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I'm registered on LinkedIn and I get invitations often. 6 out of 10 people who try to write down my name fail to spell it correctly. Sometimes it annoys me and I feel like writing a letter to them (although I've never done it) with someting like this:

"How should I expect professional behavior from someone who cannot read?"

Should I tell them that they spelled my name wrong or is this not something that is important?

Edit: My real name is on my profile: Adam Arold. They usually spell Arnold. Even if I look at my name like a complete stranger I can see the difference.

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I can see someone typing an I instead of an L in your name if they're using a poor display or font which can make the distinction difficult, but inserting a letter? Now they're just implying that they think you can't spell your own name. When in doubt, copy/paste the name - then it can't be wrong. –  alroc Nov 1 '12 at 13:43
It could be autocorrect. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Nov 1 '12 at 13:48
Lighten up and politely correct them. I have the same problem, but I also realize there are much bigger problems to have. –  Fernando Nov 1 '12 at 15:19
I think we are victims of our pattern recognizing brains. :) Arnold is a much more common name/surname, and many people will add that 'n' automatically. I think being gracious about it, even if you find it annoying, would be more helpful to you in the long term. "Honey attracts more flies than vinegar." As well, you may put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want them to treat you if you missed or added a letter inadvertently to their name. –  Keoma Nov 5 '12 at 13:20
I don't sweat it. My last name is a Swedish/Danish/German one. Change the ending a little and you get a common Italian name. Most people recognize the Italian one and not the other one, and so they mess it up. I used to be bothered, but since I've lived in many countries, I've heard so many mangled versions of our surname that I've surrendered to the inevitable. When we lived in Ireland, we had 5 different entries in the phone book, all spelled wrong. I know it can be frustrating, and a poke to your identity, but unless they are doing it deliberately, my advice is to smile and move on. –  Tangurena Nov 14 '12 at 18:18

7 Answers 7

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I frequently have people spelling my name wrong (it's Rachel, not Rachael), and I just be sure I have my name spelled correctly in the signature of every piece of correspondence I send them, even if it's something like a one-line reply.

In most cases, if the person cares enough about continuing corresponding with me, they'll notice and correct themselves after a few messages.

In the few cases this doesn't happen and I actually care enough to point it out to them, I'll comment about it when discussing something else, such as adding it in the end of a message in parenthesis so as to not make a big deal out of it. I also try not to be too accusatory in what I say, so I'll often mention it's a common mistake, or correct them with a smiley face to show there's no hard feelings about it.

(Also, I know it's a minor thing but my name is spelled as Rachel with only one A, and not the more common spelling of Rachael) :)

And if I never have a reason to talk with them, its probably because they're not important enough for me to bother worrying about the fact they spelled my name wrong in the first place, so I just let it slide

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@enderland I actually write something more like that most of the time too, but I also normally only bother correcting people I'm fairly familiar with and who I feel I can speak in more relaxed terms such as "btw" with. I figured since this site was for "professionals", I'd try to rephrase what I usually write to keep it professional :) –  Rachel Nov 1 '12 at 16:13
I accepted your answer instead of the previous one because I tried out your method. I've been approached (on LinkedIn) by someone who spelled my name wrong. I did not say anything since I did not want to be accusatory. Later when we were speaking on the phone she apologized for her mistake. So this somehow felt a better approach then pointing this out. –  Adam Arold Nov 13 '12 at 15:44
@AdamArold Glad it worked out for you :) People are human and make mistakes all the time. I think its important to give them an easy way to recover from their mistake without making a big deal out of it if possible, as that will help maintain a good relationship with them. –  Rachel Nov 13 '12 at 16:25
@DavidNavarre I just Google'd it and according to Yahoo Answers, it is :) Its actually probably varied based on location, but at the time I didn't really know which was more common, so just wrote it that way because it implies that it's a common mistake and that the user didn't really do anything wrong, which is the tone I was going for –  Rachel Nov 14 '12 at 21:12
In the 21st century, with so many non-traditional spellings for traditional names and so many non-traditional names, I expect mis-spellings and mis-pronunciations will be the norm, rather than exceptions. –  David Navarre Nov 14 '12 at 21:27

The reason people misspell your name isn't because they can't read, and it isn't because they're unprofessional. The fact is, you have an odd name, and it's unexpected.

