Her name is Allene Bary-Cooper. Not Allene Barycooper. Not Allene Bary Cooper. It's Allene Bary-hyphen-Cooper. The "Bary" is her maiden name, the "Cooper" is her husband's surname and the hyphen is the link.

Since Allene lives in Crystal City, she has a Virginia driver's license. But recently, she noticed that the license shows her name as three words, without the hyphen. So she went into a local branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if she could get it corrected.

A clerk told Allene that she couldn't. The state's computer is not equipped to deal with hyphens, the clerk said. So, sadder, wiser and officially hyphenless, Allene gave up.

A few days later, lightning struck, in the form of Paula Kripaitis-Neely, director of public information for the Virginia DMV. Paula was quoted by her full hyphenated name in this column. Allene happened to be reading it, and it didn't take long for her to spot a potential comrade-in-hyphens.

After Allene called her, Paula looked into the matter and discovered that the DMV clerk had misinformed Allene. Virginia did -- and does -- show hyphens on driver's licenses. So Allene is now officially Bary-Cooper on her license, and all's right with the world.

Or is it? As Paula explained to researcher Wendy Melillo, driver's licenses are but one problem among many faced by "hyphenated women."

"Often, people don't know how to file you," Paula pointed out. "Do they file you by the first or the last part of the hyphenated name?" For example, Paula was hospitalized recently. But because she was listed with hospital information under the K's, and not the N's, "people couldn't find me."

Regardless, hyphens are the rule and not the exception on Virginia licenses. Maryland's and the District's, too. If you're hyphenated in life but not in license, and you want to make the change, the coast is clear.