I have seen a lot of forms that ask for the name (first name, middle name, last name) and then initials.

Why does anyone want to ask for initials? Isn't initials the first letters of the name?

For example, name = john doe => initials = J D. Isn't this always true?

  • 4
    Are you sure they aren't asking for the middle initial? I ask because I have never encountered what you describe.
    – Kosmonaut
    Mar 4, 2011 at 18:42
  • See this form for example: img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/19588716.png
    – Lazer
    Mar 4, 2011 at 19:22
  • That is indeed odd. Is it something peculiar to South Africa?
    – user1579
    Mar 4, 2011 at 19:24
  • I wouldn't say “ most forms”. Most forms I see ask for either ① first name, middle initial (or “middle initials”, or “extra initials”), and surname, or ② initials of the first name, and surname
    – F'x
    Mar 4, 2011 at 19:34
  • @Rhodri: No I don't think so. I just googled for 'application form name initials' and found this form. I have definitely seen such usage of initials elsewhere.
    – Lazer
    Mar 4, 2011 at 19:35

3 Answers 3


I'm not 100% certain what you're asking, but I can think of a few possibilities.

  • As Kosmonaut commented, on most forms, an initials field is asking for a middle initial. If the form designer was sane, the field will appear between the first and last name fields, but you never know.
  • The field could be asking for degrees and other initialisms that people put after their names – "John Henry Doe, OD, FAAO", "Lucy Smith, CBE", etc. If the field appears after the first & last names, and especially if there's a separate field already for a middle name or initial, then this would be the most logical explanation.
  • As a remote possibility, the field could be asking for a title - Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc. Like the middle initial field, though, it would be bad design to have this after the name fields.
  • If it's a long form, there could be places where you need to "initial" (give a quick sign-off for) some important clauses. I haven't encountered this with computerized forms, but it's standard practice with long contracts such as for buying a house.

The initials can be more complex. My friend Patrick John O'Neill uses the initial "PJO'N", for example - when the software isn't so stupid as not to let him; then he uses "PJON". Also, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore might use the initials APWBD. Also, some people do not have middle names (for example, me).

  • 1
    My point is that initials can be derived from names. So why ask them separately when name was already asked? For example - APWBD is just all the first letters of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
    – Lazer
    Mar 4, 2011 at 19:16
  • 2
    @Lazer: but the form only allowed one middle name? And working out how to derive initials for O'Neill is tricky. Hence, let people choose their own. Mar 4, 2011 at 19:53
  • 3
    It gets particularly difficult with compound names. A person with a Dutch sensibility might not "see" the v in a van or vander/van der as an initial, while an American with the same name likely would. The same would apply for de, al and so on (not to mention the O's, Mcs and Macs of this world).
    – bye
    Mar 4, 2011 at 20:17
  • In my application, I do not use initials CHAR(1) for middle names in order to more uniquely identify each person.
    – Joe R.
    Sep 25, 2012 at 2:57
  • To give an example for @bye’s comment. I consider my initials to be JdV, not JDV, nor JD, nor JV, nor JLDV (to include my middle name in the mix) but this is a given neither in the states nor when I am back in Holland.
    – redjives
    Aug 4, 2013 at 2:14

The reason of asking Initials might be being professional and responsive. Like while creating the email IDs in organization for official ID, they use initials to make your ID. Like John Keates might have email ID as JK@ abc.com. They might be asking for desired initials, because in our organization I saw few people who randomly got initials in their IDs or User account for web based financial software, were funny and hilarious. like Sabir Ali got the ID SALI, which if pronounced in local language (Pakistan, India) will mean sister in law. similarly another fellow Zulfiqar Alam got ID as ZALAM, whoch pronounce as a word in Urdu/ Hindi which means cruel.

I might be wrong but if the intention is to preempt the situations as stated above, would be great idea.

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