People get used to patterns:

I was on my motorcycle commuting to work the other day, and the city just got finished repairing and reopening a bridge that had been closed for a year and a half. The 3 way stop that they temporarily setup was back to a main thoroughfare with a single stop sign at a road that terminates at a "T" at the main road. A lady in a big blue SUV almost hit me because she expected me to stop when making my left. I had right of way, but a week ago I would have had to stop. It's not that she was dumb, although I was a bit pissed off, and it's not that she can't read. I almost made the same mistake a few times when I thought a car was going to stop but instead went right by. For a year and a half, anyone and everyone who regularly commuted through this area had to stop, and just like that, the city removed the stop signs without warning, leading to mass confusion by people who allegedly know the roads.

Patterns in words:

Edit: My real name is on my profile: Adam Arold. They usually spell Arnold. Even if I look at my name like a complete stranger I can see the difference.

Huh? How can you possibly look at your name like a complete stranger? Did you just recently change your name a month ago to Adam Arold, or could your fasinating, mind-boggling ability to recognize the spelling of your name stem from the fact that it's been your name for the last 26 freaking years! ;)

The fact is, people get used to patterns, and when 99.999% of the people whose names look like Arold are actually Arnold, well you can't expect people to scrutinize something this close each and every time. We'd never get anything done because we'd be constantly looking to make sure Webster didn't decide that today is the day we start spelling "the" as "teh".

Aside from the "body memory" involved in doing any activity, consider that there's also a bit of psychology involved when reading words:

Source: Learn English - Can you read this?:

I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

the fact is that Arold and Arnold look so close that the human mind simply interprets it based on past knowledge of what it's seen before.

In short, it's a bit arrogant of you to think that someone is unprofessional just because you happen to have an extremely rare name that most people don't expect to see.

Lastly, I'd urge caution about sending your proposed letter to potential employers. I doubt that making them feel stupid will prove your worth to them as a future employee; instead, consider something like this:

Hello there! I just wanted to let you know I have an odd name. It's actually "Arold", not "Arnold". It's a common misspelling. By the way, I see you have an opening up for a X. Check my profile out, I think you'll like it!"

In conclusion, use this to your advantage!

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+1 for that excellent final bit of advice! :) –  TurkeyFried Mar 1 '13 at 17:00
This is very good advice. Prior to there being more famous figures with the same last name as mine, it was routinely mangled. The "Hi there - my name's unusual" in a friendly fashion helps loads - and makes you more memorable too. –  Joe McMahon Jun 29 '13 at 1:44
So my brain uses dynamic programming with heuristics? –  Adam Arold Aug 13 '13 at 12:31
+1 for funny example of mangled English perfectly proving your point. –  Peter Masiar May 3 at 1:06

Do you know these people personally? Are these people (or you) "open networkers", adding people to your connections without actually knowing them?

If they aren't people that you know personally, and being connected to them isn't going to have any obvious benefits to you, I would suggest simply ignoring these requests. If they cannot spell your name properly when it's on the screen right in front of them, I would question their interest in forming a mutually beneficial relationship.

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I agree that getting someones name right, and other details, is important, and a mark of respect.

That said, this is going to happen to you frequently - it does to me too - and you can choose to allow it to define your professional relationships in a positive or negative way.

Consider - the sender is not big on attention to detail, which means if your response focusses on this, in their eyes you will be labelled as intolerant and pedantic.

By highlighting their errors, you will not gain any respect, no matter how politely you do so.

In practice, your original response was in no way polite, so they will probably add "short tempered" and "aggressive" to their mental list of your personality traits.

If it is a recruiter contacting you, then this information - their impression of you - will be placed into their files and notes. If its a company, this might go into their database.

I have found that a slightly unusual name is a huge bonus. It makes you stand out amongst the other applications, contacts and team members. I've found that most people who get my name wrong at first, either correct after a while, or even apologise, as the relationship grows.

I'm prepared to accept the occassional careless error as the price for this advantage.

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I did not say anything to anyone about this. I just WANTED to say. –  Adam Arold Nov 2 '12 at 20:45
Sure - but the tone of even the comment that you placed indicates that this is a "hot button" for you which, if you allow it to be pressed, will actually produce the opposite result (lack of respect) than the one you are looking for. This happens a lot - our instincitve reactions actually move us further awy from our goals, not closer. The fact you didn't send the mail shows you know its not the right thing to do. As they commented on one course I was on, the gap between what we want to do, and what we know we should do is called "professionalism" –  GuyM Nov 2 '12 at 20:57
+1 +1 +1 - That is awesome: "our instincitve reactions actually move us further awy from our goals, not closer." So true! –  jmort253 Nov 3 '12 at 23:35

Since most of us live under some form of Moniker, I have to ask is your name a unique name? Or at least unique to the United States? I have to ask since the majority of the people that use Linkedin are from the US.

