Pseudonymity in Writing Is It Cowardice

Pseudonymity in Writing Is It Cowardice

Many, if not most, writers and authors proudly byline their articles. Why not—it’s their bloodwork—so perhaps almost anyone would want to get the proper credit, even if only to stamp such articles with their names? It may be a matter of life-or-death like a conqueror’s planting a flag on his conquests or as trivial as a kid’s labeling her lunchbox with her name. Regardless, all boils down to giving oneself a sense of ownership.

However, there are those who would want to write occasionally, selectively, or even permanently in anonymity or pseudonymity. Some people—especially those who are not well-read, thus did not know that the famous literary names Lewis Carroll, O. Henry, and Richard Bachman were actually pseudonyms of Charles a Dodgson, William Sydney Porter, and Stephen King, respectively—think that writers who write in pseudonymity are simply expressing cowardice and irresponsibility. They are mistaken, or plainly ignorant, because they fail to realize that writing in pseudonymity has various valid reasons.

Hiding behind a Literary Veil
In literature or journalism, a pseudonym (pen name, nom de plume, or literary double) is adopted by an author or writer to make her name more distinctive, to disguise her gender or ethnic background, to distance her from some or all of her works, to protect her from retribution for her writings, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work. The author’s name may be known only to the publisher, or may come to be common knowledge.

For example, Charles Dodgson, a mathematician who had published academic works in mathematics, used the pseudonym Lewis Carroll when he wrote fantasy novels. Joanne Kathleen Rowling used only J.K. Rowling when she published the Harry Potter books to conceal her gender. The Brontë sisters and Jane Austen used pseudonyms for their early works. The prolific writer Stephen King occasionally wrote using the name Richard Bachman in order to increase his publication without oversaturating the market for the King “brand.” Authors who write books about espionage or crime or explicit erotic fiction may adopt pseudonyms to hide their identity. Journalists who deal with commentaries, editorials, and other sensitive issues may even write in anonymity, which means not using any pen name at all. For instance, the British weekly The Economist is an un-bylined paper. According to Wikipedia, all British newspapers run their editorials anonymously.

Also in Philippine Literature
There are/were Filipino writers who have also written using pen names. Some of the most popular were Jose Rizal, who used pseudonyms that included Dimasalang and Laong Laan; Marcelo H. del Pilar, who edited and wrote essays and editorials for the newspaper La Solidaridad using the pseudonym Plaridel; Severino Reyes, who wrote a compilation of stories now popularly known as Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang (‘Stories of Grandma Basyang’) using the pen-name Lola Basyang, perhaps to be able to write and tell stories in the perspective of an old grandmother; and contemporary poet and critic Virgilio S. Almario, who is better known for his pseudonym, Rio Alma.

These are just some of the popular writers in the annals of Literature who have effectively used pseudonymity in writing, not because they were cowards or were trying to run away from the responsibility for their writings but because of various valid reasons that well suit their purposes.

The Last Leaf
Every writer or author has the right to use a pen name and write in pseudonymity if s/he chooses to, for reasons some of which were discussed in this article, as long as her/his writings are not candidates for plagiarism, libels, factual errors, and other illegal technicalities . Using a pseudonym does not necessarily equate to cowardice or irresponsibility; more than this, it may mean privacy, safety, expression of style, and a mere sense of creativity and mystery on the part of the writer. It takes not a mere writer BUT a wide reader to be able to understand pseudonymity or anonymity in journalism, literature, and arts.