If a user enters their name with lowercase letters, should we respect that or force it uppercase? "john doe" displayed as "John Doe". There is a contingent in our group that thinks it would be aesthetically more appealing to do this. Although, if a user explicitly inputs lowercase maybe we should keep it that way.


I'd say no.

Some languages have names like "Dirk van Boxtel" or "Sophie van der Pol". Notice how the words in between are not capitalized.

  • 1
    Good answer. In my old company one customer wanted us to force the first letters to be capitalized, and I also said I won't do that since there are foreign names that wouldn't work like that. It was annoying to the customers (and to me) that some people inserted all their details with lowercase, but it's something that can't be forced.So it's better to try guiding people to insert their names correctly.
    – Samuel M
    Aug 30 '13 at 4:06
  • While I agree that "no" is the right answer, I think proof-by-anecdote is liable to make for a tedious design meeting. I'd say better to put your foot down and just say "don't make users do things that aren't important".
    – Sam Blake
    Aug 30 '13 at 5:45
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    @SamBlake The answer is in the post: Some languages require lower-cased words. Just because there are examples, doesn't make it "proof by anecdote".
    – Dirk v B
    Aug 30 '13 at 6:10
  • 1
    Also: Charles d’Artagnan de Batz-Castelmore. To make matters worse, D’Artagnan is apparently capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, lowercase otherwise.
    – peterchen
    Aug 30 '13 at 7:27
  • Do not change what the user enters.
  • Do not assume parts, split into parts, or assemble from parts
  • Present the user with an example how their name will be used

Example letter we might send to you:
Dear john dOE,
It is a great pleasure to hear from you again after all this time


We will address packages to you like this:
Mrs. Sophie van de Pol
Grachtengracht 8
8888 Jiekegrachten

If you provide the context example immediately when the user types, the user gets a good idea what's going on and has an incentive to improve it right away.

There's a long list of common misconceptions about names, but above three points cover most of it. You might want to delve into it anyway for #4:

  • You may need different names for different contexts
  • 2
    I'd add: Let the user edit their name. If they regret putting "john dOE" in, they should have the chance to change it.
    – ekapros
    Aug 30 '13 at 11:04

Seems like a silly thing to force just because it is "aesthetically pleasing". Just let your users type in the name as they like and move on.


I agree with not forcing the user to capitalize the first letter, but I don't like names with (erroneously) no capitals either.

What you could do is capitalize the first letter if there are no capitals at all. That way, "Milhouse van Houten" stays that way, but "gilbert raymond" get capitalized.

Other solution, the system could say "We detect this name might not be capitalized properly. Can you check?" and then yield.


Just a thought

Names entered by a person gets carried on the various reports and bad data may haunt for years.

How about asking the user if they meant "John Doe" when they typed "john doe"?

If the user's name was, "de Haan" as in the reference below, he would ignore the recommedation to change to "De Haan"

To examine the impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting, de Haan, Deković, and Prinzie (2012) employed a longitudinal methodology.

One of our services has been using this technique successfully for years.


Don't force anything unless it adds demonstrable value to the user's experience using the product.

Presumably, if a user cares that their name is capitalized correctly, they'll spell it capitalized correctly. If they don't care, they likely won't notice (and certainly won't be grateful for) you doing it for them.

I say "presumably" because I don't actually know that the above is true. But in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the path of least resistance is to not put arbitrary restrictions on the user.


My name is zzzzBov, it is not and will never be Zzzzbov, and I will get very irritated at you and your shoddy service if you can't even manage to spell my name correctly.

On a more serious note, you should definitely review "Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names".

There is a contingent in our group that thinks it would be aesthetically more appealing to do this

Aesthetically more appealing to who? If they want their own name capitalized, they should be signing up using the correct spelling. If they can't manage to write their own name correctly, it's their own fault, not the fault of the system.

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