How to Handle Author Names in APA Style

The APA Style uses a basic author-date citation style, where cited references are then listed in an APA Style Reference List, but what happens when the names get complicated? Professional titles like Captain, authors with only one name, and authors who change their names—all of these can cause confusion to those using the APA Style. Luckily, in APA format, there are solutions to all of these questions and more. Read on to learn what to do in the following common sticky situations when:

  • Citing authors with Professional titles or academic credentials like Dr. or Reverend or Captain
  • Citing authors with Single name
  • Citing authors with Name changes
  • Citing authors with Multiple part surnames

Below, you’ll find APA Style examples for all of these, including APA Citations and APA References.

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Professional Title

When authors have professional titles referring to their degrees, like Dr. or M.A., these academic credentials are never included in citing the author’s name. But what about other kinds of titles, like Captain or Reverend?

According to Chelsea Lee at the APA Style Blog, the current APA Style guide specifies that almost all professional titles should be left out. Do not include Captain, Reverend, Professor, Honorable, Vice President, or any other business title when writing research papers in APA Style. There are two important exceptions to this rule. First, titles are included for religious leaders like the Pope. Second, titles are included for nobility. Here are some examples:

APA Style Religious Leader Reference

Pope Francis. (2013). Lumen fidei [The light of faith] [Encyclical letter]. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei.html

APA Style Religious Leader In-Text Citation

(Pope Francis, 2013)

APA Style Nobility Reference

The Prince of Wales (with Juniper, T., & Skelly, I). (2010). Harmony: A new way of looking at our world. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

APA Style Nobility In-Text Citation

(The Prince of Wales, 2010)

Notice that, in the in-text citation for nobility, the article, “The” is included. This differs from many APA Style Citations.

Only One Name

When an author has only one name, how do you cite the Author’s Name? How do you alphabetize an author with only one name? This is an easy one. Always include the full name of the author in both the in-text citation and the reference. For example:

 APA Style One Name Author Reference

Mishawaka. (1965). Mishawaka: An autobiography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

APA Style One Name Author In-Text Citation

(Mishawaka, 1965)

Name Changes

There may be many reasons for authors to change their names. They may change their surnames after marriage, or take on a hyphenated surname. If they get divorced, they may drop the hyphenation or change back to their original names. Occasionally, an author will inconsistently publish using a middle initial: sometimes John Author, sometimes John Q. Author. What does the APA Style guide require in these cases?

In most instances, it is not necessary to make a note of an author’s name change. If you are using two sources by the same author using different names, simply cite and reference both works normally, using the two different names. If the author’s initials did not change but his or her first name did, you will need to specify the different first names in the reference list, like this:

Author, J. [John] Q. (2017). Title of book

Author, J. [Jane] Q. (2010). Title of book

If it is useful to the reader and relevant to your method of writing research papers, you may choose to make a note of the name change within the text. For example:

John Author (previously Jane Author; 2016), wrote that life can be difficult for transgendered researchers.

Otherwise, no explicit mention of the name change is required.

Multipart Last Names

Multipart surnames are one of the most confusing name variations in the APA Style Citations. Authors may have surnames consisting of more than one word, or they may have particles preceding their last names like “von” or “van”, which appear as separate words. As if that weren’t enough, some authors may have suffixes like “Jr.” after their surnames.

Mistakes when citing and referencing multipart last names in APA Style are very common. It’s important to know the rules for each of these cases. Luckily, there are no serious complications. Here is a summary of the APA Referencing Style requirements for each of the cases mentioned:

  • For surnames with more than one work (e.g., Gonzalez Gutierrez) include both names in the reference list and the in-text citation. Alphabetize using the first word of the surname.
  • For particles like von and van, include them in both the reference list and the in-text citation. Use them to alphabetize. For example, van Horne should be listed in the references under V, not under H.
  • For suffixes like Jr., include them in the reference list, but do not include them in the in-text citation.

Authors with Two-part Surnames

  • When surnames are hyphenated, make sure to include both names along with the hyphen in the reference list and the in-text citation.
  • When surnames have two parts that is separated by a space but no hyphen, include both in the reference list and the in-text citation. E.g.: Most Spanish names use this format.

More Useful Resources

If your question about APA Referencing was answered in this post, please comment to let us know! If not, there are many other sources of information on Writing Author Names in APA Style. Here are a few resources that you might find useful:



  1. Chelsea Lee (2017, May 31) What’s in a Name? Names With Titles in Them. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2017/05/whats-in-a-name-names-with-titles-in-them.html
  2. Chelsea Lee (2017, May 24) What’s in a Name? Authors With Only One Name. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2017/05/whats-in-a-name-authors-with-only-one-name.html
  3. Chelsea Lee (2017, May 10) What’s in a Name? Inconsistent Formats and Name Changes. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2017/05/whats-in-a-name-inconsistent-formats-and-name-changes.html
  4. Chelsea Lee (2017, May 4) What’s in a Name? Two-Part Surnames in APA Style. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2017/05/whats-in-a-name-two-part-surnames-in-apa-style.html


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