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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Why Some Writers Use an Alias on Forums

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


How do you know he's a multi-published writer? That she's an editor with a big house? You don't always. However, there's a fair chance that the person who runs the board (or one of the board's moderators) knows who they are. Most sites I've been on will not hesitate to toss anyone who misrepresents themselves.

So, why the aliases? Allow me to provide you with a few very good reasons.

1. Stalkers/Privacy. I'm here to tell you that it happens to even the lowly D-list author. If you've ever been followed around at a convention or bugged via e-mail by your "number one fan," you know what I'm talking about. Most of those folks just need a gentle lesson in social boundaries. Sometimes, that follower crosses more than just one line. Please understand that this is a genuine concern for some writers.

2. Notoriety can cause a distraction. What happens if a big name writer shows up on a board or comments on a blog? A lot of people are happy that he or she took the time to show up. However, there can be the perception that it's not polite to disagree with the big name writer. Further, some people may feel that disagreement with big name writer is not tolerated at all, and those who agree with said writer are toadying acolytes. I've seen this happen. If a writer truly wants to hang out and chat and just be one of the gang, they're kind of damned if they do and damned if they don't use their name.

3. Sometimes people are known by another name at another site, and continue the nickname at another site. There's nothing nefarious going on. They're just trying to maintain a consistent identity. (Watch signature lines for links to their web sites, blogs, or books. These people are not hiding.)

4. The name was taken. There are other people in the industry with my name. I don't want to create confusion. 'Nuff said. (Again, watch the signature lines.)

5. Ethical people want to separate their personal opinions from those of their employer. In that case, someone may take on an alias in order to distance themselves from their workplace.

6. An unpublished writer may take on an alias because they don't want to be caught asking newbie questions. A diamond may be a girl's best friend, but Google results are seemingly forever. People ask newbie questions because they're trying to avoid mistakes, so it wouldn't bother me to see a published writer's tentative foray into a writing community hiding in the Google cache. Heck, it's an affirmation that we all do have to start somewhere; and it shows that the writer had the brains to get (and presumably) take advice. But just on the off chance that things turn bad, I can understand using an alias in that situation. If things work out, they'll eventually add a signature line.

7. Someone has a darned good legal reason to do so. Maybe there's a restraining order out on the ex. We don't know. And they're certainly not going to say.

Yes, trolls hide behind aliases. Mean people hide behind nicknames. Yet, the presence of a nickname doesn't automatically mean that something nefarious is going on. Good people who abide by community rules will get accepted whether or not they use their real names. If you're uncomfortable with someone who appears to hide behind an alias, talk to the site owner or a forum moderator about it so they can help resolve the problem.

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Filed under: Writing            
3/19/2009 5:03:14 PM
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