How to Handle Misspelled Names

Here's how to handle the aftermath of misspelling an email contact's name.

I receive emails on this topic on a pretty regular basis. The misspelling of names. I get it as I have first-hand experience with this situation. I receive emails all the time from folks who spell my name incorrectly. As well as what name I go by.

Those who contact me about this topic not only want to know how to handle the incorrect spelling of their name but how to correct the sender as well. Especially when their signature file or the From field clearly shows the correct spelling of their name. So why do the senders still misspell their names?

It’s due to an increasingly common occurrence nowadays — lack of attention to detail. Next comes what is the best way to correct the sender? And, should they even correct the sender?

Email Etiquette = Spelling Names as Displayed

Do not assume, do not change or guess how a name is spelled. It is right there in the email and reflects how the recipient spells their name. Deviate from that at your own risk.

Speaking from experience and being an online business consultant for over 25 years, sadly many have the attention span of a gnat. I used to believe this to be an online-only thing — but I see this in play just as much off-line.

Most are so concerned about what they want to say that they do not pay attention to details. One of them being the correct spelling of the name of the person they are emailing.

I do not believe there is any animus in spelling your name incorrectly. This is simply an error that in itself reflects the sender’s inability to pay attention to something as important as how someone spells their name.

This is certainly not the type of error you want to make if you are serious about building relationships. Or making a positive impression.

Names are the Epitome of Personal

It is pretty common for this to happen to me. I have folks who email me as “Judy” — I’m not a Judy — I am Judith. If the sender knew me well enough to address me differently than I sign off in my emails, they would know that in that case. Only close friends and family know to spell my name as Judi.

While these folks mean well, taking a too informal approach can leave a negative impression. Especially when wrong. Why would you change someone’s name to something other than how they sign off their email? Most likely because you want to appear friendly and more intimate than the relationship entails. That is not necessarily a bad thing but there is the risk that the recipient may not appreciate that approach.

This certainly is not good for nurturing business relationships. Formality in business is a sign of respect. This also applies to non-business communications until which time the other side indicates a less formal approach is welcome.

How to Make the Correction

I tend to not saying anything initially. What I do is to continue to sign off with my name as displayed on every email that I send. I may also reflect a more formal tone depending on the topic at hand. This will signal that their informal approach is not yet in alignment with our relationship.

If the misspelling continues on and on, that confirms that they don’t pay attention to detail. Again, depending on the topic of communication may be enough for me to not encourage further communications.

If you want to make a quick correction something along the line of “BTW, I spell my name as….” with a 😉 should work. The winky softens the correction and just lets them know your preference. It is your name after all.

What if are the misspeller?

Quickly, humbly and happily offer your sincere apology. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Didn’t mean anything lack of respect!” One person noted to me their sister was Judith who went by Judy so for him it was natural. Made sense to me.

Moving forward make a point to not make that mistake again. That is until the other side notes an informal version of their name in their email sign-off. And that may never happen.

Making a Positive Impression

What does it say about a sender who makes the choice to spell your name differently than how it is displayed? To me, it notes a lack of attention to detail. It also will indicate that their motive is more about them than actually nurturing a conversation with me. And, it makes me wonder what else they may not be paying attention to.

In my experience, this type of communicator is also typically one that requires I resend, repeat, or in many cases reiterate conversations or information we discussed in the past. Because they weren’t paying attention to details.

Now you can see how something as simple as assuming how the informal version of someone’s name is spelled or not noticing you are incorrectly spelling a contact’s name can leave a negative perception. Don’t be that guy or gal.

Take the time and make the effort to ensure you spell your contact’s names correctly. It is little “enuances” like this that will go a long way to building strong and productive communications. Personally or for business.

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