I was wondering how one would abbreviate initials in a surname with multiple parts, e.g. Van Heule or Le Var? They're technically separated by the space unlike names like McDonald or O'Leary etc. Would the initials of a Grace Van Heule be GVH or simply GH? Is there a naming convention for these cases?

  • This is a matter of personal preference and of style. If the individual does not have a preferred set of initials, you should adhere to the discipline of your editor, publication, or organization, or in the absence of a house style, adopt a style guide appropriate to your tastes and audience and be consistent in its application.
    – choster
    Oct 11, 2017 at 2:08

1 Answer 1


Typically, if there is a prefix with a space separating the prefix from the rest of the surname, as in "Van Heule" or "van Damme," the initials of the prefix and of the rest of the surname are both used ("Jean-Claude van Damme" becomes "JCVD"; "Robert De Niro" becomes "RDN"; "Martin Van Buren" becomes "MVB"; "John von Neumann" becomes "JvN").

That is not to say that there may not be cases in which individuals who have prefixed surnames choose not to include the prefixes in their initials.

If the prefix is conjoined with the rest of the surname, as in "O'Neill" or "McNamara," only the prefix's initial is used ("Robert S. McNamara" becomes "RSM"; "Thomas P. O'Neill" becomes "TPO").


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