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There are a couple of existing questions on this, such as,

When collecting first and last name from users, should the name be formatted if it will be shown to the user again?

However, my situation is, I think, distinct enough to warrant a separate question. We are running a competition (an agricultural show, actually). Users are expected to enter their full names, which will not merely be “shown to the user again”, but printed in the show catalogue, used in publicity material, appear on letters and cheques written to winners, etc.

And yet, it is astonishing how many users enter their names (and addresses) entirely in lower case. This is in Ireland, where names beginning with Mc, Mac, O’, Ó, or Ní are not uncommon, but names with initial lower case letters like de la Salle or van der Meer are vanishingly rare*. We could capitalize the first letter of each element of a name with near-perfect accuracy.

It’s the word near that troubles me. We may have some people of continental European or other origin, with lower case particles in their surnames.

I really would generally prefer to leave people’s names as they’ve entered them. If someone wants to type entirely in lower case, either out of laziness or because they have some sort of artistic vision† or simply because that is their name, then I would leave it alone. However, it does look messy in the printed show catalogue, and I’ve been asked to tidy that up.

Two questions:

  1. My current thinking is to normalize (i.e., capitalize the first letters of) names which are fully lower case or fully upper case only, and to leave alone anything which is currently in mixed case. Is this a reasonable compromise?

  2. It’s too late for this year — the vast majority of competitors have already entered — but for next year, is there any way we can indicate to users that their names will be printed as they are entered, and that care should be taken to get this right? I simply cannot understand the mindset of someone who doesn’t bother to correctly spell their own name, so I don’t know what sort of wording to use to get this across to such a person. And users don’t read, anyway.


* It would not have been uncommon to see mac as a separate element in Irish names a hundred years ago or so, but it is unheard of nowadays.

† Contrary to popular belief, E. E. Cummings did not generally write his name in lower case.

  • Interesting issue. On your point #2, it's not that people are spelling their names incorrectly, it's that they're not formatting them conventionally. – dennislees Jun 2 '17 at 17:20
  • How are you capturing these names? – dennislees Jun 2 '17 at 18:03
  • @dennislees Multi-step forms, along with addresses, animal details, payment details, etc. – TRiG Jun 2 '17 at 19:56

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