Comment vous appelez-vous? Quel est votre nom? If you ask someone their name in French, you might expect a reply with a typical first and last name. But what about in written works? For someone like me, you might see it listed as KESSLER Jeff.

Why the different layout / capitalization? in France, it’s quite common for individuals to have last names that could be first names, and vice versa. For example, the names Bernard and Thomas are often used as both first and last names. Additionally, the likelihood of one having multiple names is elevated. This makes discerning the given and surname portions of one’s name difficult.

To combat the issue, surnames are typically capitalized and placed at the beginning of one’s name, with given names in title case following the surname. For example, a French name listed as THOMAS-BERNARD Jean Paul would clarify a given name of Jean Paul and a surname of Thomas-Bernard. (This would be less clear under the American style of writing as Jean Paul Thomas-Bernard; is Paul a middle name or the surname?)

So, the next time you see an email in that format, know that you’re either talking to someone French, or who works for a French corporation.