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Why use a pseudonym?

Journalism is popular with students at many universities, but not all students who wish to express themselves in writing have the confidence to do so. Some students are afraid that their writing will be hounded by other people writing for the publication, in their circle of contacts, or on the wider community on social media. Some students would like to write about issues that matter to them personally, but feel that others would treat them with ridicule and refrain from getting involved.

In some cases it is also true that potential writers who belong to a social minority believe that their input would not be well received. Many LGBTQ writers, for example, feel that their thoughts and coverage would not be welcome in the student media.

As of 2017, The Yorker permits writers to write under a pseudonym. A pseudonym enables writers to express their thoughts and ideas under an alternative name, meaning that writers who express controversial thoughts are in far less danger of being criticised personally by readers. Pseudonyms may make writers who lack confidence in themselves, or who believe that their minority status will hinder them, more willing to contribute and enable them to participate in student journalism without worry of discrimination.


Responsibilities of a pseudonymous writer

A pseudonym permits a reluctant writer to express themselves without fear of personal attack. However, pseudonyms carry with them a responsibility of the writer not to misuse their ‘pseudonymity’ for malicious reasons. A pseudonym could be used by a person who wishes to write personal attacks about other students, provoke discontent or even the abuse of others, or publicise others’ content without permission, all with the advantage of relative anonymity.

Secondly, pseudonyms should not be misused by writers who wish to publish nonsense, write articles in poor taste or generally cause mischief and havoc. Joke pseudonym names e.g. “Hugh Jerry Johnson,” “Fonda Dix,” “Ivana Humpalot” etc. and coded names in the style of Internet discussion forums e.g. “Harry456,” “PhilCollinsRocks,” “The Conquistador”, “XXpandaXX” etc. are also inappropriate.


Writing under a pseudonym for The Yorker

The Yorker encourages all writers to take confidence in their writing and to use their own names if they can, but for those who are reluctant to expose themselves, The Yorker permits the use of a pseudonym at the Editor’s discretion.

Contributors who wish to write under a pseudonym must contact the Editor to discuss the terms of doing so. A pseudonymous writer should agree that they will use their pseudonym to enable them to contribute to The Yorker’s journalism, and that they will not use their pseudonym for mischievous, obscure or malicious reasons.

The Editor reserves the right to know both the real identity of a pseudonymous writer and the pseudonym under which they write; this is in case a serious incident arises e.g. writing under a pseudonym, a writer describes a member of the public libelously. As with all other writers, the Editor may ban contributions and / or suspend a pseudonymous contributor’s membership if their work is of a highly inappropriate nature.

For further information, please contact editor@theyorker.co.uk.