This question applies anywhere last names are displayed, especially when displayed without first names.

(Some examples: news or sports broadcasts or video games)

When is it appropriate to use uppercase (ALL CAPS), and when is it appropriate to remove special accents on characters such as ö or é?

(My naive assumption would be that capitalization and accents should always be honored, but since that seems to be rare, I’m curious.)

  • What does the style guide you're using say? – 習約塔 Jun 20 '19 at 22:15
  • @xiota I’m not sure what you’re asking. – Ryan Jun 21 '19 at 1:06
  • The answers to your questions are basically opinions. You should be using a style guide. Otherwise, you can pretty much do whatever you like. – 習約塔 Jun 21 '19 at 1:42
  • @xiota, to create a style guide you need to know the theory behind, and that's what the OP is asking for – Devin Jun 21 '19 at 17:33
  • @Devin 1. OP is not asking how to create a style guide. 2. There is no "theory". All you need to know is there are options. Then you choose. 3. Your answer proposes using specific style guides. The other answers are personal opinions/observations. – 習約塔 Jun 21 '19 at 18:55

My native language is Spanish, and the norm indicates that all accents are removed when using all capitals. Thus, Pérez becomes PEREZ, Fernández becomes FERNANDEZ and so on. Note that adding accents is not bad per se, and new trends indicates that using accents is a good thing, but the established norm is to remove them altogether.

As for other languages, you can see what to do at Dickinson's Style Guide.

I couldn't find a documented option for your Scottish name case, but I recall seeing NBA players with Scottish last names using all capitals. As a matter of fact, it seems to be the norm as well, a quick search for a Scottish last name gave me this image:

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In short: Exception made of German, where you actually need to do some replacement, using all capitals without accents seems to be OK for most languages. This can be seen on International Flight Regulations Name Matching Whitepaper


as a native German speaker: from my experiences, it's common to change "non-typical" characters in software. My observations:

  • accents: mostly ignored. especially the Spanish/French/Nordic ones are removed - even the people living here from other countries do not use them in emails, etc.
  • the umlauts (ä,ü,ö) are mostly replaced by other letters (ä=ae, ü=ue, ö=oe)
  • other special characters e.g. "ß" are replaced by "ss"

So as one of the citizens of a country where accents aren't that "rare", I would prefer to be handled like above. So from the users' sight, you respect the name but adapt it as far as you need. And this is quite common.

For the McGrady, there could be a solution like MC_GRADY. But you'll have to ask the Scots etc. :-)

  • 1
    ä -> ae etc. will be used in Germany when umlauts are not available. Internationally, they are much more likely to get dropped ä -> a etc. Also, ß might become a B. Conclusion: even this reduction is locale-dependent. – peterchen Jun 24 '19 at 6:09

I think it depends on what you do with the information. If it is just for display only, e.g. a profile page, use the regular name with umlauts etc.

The all caps no special characters approach may be useful for when the name is used as an identifier, e.g. on flights. On flights it is really important that the name is the same through the whole process since it's used for identification of your ticket. In addition, flights are pretty international, where special characters can be a problem too.

  • I didn't see you mentioned flights, something I pointed out as example in my answer. But flight identification has a lot of different cases, is not a "one rule fits all cases" – Devin Jun 21 '19 at 17:35

Honestly, it's never appropriate to change the name a user gives you in any way. If you need to normalize the name for your back-end (e.g. remove accents and standardize capitalization), you should still preserve the original name as inputted and display that whenever possible.

But I'm not sure why a name would need to be standardized because they shouldn't be used as identifiers: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/

I guess I can imagine very specific examples, like embedded devices (like a name displayed on a gas station pump) where the device itself doesn't support unicode.

  • "it's never appropriate to change the name a user gives you in any way" – What do you do with names that use non-Latin alphabets? Or names that don't use an alphabet at all? русский, 中文, 日本語, 한국어? – 習約塔 Jun 21 '19 at 19:07
  • That's exactly my point- you have to preserve them as-is using Unicode whenever possible. – J. Dimeo Jun 21 '19 at 19:47
  • "whenever possible" is not quite the same as "never appropriate". Do you know, or need to know, the Korean representation of Kim Jong-un when reading an English newspaper? OP doesn't specify that names come only from users to represent themselves, only that they're used "anywhere last names are displayed". (Just tried changing my display name on this site to see how it would handle non-Latin characters, and it seems to work okay for some but not for others.) – 習約塔 Jun 21 '19 at 20:02
  • I'm not getting your point in your comments- each time you comment, it seems to agree with what I'm saying so I must be missing something. The implication of the question is that some policy needs to be implemented programmatically. My answer is- don't change names at all. In the Kim Jong-un example, that's usually in contexts like journalism where there are agreed upon "translations" for English. – J. Dimeo Jun 22 '19 at 22:14

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