I wonder what would be the best way to delimit multiple names in a user management web app that is completely in English.

I guess normally one would separate by commas or semicolons but in this scenario I have to use the format [lastname, firstname], which doesn't look good.

Pinkman, Jesse; White, Walter; Ehrmantraut, Mike 

Any ideas on how to display multiple names that are formated [lastname, firstname]?

  • 3
    Are you sure they're always lastname,firstname? Becaase that's a big assumption. See: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names
    – JonW
    Feb 14, 2019 at 12:38
  • 1
    I was quite sure before I read the article, but now I feel kinda different. Indeed the database is built with first_name, last_name, but I'm afraid I can't change that. Thanks for the good read!
    – DarkMikey
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


If you are on a Web app, you can use the full set of UX elements, not only the usual text symbols.

Most email programs draw a shaded box around a person's complete name to represent the name as a logical unit. Then you only need white space between these boxes.

Two names in shaded boxes

If for some reason you can/want to only use a simple text field, there are a range of UTF-8 symbols, emojis and even ASCII symbols which can visually separate the name pairs.

Examples: | / -- []
  • The one draw back is the affordance of looking like buttons or tags, but yes, I agree this problem shouldn't be solved by ASCII characters when CSS is on the table
    – J. Dimeo
    Feb 14, 2019 at 15:22

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