What’s in a Name? Proper Monogram Etiquette

Monograming adds a personal and traditional detail to any project: piped icing on cake designsembroidered stitches on home decor, stamped initials on stationary, custom details on sewing projects...the list goes on! But, what is proper monogram etiquette exactly? Which initial goes first? How do different size letters effect the order of the initials? What is appropriate for same-sex couples? If you are confused by all of the possibilities, read on!

Discover the monograming rules for perfectly proper personalization!

Ellie Monogram

Photo and images via Debbie Henry

As the oldest form of identification in the world, monograms date back to Greek and Roman times. They served many roles, from indicating social status, to serving as a signature for royals and artists, to being a form of currency in the barter system. Perhaps most obvious, they identified property and were typically ornate, which makes them desirable when creating elegant gifts even today.

Single-letter monograms

Traditionally, single-letter monograms represent the surname (i.e., last name). That goes for both men and unmarried women. Often, modern single-letter monograms for young unmarried women will feature the first letter of their first names.

Single initial monogram

"H" for Janell Lee Haven    "S" for William Edward Smith

Rules for three-letter monograms

Traditional, three-letter Victorian monograms are the variety we use most often today. Letter arrangement depends on marital status and letter sizes within the monogram.

Same size letters

Single men and single women use the first letters of their first, middle and last name, in that order.

Three letters, same size monogram

"JLH" for Janell Lee Haven   "WES" William Edward Smith

Large surname letter in the middle

Single men and women would use the first letters of their first, last and middle names, in that order. The surname is always the centered, largest font.

Monogram with large center initial

"JHL" for Janell Lee Haven   "WSE" William Edward Smith

For married couples, the surname initial goes in the middle, and the individual's first initials go on either side.

There are two schools of thought here: One is that the wife's first initial is on the left of the surname initial and the husband's first initial is on the right, as in ladies go first (below left). This style is often used on linens. The other, more traditional, view is that the husband's first initial is first and the wife's first initial is last, as in Mr. and Mrs. (below right). This style was traditionally used on glasses and tableware.

Married three initial monogram

Appropriate for linens: "JSW" for Janell and William Smith Appropriate for tableware: "WSJ" for William and Janell Smith

For married women, individually, it is tradition for the woman to use her married name initial as the middle initial in three-letter monograms, with her first initial on the left and maiden name initial on the right.

Married men or women could also use their first name initial, married name initial, and middle name initial.

Married woman monograms

With maiden name: "JSH" for Janell Haven Smith   With only husbands surname: "JSL" for Janell Lee Smith

Same-sex partners can follow any of the rules above. If both are keeping their last names, both first initials of partners' last names are used together as the surname. They can also add their first initials on either side of the surname initials. So if JLH and WES were same-sex partners, their monograms would be either of the following:

Same sex partner monogram

Rules for creating monograms for children are the same as those for unmarried adults.

A note about font styles

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of font styles available for creating monograms. Block fonts are more modern and masculine while script fonts are more feminine and elegant. When choosing fonts for monograms, be aware of how they will be used.

Monograms in a highly decorative script

While a highly decorative script font may look just fine on it's own, it could be extremely difficult to read when used in traditional three-letter monograms.

Also note that although these are the more "traditional monogram rules," there are no right and wrong ways to create monograms. Most of the time, it depends on the person receiving the gift. Focus on fitting the design to their personality, and you won't go wrong!

Learn how to add monograms to all your favorite projects! Monogram specialty fabrics for personalized home decor and accessories in Embroidering Luxury Fabrics by Machine. Try adding custom lettering to your cake designs in the cake decorating class Custom Lettering & Monogramming. Or, use techniques learned in Design It, Quilt It:Free-Form Techniques to stitch a monogram into a whole-cloth quilt!

What is your favorite font for monograms?

71 Comments

akash

hi………..
i just wanted to know that what is the initial monogram font size that generally brands uses..

plz let me know asap..
thanks.

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Debbie Henry

Akash, it depends on what you are monogramming. Make the monogram fit the area.

