The Name Game: the Business of Hyphenated Names

hyphenI’m not sure exactly when it came into fashion, but I’m assuming it was the 80’s, when culture began to embrace the high powered business woman.   It, or course, being the hyphenated last name.  Meant to acknowledge our birth right and the accomplishments achieved there under while embarking on a new course, marriage, where we fully intend to accomplish even more, and we wear it like a badge of honor!

For any self respecting delusional (please refer to How to Blow-dry Your Hair in the Car and Other Essential Delusions for further explanation on that) we pull off the hyphen much like we are a superhero bearing the unique ability to have two powers!  It’s a nice thought isn’t it, and guess what?  It’s kind of true! Now let’s take a look at the realities, both good and bad.

Hyphens come with a few built in challenges.  First, let’s just briefly acknowledge the fact that our male counterparts who done a roman numeral after their  name, are generally perceived to be  distinguished and successful, and the hyphen…. well… you know it can (and has) conjured up THE word.   There is a lot of misconception in that, and sometimes a little truth, although that isn’t necessarily a result of a third or hyphen.   It can also lead to another challenge.  Sometimes significant others or husbands don’t quite understand your desire to hold on to your birth name while forging ahead in a new life built together.  Trust me, after 20 years, you will find that they may never understand it, but will come to accept, even embrace, the hyphen.  Lastly, it can be confusing to people, although dependent on the situation this can be considered either a challenge or a benefit.


So why would anyone choose a hyphen if dealt with the challenges presented above?  Well let’s discuss.  Hyphenating can be a result of nothing more than personal preference, personal branding, or in some rare cases an unfortunate coincidence (think about some famous names you wouldn’t want to walk around with).  For many of us hyphens it is about business, and in my case, not unlike many others, it was a necessity for being part of a family business bearing the family name.


It all sounds so binding doesn’t it?  I mean there is a lot of weight attached to this one tiny piece of punctuation!  Bearing your birth name and your married names in business means you have a very public mark stating you will uphold both standards.  Exhausting, huh?   Yes, until you realize that the Hyphen is actually incredibly liberating!


Think of it as a symbol to create the exact person in business you want to be. It’s a spring board allowing you to be the very best parts of any assumption that comes with both last names while that little dash in between allows you to define your role within it.


Whether you choose to hyphenate or not, is entirely up to you, but for those who do, make the most of that little line!


Business Tip:  Buy your domain name with both your maiden name, your married name, and your hyphenated name.  When it comes to personal branding in business, it’s smart to own your own all forms of your name!



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