It's common in business to list persons in order of last-name-first. Instead of "John W. Van Dyk", write "Van Dyk, John W.".

But what should be the convention when the name has a title or suffix. How would "Dr. John W. Van Dyk III" be written?

There are other similar questions about how to deal with a suffix, but I can't see any that deal with title. (Mr., Dr., Rev., etc)

  • Consult a style guide.
    – Xanne
    May 12, 2017 at 19:55
  • This is not really a question about English, but about labeling conventions. There is no single correct answer.
    – choster
    May 12, 2017 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


Van Dyk III, John W., Dr.

The numerals are useful only to differentiate the different generations of Van Dyk's; they need to remain with the last name. Putting the title last is a British convention

  • As @Matt Gutting has said, 'What we're really looking for (on this or any other Stack Exchange site) is a supported answer; one that you can support with authoritative references.... Edit your question and put in your support; then we'll be able to vote up your answer!' May 12, 2017 at 20:16

In the years since I've posted this question, I've tried different styles and finally came a conclusion.

Of course, the answer depends on your own needs, which may differ from mine.

In my case, it is important that reports be sorted so users can find the person they are looking for. Most of the time, the user looks first for surname, and then for given name. Titles and suffixes are the last thing they'll look at.

For example, we want

Jack Smith

to precede

John Smith III

And so I use:

Surname, Given Name, Title, Suffix

This answer is based on my own experience of responding to frustrated users, not on any reference material, but I thought it would still be useful for any future visitors.

  • Yes, as you say, that may work well for some purposes. For other purposes, however, surname-suffix-title-firstnames may work better in that it makes it possible to restore the standard format for running text by a single cut-and-paste transaction.
    – jsw29
    Jul 21, 2020 at 19:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.