If a user enters numerics in their Forename / Surname field should this trigger the validation - the same as would occur if Alpha characters were entered in a Phone Number field?

I would suggest that numbers should be allowed in this field, because it's possible, (although unlikely) that the user will have a number in their name and you don't want to penalise these people.

However, the counter argument is that if numbers have been entered it will probably have been done by mistake so the user should be alerted to this otherwise their user details for that transaction will be stored in error.

I imagine a compromise would be to alert the user ("Do you realise you've included numbers here, do you wish to proceed?") or similar, but from a straightforward - Should you validate against numbers in Name fields, Yes or No? which is the preferred option?

  • I bet there is some country somewhere that allows names to contain numbers, and if there is I also bet someone will have taken advantage of this
    – jk.
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 11:41
  • 2
    @JK, I wonder what happens when "Queen Elisabeth 2" wants to buy something from a website and can't because of her number name? Or "50 Cent"?
    – JonW
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 16:18
  • Prince hates form validation.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 21:06

4 Answers 4


I would suggest there is no need to validate forename/surname (assumming you are are splitting them up at all) against having numbers in.

As you say, the most likely reason for numbers appearing in the name field is because of a mistake, however, since name usually comes first, this would normally be before the user has started thinking about any other fields, so numbers shouldn't even be in the user's mind.

If the user has misaligned fields with entry boxes, then that's an issue which should be minimized in other ways.

If the user mis-typed, they can correct it later.

But the main point is: if a user just needs or wants to put a digit in, then just let them!

Eg Twitter (asking for full name)

enter image description here

This field seems to accept pretty much anything, - and tells you it looks great, whether you've got digits...

enter image description here

...or any other character!

enter image description here

  • Yes, this is pretty much my opinion. (Although your Twitter example is for usernames, and numbers would be required here so it's less of an issue than for an ecommerce purchase where you need to use your real name). A good point about the number fields not being used until after the name field though, I wouldn't have thought of that.
    – JonW
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 11:37
  • @JonW Actually - that was the full name field :-) but to avoid confusion, I modified the images in my answer to reflect this. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 11:55
  • the in line validation I now name a 'placebo validation'
    – colmcq
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 12:02
  • @colmcq - well almost, but it still checks against being blank - ie empty, or spaces only Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 12:08
  • a-ha!...........................
    – colmcq
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 12:13

I've never seen validation of surname/forename. Validate only when absolutely necessary and when the error could have serious consequences - cf password, email, username. Validating every field in a form could seriously interrupt workflow. In this case in-line help and instructions are sufficient.


Step back a little further and ask why you are verifying the name at all - can you actually do any real validation on them - that is, demonstrating that they are invalid, rather than warnings about possible issues?

The answer is, I think, no. All you can do is verify that the field has been entered. Anything else you do is limiting entry in an unnecesary way. There are some valid reasons for numbers ( and other oddities ) in names - Schroedingers Cat 2nd, for example.

The number of times I have been caught out by O'Conners, or Marie, or all sorts of other odd characters in names, convinces me that trying to do any sort of validation on there is meaningless, and it doesn't serve a purpose. If someone wants to call themselves 2step, why should I be bothered?



Read this. Taken to the extreme, it implies even having a full name field and having it required are out of line, but surely your users can type something there. Even splitting it up into "forename" and "surname" fields is questionable. As for numbers in names - well, it's legal to have them in some jurisdictions at least - There are at least a few semi-notable people (e.g. Ry4an Brase, Jennifer 8. Lee) who do.

  • +10 for that link if I could! Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 19:19

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