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An Error We Can All Avoid

Today I received a contract for an upcoming program I will lead. In the contract, my last name is spelled wrong. On the program flyer, my last name and company name are both spelled wrong.

In a recent list of recommended business blogs, both my first name and last name were spelled wrong. Frequently links to this blog spell my name wrong.

Last week I sent a proposal to a woman named Candi. Before I clicked Send, I noticed that Candi's full name was Candace–not Candice, as I had thought. Whew–good catch! I quickly changed her name on the letter I was sending her by U.S. mail.

In our rush to get things done, we have all made these mistakes. But let's not kid ourselves. Spelling someone's name incorrectly is a stupid, avoidable, careless mistake.

The spelling of someone's name is a no-brainer. We don't need to argue over it, wonder about it, or worry that we have somehow misunderstood. We simply have to confirm the correct spelling. Using the Internet, it is easy to learn whether Marcia should be Marsha. It's simple to find out whether Lynn is actually Lynne. And checking the name of a company takes mere seconds. If the Internet doesn't have the answer, we can call to find out.

Let's do it. Let's pause before clicking Send or sealing the envelope. Let's confirm: Is her name Michelle or Michele? Is she Judy or Judi? Is he Barack or Barak? A Gerry or a Jerry?

Taking the time now will eliminate the embarrassment later. It's a worthwhile tradeoff.

Lynn (not Lynne or Lyn)
Syntax Training (not Syntex)

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

3 comments on “An Error We Can All Avoid”

  • Lynn,
    For as long as I can remember, it has bothered me when people read the first three letters of my last name, PHI, and mentally filled in the rest incorrectly. I have been Mr. Phillips, many more times than I have been correctly called Mr. Phipps. Yet, 20+ years ago my wife and I named our baby girl Shara, without realizing we had doomed her to an existence as Sarah Phillips. THAT is a truly dumb mistake.

  • John, I love your story! And how is that lovely young woman Sarah–I mean Shara–Phillips–oops–you know what I mean.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Couldn’t have been better said.

    Quick, simple, bluntly put post – just the way I like them.

    This could not be more true. The number of times I’ve had people spell my name wrong in an email is almost frightening – and my name is simple: Katie

    As you said, it only takes one second to double check the spelling of someone’s name in their email signature, or on their website. It is worth the double-check and can make a world of difference on your first impression and overall business professionalism.

    When it comes to names, it is crucial that we have a close attention to detail.

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