Pen Names and Author Ethics

Follow-up to my blog post from November of last year, a small tirade about the claim made by some bloggers that using a pen name is unethical…

According to Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), using a pen name is NOT against their Ethical Authors Code. I know because I sent her an email and asked for clarification.

My message:

I have a question concerning the Ethical Author Code. I have seen statements in a couple of places online that the use of a pen name is unethical according to this code. I don’t see that myself, but I may be misinterpreting things. So my question is, Is it true that using a pen name is considered, by the Ethical Author Code, to be unethical or an attempt to deceive readers?

Orna Ross’ reply:

Hi Thomas,

No, many highly ethical authors use pen names for a variety of reasons.

no worries there.

Thanks for your interest in ALLi and ethics,

Warm regards


This should settle things, right? Can we now all move past telling strangers that they’re being deceitful and fraudulent and unethical because the names they write under don’t match the names on their birth certificates?


FYI, what the Ethical Author Code actually says about the use of pen names (aliases):

I do not hide behind an alias to boost my own sales or damage the sales or reputation of another person. If I adopt a pen name for legitimate reasons, I use it consistently and carefully.


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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4 Responses to Pen Names and Author Ethics

  1. I must have missed the debate (thank goodness). There are more important and fun things to do than worry about someone else’s pen name. Yeesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m still working on the pseudonym I’ll use for my unicorn-gryphon-vampire love triangle novel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mei-Mei says:

    Phew, good to know I’m not unethical after all 🙂


  4. My new pen name: Stephen King.

    Come to think of it, we used to take my dog to a vet named Stephen King. If he had written “Dark Tales from Veterinary School” he would have made millions.

    Liked by 2 people

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