humaniformat is an R package for formatting and parsing human names. With it, you can reformat names in various ways to standardise them and then take those reformatted names and parse thme, splitting out salutations, suffixes, and first- middle- and last-names.


Names come in a lot of different formats, and making something that can machine-read all of them is a pretty difficult problem. Instead, humaniformat comes with formatters designed to standardise common formats for names.

Sometimes names are reversed, and comma-separated, like “Keyes, Oliver”. For those you can use format_reverse(), which is designed for precisely this class of name. Names that are not comma separated won’t be touched.

names <- c("Oliver Keyes", "Keyes, Oliver")

[1] "Oliver Keyes" "Oliver Keyes"

Alternatively, we could be dealing with initials rather than full names, and those are period-separated, but not always in the same way. “G.K. Chesterton” and “G.K.Chesterton” are very similar but from a machine’s point of view look very different - the first would be parsed as a first and last name, and the second as a single first name, when the real answer is that we have a first, middle and last name.

format_period takes names with this potentially inconsistent formatting and reworks them to ensure that initials are always space-separated. This makes them a lot easier to parse, and a lot easier to deal with in other programming contexts too:

names <- c("G.K. Chesterton", "G.K.Chesterton")

[1] "G. K. Chesterton" "G. K. Chesterton"

Parsing names

Once you’ve got your formatted names (or even if you haven’t - maybe your names came in a standard format) you can parse them. This produces a data.frame of salutations (“Prof”), first names, middle names, last names, and suffixes (“PhD”):

names <- c("G.K. Chesterton", "G.K.Chesterton")
names <- format_period(names)
parsed_chestertons <- parse_names(names)

'data.frame':   2 obs. of  6 variables:
 $ salutation : chr  NA NA
 $ first_name : chr  "G." "G."
 $ middle_name: chr  "K." "K."
 $ last_name  : chr  "Chesterton" "Chesterton"
 $ suffix     : chr  NA NA
 $ full_name  : chr  "G. K. Chesterton" "G. K. Chesterton"

Component retrieval and setting

As with the excellent lubridate package, humaniformat contains the ability to both retrieve and set elements of names. To take the example of salutations, we can retrieve salutations for a given name (or vector of names) all on their own, or redefine them as we want:

names <- c("Mr Jim Jeffries PhD", "Ms Tabitha Hawthorn PhD")
[1] "Mr" "Ms"

salutation(names) <- "Professor"
[1] "Professor Jim Jeffries"     "Professor Tabitha Hawthorn"

Identical functionaliy exists for other components; first_name, middle_name, last_name and suffix.

Features and bugs

If you have ideas for other features that would make name handling easier, or find a bug, the best approach is to either report it or add it!