There is a lengthy history of writers adopting pseudonyms to obscure their true identities dating back to at least 1719. If you think this option only applies to novelists, you may be surprised to discover that many bloggers and journalists also use pen names in their bylines. Some writers even use multiple pen names to represent themselves for different types of projects.
Creating a separate identity for your blog may be enticing, but there are also incentives to write under your legal name. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of pen names, plus what you should know before deciding.
Reasons you should use a pen name for your blog
- Your name is too common, boring, or difficult to spell/pronounce
- You worry that your name doesn’t match your audience’s expectations
- You feel more able to express yourself without preconceived notions
- You don’t want your controversial writing to lead to personal conflicts
- You love the idea of picking a new brandable name for yourself
Reasons you shouldn’t use a pen name for your blog
- It’s harder for audiences to connect with someone who wears a mask
- Establishing credibility and becoming a thought leader is challenging
- You’ll need to juggle your different identities across social media
- A pen name will not shield you from any legal problems that arise
- Someone might still uncover your real name and identity
How well can you predict your brand’s future?
If you are still unsure, consider where your blog and brand might be in a few years. Some blog writers expand their brand to include books, online courses, podcasts, YouTube channels, or public speaking opportunities. Your accomplishments might become desirable on a resume as well.
While it’s entirely possible to do plenty under a pseudonym, it might be easier to use your legal name to keep things simple. However, successful Medium writer Zulie Rane has made her pen name an integral part of her writer persona while also providing an escape hatch should she ever want to leave it all behind.
Pick something catchy, memorable, and on-brand
If you go for it, be strategic! You want your audience to instantly associate your pen name with what you do. It should feel so natural and authentic that no one pauses to question its suitability. Writers with fictitious names often consider this when publishing their work.
Whether avoiding revealing gender, dropping ethnic indicators, appealing to specific age groups, or simply matching the tone of the work itself, it’s worth drumming up some ideas in sync with your goals. If you’re looking for some randomized inspiration, try this pen name generator from Reedsy. Looking for deeper meaning? Try Behind the Name.
Make sure your pen name is available to use
The perfect pen name is unique enough to avoid confusion with anyone else bearing a similar name, especially if they work in the same field. Remember that your pen name should be marketable as a brand. Always Google your top contenders before getting too attached.
You should then ensure that the matching domain name and social media usernames are available to register. I recommend using the Namechk tool. If someone else has already claimed your dream name everywhere, it’s probably best to make some adjustments. Stand out and be extraordinary!
What to know about pen names and payments
Do you monetize your blog or make money from any other publications? You have two options for receiving payments when using a pen name in the US. Either come clean with clients and customers so they can make payments to your legal name or consider registering your pen name as a DBA (doing business as).
A DBA allows you to create a bank account using your pen name but may also require additional steps to establish a business in your location legally. Note that a DBA will not prevent people from looking up public records that may reveal your personal information. Consult a business attorney for more details regarding pen names used in business, copyrights, or trademarks.
Choosing which name best represents who you’d like to be as a blogger is an important and personal decision. Kyrah.com is named after my old video game character and became my AKA (also known as) nickname many years ago.
My identity doesn’t need to be a deep dark secret, yet I still appreciate the freedom to decide how I prefer to represent myself on this blog. That’s one of the amazing things about the internet. Despite less anonymity than a decade ago, we still have the power to make some choices about how we’d like the world to see us.