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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.)

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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

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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. :-)

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    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
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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.

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  • 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
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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.

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