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Advice / Job Search / Networking

Could Your Middle Name Make You Seem Smarter?

Unless you’re transitioning from a maiden name to a married name or trying to distinguish yourself from the other thousands of “John Smiths” out there, you probably don’t think about your middle name in a professional setting very much.

But it might be time to change that.

Turns out, adding that one little letter between your first and last name can have a big impact on how you’re perceived on paper—in a good way. As Vox recently reported:

A series of studies conducted by social psychologists Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg and Eric R. Igou show that when participants are asked to judge strangers they never meet in person, those with middle initials (to use the researchers’ example, ‘David F. Clark’) are perceived as smarter, more eloquent, and more qualified than those without (‘David Clark’).

According to the researchers, “middle name initials often appear in formal contexts, especially when people refer to intellectual achievements,” so our brains associate them with accomplishment and success. (Even more interestingly, using two initials—like The Muse’s director of sales, Douglas P.B. Freeman!—has an even stronger impact.)

So, should you try it? We say: Why not? While some think using a middle initial could come off as pretentious, the research is compelling enough that it may be worth throwing that neglected middle initial around (especially if you have a very common name). Just make sure your moniker appears the same way everywhere you use your name—your business card, email signature, LinkedIn profile, resume, and so on—to prevent confusion.