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Marie

I assume that a married woman who never changed her name would use the same format as the same sex couple. Correct?

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Debbie Henry

Correct, Marie. Fortunately, etiquette is not as stiff as it once was, so pretty much anything goes with a monogram if you like it!

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deb

What monogram or initial do you use when the Husband goes by his middle name and the wife goes by her first name. For example, the husband by birth is wRc, R being the last name and C being the name he has always been called although W is his first name along with all the men in the family. The wife is now dRc, R being hher married name and c being her middle inital. Together is it wcRd, wcRdc, cRd, wRd?

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Ronell Burr-Dixon

How would you make a monogram for someone who has a surname like De Beer or Van Wyk? Or like with my surname Burr-Dixon?

thank you

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Debbie Henry

Ronell, tradition says RDB for hyphenated married or BD instead of a single letter for your last name. With surnames for married couples, tradition says Debbie and Hugh DeBeer would be DBH (leave out the De). For a single last name monogram for the Debeers, it would be DB or simply B.

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Debbie Henry

Joanne, traditionally, monograms are single letters or three letters but there really are no hard rules these days. If you want to use two letters, I say go ahead!

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Debbie Henry

Bert, I believe it would be jmDl as in double first name, first letter of the last name, and middle initial.

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Angie

I need to engrrave the following JV III and JV iV on Yeti cups they want the III & the IV smaller would you put it in the middle or even at the top.

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Debbie Henry

Angie, I’m sorry I am just now seeing this. Traditionally, suffixes are not used in monograms (Jr., Sr., III, IV). That’s not to say you can’t add them if you like. I would use what looks best to you.

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Em

My husband and I have the same three initials EAA. I never know if we should go with EAA or EAE for our monogrammed items. Any thoughts?

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Debbie Henry

Em, for both of you the individual monogram would be eAa. The monogram for you as a couple would be eAe.

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Ashley

If you don’t have a middle name would it just be first and last?

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Janel

Can someone help!!!! I am making monogrammed coaster & mug sets using just the first letter of the last name. One of the last names is St. Leger. How would that be monogrammed???? Thanks for any help.

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Elise

How do you monogram a last name that ends in s
Would you say
The Contreras
The Contreras’s
The Contreras’

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Debbie Henry

Elise, just The Contreras. Only use an apostrophe if it shows possession of something as in “The Contreras’ Home.” I believe ‘s is also acceptable for a name ending in “s” when acting in the possessive sense.

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Kelley

If the last name is Contreras, the plural would be The Contrerases.

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Michele

How do you monogram something when the person has no middle name?

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Debbie Henry

Michelle, either use a single letter or first and last name letters the same size.

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Candice

ok let’s say someone’s first name is Mary Anne and last name is Smith (they do not have a middle name). Would you ever place it like this: mSa? Even though and is technically not the middle name?

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Debbie Henry

That’s how I would do it, Candice. Otherwise, you would use a two-letter monogram: MS.

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Donna St. Louis

My last name is St. Louis. I have been told that the.monogram would.be SLT STL. This is for personal (size.of business card) card. My full name will be written below that. Thanks. I just.
joined your group.

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Debbie Henry

Welcome, Donna!
The last name initial would be S so you could use a single S, a single D, or DS or first initial, last initial (larger), middle initial.

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Lori

Hi,
I recently purchased a set of antique porcelain tumblers and they were monogrammed with a script W.
I couldn’t find any research on a single monagram with a period following. Could anyone elaborate why there is a period following the single W monogram. Thanks so much:)

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Debbie Henry

That’s a new one for me, Lori. I have never seen a single monogram followed by a period. Interesting. If I find any info on that, I’ll send it your way!

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Andrew

Hi Debbie!

I have a question regarding how to “monogramize” my name. I have first name, two middle names and a last name – however not in that order the order is:

Abe Bob Andrew Carlsson

Where Andrew is my first name (Carlsson is my surname, and Abe & Bob my “middle” names).

