your shoulder at the end.

    I’m a man who has suffered harassment from a woman but nobody took it seriously. Even the law treated it as a joke.

  12. Ann Foweraker
    Ann Foweraker says:

    Hi, I came across your site through reading Kristen Lamb’s blog. So when is a pseudonym not a pseudonym?
    For me my own name (as opposed to my married name) is not a pseudonym. It is the name I have always promised myself I would use for my creative endeavours which includes my slateware buisiness at annmade.co.uk and my novels which I have just published onto annmade.co.uk under Books using my maiden name of Ann Foweraker (also going on amazon). However as general aquaintances don’t know me by that name, but by my married name, I am making an effort to let them know that, for my creative work, I use Ann Foweraker.
    What are people’s thoughts on this?

  13. Ann Foweraker
    Ann Foweraker says:

    Oh! Sorry, I just realised I’d gone off track there a bit…was meant to be saying that I blog under this not-a-pseudonym pseudonym of ann foweraker too, as my blog AnnFoweraker.com generally relates to my creative life.

  14. David Johnson
    David Johnson says:

    Hey Penelope,
    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been kicking this idea around for a few months now and plan to go live with a new domain name and blog by the end of this month – with advice for ASpies as the core topic. My ex-wife is a published author with a name-change story similar to yours (starting with a simple personal choice and ending with a legal change to her pseudonym six years ago), so I’ve had some exposure to this issue. 
    My reasons for considering a pseudonym (two, actually) are two-fold:
     
    I have one of the 20 most common names in the U.S. Wikipedia’s “David Johnson” page lists 39 possibilities. You can imagine what a google search turns up. So I’m concerned about getting lost in the crowd.

    My other concern has to do with the idea of writing romance books, but that usually entails a website with a blog. I’ve been copyediting romance novels for six years and want to write a few of my own, but I suspect few customers would buy a book with my real name on it. 

    Any ideas?

    (And yes, I’ll be changing the silly avatar as soon as I can get a pic taken where I’m not wearing a Simpsons t-shirt)

  15. Anukant
    Anukant says:

    hi.. i just tweet this post … really found this quite intresting… actually i have never thought like this before.. quite informative..

  16. Cdoyle6
    Cdoyle6 says:

    Do you know anything about a blogger who talks about your family on a daily basis.  We bought an amazing home that belonged to my neighbors parents.  We have 3 small children and daily she writes on her blog about us.  She slanders us, scares us, lies about us.  She has a disclaimer at the bottom of her google blog that “entries cannot be copyrighted without her permission.”  These entries are ALL the evidence we have.  Her blog is frightening.  My health has deteriorated and we are seeking legal council.  Can i use her blog entries?  We are so scarred.  She has gone as far as to describe the inside of our home.  Again, we have small children.  Help!  If you know any other resources that could help me understand bloggers rights it would be greatly appreciated.  I just don’t understand how someone can write daily, on an open forum about out family….and I mean daily.  How is this allowed?  Why are we NOT protected? especially my children……………………..

  17. Tracy Grounds
    Tracy Grounds says:

    I agree. Why not use your real name? It is afterall just your opinions, and if someone doesn’t like it…tough.

  18. Jessie
    Jessie says:

    Thank you for this insightful article, Penelope (or was it Adrienne?). I’ve been battling back and forth the past week and a half, debating between using my real name or a pseudonym. I want to write for sites like HubPages or Helium, et cetera, et cetera, but I also am always looking for a job at a local paper or magazine. In fact, I’m planning on setting up an interview with an actor who recently visited town, and I want to introduce myself as, well, myself, not my possible-ever-changing-possibly-confusing pseudonym. I’ve also tossed around the idea of safety, thought if you type in anyone’s name nowadays on Google, you’ll find their name, address, phone number, people who they live with, and even as you said, school records (mine is riddled with track and tae kwon do archives).

    Anyway, thank you again for another enlightening article.

    -Jessie

  19. Richard
    Richard says:

    Interesting comments…I’ve recently started blogging under the name of the Unmasked Recruiter – I’m not bothered if someone finds out who I am, although my posts can be a little caustic and sarcastic at times, albeit with generally good intentions. As I’m self employed this isn’t a major issue, although I’d like a little seperation from my blog persona to my direct work as a recruiter

  20. Promotional Pens
    Promotional Pens says:

    That’s good to know, i always wondered if i should stay anonymous use a fake name or use real name for blogging purposes. I usually avoid using any name in general and blog anonymously, but i will definitely start using my real name from now on.

    Thanks for the post!

  21. Paul
    Paul says:

    Great article Penelope. I personally decided to start my nost recent blog using my own name after much consideration. So far it has worked in my favour, as I have received more clients for my business through my blog than through any other method. It would have been nice to get the .com instead of the .co.uk though.

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