When inputting names to a database (used by English and non-English language users) what would be the preferable way to tackle a name with two middle initials?

John George William Doe for example.

Personally I would input:

First Name = John

Middle Initial = G. W. (with a space between the G. and the W.)

Last Name = Doe

Other schools of thought have the middle initials as G.W. (no space).

I believe the database sorting will put the G. space W. before the G.W.

Logic tells me that his middle names are George William therefore his initials are G. space W. Otherwise his name(s) would be GeorgeWilliam.

Is this a cultural thing perhaps? English v American?

Are there any "data input rules" involved here?

  • 1
    Be careful assuming what names go with what part of the name. I have a last name with a space, and I don’t like when people (or computers) assume the first part of it is a middle name. I hope for your hypothetical user’s sake that his last name isn’t “William Doe”. And that his first name isn’t “John George”.
    – Laurel
    Dec 24, 2018 at 19:17
  • Hyphenated names can also cause a problem. As can the order of surnames and given names, depending on what country someone is from. Dec 24, 2018 at 19:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about formatting of names and their entry into a software system, and not about the use of the English language itself.
    – choster
    Dec 24, 2018 at 19:31
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    Sorting in the database won't be an issue as long as you are consistent. I.e. it doesn't matter if "G. B." comes before "G.A." unless you have both "G. B." and "G.A." in your database.
    – Juhasz
    Dec 24, 2018 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


You're not going to find any single rule for this. It's purely a matter of style and preference.

The best you can do is refer to a style guide—assuming you find one you like that discusses this. (Not all of them do.) Otherwise, just pick what you think looks best.

You say you prefer spaces. If you do, and nobody objects, then use them. But if you find that it causes names to be sorted in an order you don't like, then you'll need to decide if the sorting order is more important than each name's appearance. (Or find some way to have the sorting order you want despite the space or its lack.)

Some software may not even be programmed to accept a space or period (or even more than just a single letter) in a middle-initial entry field. In which case, it becomes a moot point.

For reference, although this is far from the only style guide on the subject, this is what The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.) says in several locations.


Initials standing for given names are followed by a period and a space. A period is normally used even if the middle initial does not stand for a name (as in Harry S. Truman).

      Roger W. Shugg
      P. D. James
      M. F. K. Fisher

If an entire name is abbreviated, spaces and periods can usually be omitted.

      FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
      MJ (Michael Jordan)
      JLo (Jennifer Lopez)


      J.Lo (the title of Lopez’s 2001 album)


For authors who always use initials, full names should not be supplied—for example, T. S. Eliot, M. F. K. Fisher, O. Henry (pseud.), P. D. James, C. S. Lewis, J. D. Salinger, H. G. Wells. Note that space is added between initials. (Exceptions may be made for special cases like H.D.—the pen name for Hilda Doolittle.)


The reference lists in some publications, especially journals in the natural sciences, always use initials instead of given names. When periods are used, space appears between them (Wells, H. G.); when periods are omitted, as in some journals’ styles, no comma intervenes between last name and initials, and no space appears between the initials (Wells HG). Chicago recommends using the form of the name as it appears with the source unless otherwise required.

  • Responses much appreciated! Thanx.
    – Brit
    Dec 24, 2018 at 19:45
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    In Britain we generally omit dots and spaces thus John GW Doe, JGW Doe. Dec 24, 2018 at 20:25
  • @MichaelHarvey - Yeah, my impression has long been that two middle initials is common in Britain, so their conventions are probably pretty good. But it's also true that, in some parts of South America, at least, a 4-part name is often given-name middle-name father-surname mother-surname, and the "short" form is given-name father-surname. So there's no general rule.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 24, 2018 at 20:36
  • My observation was purely about typography/orthography - dots and spaces. Having more than two forenames is not confined to Britain - George HW Bush, for example. Dec 24, 2018 at 20:49

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