My Myself & My I: How Important Is It To You That Your Name Be Spelled Properly?

According to the Social Security names database, some of the top names for babies right now are (for girls) Emma, Olivia, and Ava, and (for boys) William, Ethan, and Jacob. These are nice straightforward spellings, so these tykes aren’t likely to grow up with a complex about having their names regularly misspelled by others.

This is not so much my life. (If you’re unsure to what I refer, read my byline).

For some strange reason back in the unnamed era of my birth, my mother decided to “just be different” and curse my name for life by making the spelling of my name “unique”. Translation = never finding a keychain, coffee mug or bookmark at the Five & Dime imprinted with my name spelled my way. Alas, the emotional scars!

Well, not such deep scars really. I grew up. I learned about custom monograms, and I have managed to see my name accurately spelled more than once on my business card or my office placard sign. But in a largely post-John-or-Jane named society, why is it that candidates often don’t take the effort to spell my name correctly, especially those candidates whose own names are themselves difficult to spell? I am certain there are many readers (like a Mike or a Susan) who have absolutely zero experience with this phenomenon. But what Kathy hasn’t fumed over being labeled Cathy, or perhaps a Danielle who regularly gets mail addressed to Daniel. More heads are now nodding, I presume.

So what?! My name was misspelled. Boo-hoo, who cares?!

I care. I care because in this situation as a hiring manager, am I not a customer too? Is it not the candidate’s job to sell me on himself or herself as a potential future hire? And if I am hiring someone for a customer-facing role which requires customer intimacy and attention to detail, if this candidate cannot spell my name correctly then how do I know he or she will spell a client’s name correctly? All of a sudden a simple oversight becomes a source of (sometimes repetitious) irritation.

Some studies have suggested that people generally enjoy hearing their name in conversation and they respond more warmly when it is used. I would be willing to wager that this holds true in written conversation too, but only so long as that name is spelled the right way for that reader. From my own perspective, that erroneous repetition is only a source of eye-rolling annoyance. And it is just as bothersome from others (vendors, colleagues, sometimes even friends) who continually fail to process the spelling of my name generously supplied there in my auto-signature on every single electronic message I send. I have to wonder why that is? Are they just too busy to notice or is it just a lack of concern? Is either of these two options any better than the other?

Yes, this post was all about me and my I. And to anyone whose name may also be spelled a little differently, send me a note, and I promise I will always spell your name the right way.

Nanci Lamborn, SPHR, is a freelance human resources writer and a senior generalist with a global investment technology firm based in Atlanta, GA And she must not have been too scarred, because she passed the same type of name spelling anomaly on to her kids.

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