Thanks in advance

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Debbie Henry

Andrew, most of the time when there is a double-middle, the monogram will be first name initial, middle initials, last name initial, to keep it symmetrical: aABc or even A first, a on top of B in the middle, and C last. Alternately, you could just use AC with no middle references.

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Erika Scott Jones

Thank you I wanted to order a monogram ring dish for my night stand table and I wasn’t sure how to list my initials (because I use my maiden and married name). This definitely helped me to understand the rules behind monogramming.

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Favi Sotelo

I found some stationary that has the initial of my first name, Favi. Would it be proper to use it as personal stationary to write thank you notes or should it be with my initial of my last name?

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Debbie

It would be just fine, Favi. You could use either the first initial of your first name or last name.

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Judith Ubaghs

Hello,

What is the correct monogram for:
Sander Nelson William Patrick Johnson?
Sander is first name and Johnson surname. Thank you for your help.

Judith Ubaghs

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Debbie

For multiple middle names, the monogram would be first initial, middle initials, last initial. So, Judith, your answer is SNWPJ.

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Cynthia

Hi,

I’m in need of a little help. To get a necklace of my boyfriend and I initial and for a blanket I’m making . Would I put my name first or his? Please in need of help.

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Hortencia rios

I don’t have a middle name so I put my first name on the middle and I put my first name first like this RHJ.its that wrong?!

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Debbie

Hortencia rios, as long as you are happy with it, there is really no right or wrong. Traditionally, you would just use one or two letters.

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Carrie Selander

Hi Debbie,

I am making a gift for a friend and I’m planning to use just the first letter of the last name, which is de Jong. Would I just use the lower case d, or the J? Or would using dJ be correct?

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Destiny

I want to put my daughter’s monogram on her nursery wall. Her initials are FES. Let’s just call her Faye Emily Smith! I know properly the monogram would read: fSe. Do you think it’s okay to do eFs instead? I really want the middle bigger initial that stands out to be her first name initial, which is F.

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Debbie

In modern monogramming, Destiny, there really aren’t any rules. I say go for it!

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RHONDA

When adding monogrammed letter to a hat…..letters are CBM do you center it off of the B or off of it all combined?

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Bob F

Please help. I want to make a wall sign 3 letter monogram for my son and his wife. His name is Brian, hers is Melinda and the last name 1st initial is letter P.
So should it read bPm. Or. mPb

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Debbie Henry

Bob, most often, the woman’s initial would be first as in mPb.

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Sheryl

Hi , I’m making a baby shower gift with a painted storage box. I purchased the baby’s initials in wood letters. The letters are all the same size. Should I place them in the order of the baby’s name: CEM (Cecilia Elaine McNelly or, place them: CME. Your help is greatly appreciated!

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Debbie Henry

Sheryl, children’s rules are the same as adults, so CME would be correct. You could offset the middle initial by placing it slightly higher than the other two if you like.

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Kat

What would you do if a married woman has two middle names and took her husband’s double barrel surname? ie. K.E.M.L-W

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Debbie Henry

Kat, With a double-middle, the monogram will be first name initial, middle initials, last name initial, to keep it symmetrical: kEMw. (hyphenated names take the first letter of the last hyphenated name).

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Cristina

Hi! I love your post, thank God I found it, so helpful, the only one that talks about each scenario 🙂 My name is Cristina (name) Fernández (surname) de las Horas (surname, though only its written Horas in capitals) I am single and since I am spanish I don’t have a middle name, what do you think my monogram should be? Thank you so much!! Besos 🙂

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Michelle Perkins

I am monograming pocket squares for my son’s wedding and wondering about size of letter’s to use and should it be first name initial, middle name initial and last name initial?

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Debbie Henry

Michelle, from what I’ve read, tradition holds that the monogram be subtle, one inch from the corner and at a 45 degree angle. Either single letters or the first – last – middle initials.

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susan

My monogram should be KKE. But KEK is much better looking. Does it matter. I hate bucking tradition, but…

Reply

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