Can you use a pseudonym for publishable articles?

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Sure, I suppose in print you could call yourself Superperson or Cicero or anybody you want to. And if you own the publication, it might be fine.

In fact, there are times when I would indeed use a pseudonym. Like if I was a deacon writing porno, rest assured I’d change my name. Or if a fanged maniac was loose on the nearby streets and he was overdue on his serial schedule, I’d at least change a few letters in my surname–and apologize later.

But at least 99% of the time, or more, the question would be “Why?” The first person to ask you that would be the editor–“Why do you want to do that?” (A couple of the editors I wrote for would probably have suggested, rather than a pen name, I might disguise myself by dressing up like a decent citizen–or be inconspicuous by wearing just one sideburn.)

I know that when you write novels they want you to use the same name for the whole series. Folks buy as often as not for the author’s name–they expect the same high (or low) quality for all the books in that category. However, if you use your own name to write the “Manly Man Murder Mysteries,” they will surely want an entirely different name for, say, a group of knitting manuals.

There’s a financial issue too. If you’re Betty Smith and your by-line is Jennie Jones, unless the editor knows about the name replacement, your check will be made out to Jennie Jones–and that check can be a hassle to cash!

Two more considerations: (1) the editor may question your sanity if there’s no reason for the writer not to be you, and (2) he/she may wonder what you are trying to hide by not taking responsibility for the copy you want released, like is it unprovable, a flat-out lie, an exaggeration beyond the pale, out-and-out libel, or too badly written to want your own name attached.

Finally, if you are trying to build up your writing reputation by increasing your volume in print, switching from Ed to Ted to Red to Betty sounds counterproductive.

So, if you want to use a pseudonym, at least clear it with the editor. They need a good laugh now and then. Tell them you saw it done on a television show.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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