Are There Rules for Double-Barreled Names?
- Double-Barreled Mom
I'm happy to tell you that propriety isn’t an issue. When it comes to punctuating double-barreled names, the U.S. is an anything-goes kind of place. Every approach to doubling is used and approved, so you can’t get it wrong. This is great news for creativity and flexibility, but bad news for decision making. Never fear, though. With attention to the practical over the proper, we can work out some rough guidelines.
First, let’s talk about why hyphens are so handy. You know those sentences that show off grammar in a funny way? Like "Let’s eat Grandpa!" versus "Let’s eat, Grandpa!" Think of double-barrel names like that. Take a name like Mary Beth Anne Smith. Is this adouble barrel first name (Mary Beth) with a single middle name? Or is it, instead, a single first name (Mary) followed by a double middle name? There’s no way to tell. But Mary-Beth Anne Smith makes all immediately clear.
Some parents also like the look of the hyphen, adding an extra graphical kick to a name. The same logic holds for running the names together into a corporate-style "UniName," MaryBeth. Some like the aesthetic result, some don’t.
On the other hand, some parents find the non-hyphenated versions cleaner and more elegant. Another upside: a non-hyphenated double name like Mary Louise makes the name flexible, leaving open the possibility that your daughter could go by one name or both later in life.
If you need another tiebreaker, consider how familiar the double-barreled combo is. Without a hyphen or another clear signal, a new or unfamiliar double name like Madison Grace is likely to be read as a first name and a middle name. A classic pairing like Mary Lou, on the other hand, may be able to go as is.
Ultimately, the choice is about your intentions. Do you care most about people getting the name you’ve chosen right, in all itsdouble-barreled glory, the first time? Hyphens and UniNames are for you. But if you’re more into leaving the name open for creative interpretation, two single names are the more flexible choice.