Also, if the person isn't American, or from your country of residence, sometimes a spelling of a name is not as easy as you may assume.

My name is Matthew, people misspell it all the time, Mathew is common, I don't get frustrated, I just correct the person, and off we go with a communique.

I can understand if these are unsolicited, and normally people you'd normally never talk to, but sometimes a level of tolerance should be expected. Especially with the internet environment.

With the onset of short type, and the younger generations not actually knowing how to spell but using spellcheck as a crutch, you may need to accept this as the norm now.

If you don't you may lose contact that would otherwise be valuable to you later on in life, or in your current situation...

So to recap, you politely respond back and say something like, "I know it may have been a mistake, but my name is spelled **, thanks."

Also, remember sometimes biting your tongue may be your best bet.

Again, they could also be an African Prince telling you that you won a hundred million dollars too, so the option to what you want to do is really up to you.

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For the first business/professional contact with someone (as one might expect a LinkedIn invitation to be), I have a hard time looking past "short type", spelling & grammar errors (if both parties share the same primary language). This is the first impression you're is attempting to make in a professional setting - IMHO, you must put your best foot forward. Spellcheck should not be used as a "crutch", and is no excuse for using a correctly-spelled word in the wrong context (which you've done twice in your post, BTW - "loose" should be "lose", and "may of been" should be "may have been") –  alroc Nov 1 '12 at 12:56
@alroc Well I have an excuse, I am dyslexic, sorry to burst your bubble but I'm lucky enough in many ways that I can actually spell correctly. The fact I don't have the general nuances being correct 100% of the time, I'm sorry... I'm human. If you can't accept that, then perhaps you need to lower your standards to accept for real world situations that you can't control... like someone's disability. And yes, you hit a nerve with me, sorry but I feel that people have to tolerate some mistakes once in a while. As I explained in my original post sometimes a mistake is just that, just as mine was. –  Matt Ridge Nov 1 '12 at 13:10
True to form, I committed my own mistake in the above comment and haven't caught it in time. –  alroc Nov 1 '12 at 13:10
I do not agree with you 100 percent. If in doubt I can always copy and paste a name. In fact I always copy/paste names since it can only be wrong if they spelled their own name wrong. –  Adam Arold Nov 1 '12 at 13:36
Regular typos throughout an email don't bother me (teh, etc.). Miss use of things like their, there, they're do and tend to put me in a judgmental mood. I have a low tolerance for people that can't speak their native language. If they're obviously foreign (I get contacted by a lot of Indians) obviously I have a much larger tolerance as they haven't been using the language for a minimum of 18 years. –  Randy E Nov 1 '12 at 17:17

Making sure you address someone by their proper name, either in voice or text, is of course a mark of respect of a fellow human being that should be expected in all interpersonal communication.

However, don't fly off the handle. Most of these mistakes, especially in initial stages of conversation, are perfectly innocent.

In particular, technology can often be more hindrance than help. I'm sure you have seen the merry mishaps that occur when a computer "decides" that when you typed one thing you really meant another. "Spell-as-you-go" aka "auto-correct" is probably the single greatest barrier to communication in the modern world, and most of us who care about saying what we mean turn these tools off. Case in point; "Arold" -> "Arnold" is a totally understandable abuse of auto-correct (in fact as I type this, Chrome has "Arold" underlined in red, with the first suggestion being "Arnold").

Both my wife and I constantly deal with this in casual communication. For my part, I'm often the victim of the grade-school rule, "I before E except after C"; "Keith" is from Gaelic, on which the "I before E" rule has absolutely no bearing (the rule is based on the major parents of Old English, Proto-Germanic and Proto-French). My wife's name is Darci (yet another red-tag by Chrome there), and that is constantly misspelled "Darcy", and we've also seen complete outliers like "Darcey", "Darsy" and similar.

You have two solutions. First, you can ignore it. Yes it's annoying, but it's also small stuff; of the 90 people who will transpose I and E in my name today, I will never speak to 80 of them ever again. Many times, the written form of your name is simply something for someone to call out when it's your turn (your lunch is ready, or the doctor will see you now, or whatever you might be waiting for at the time).

In professional communication, try a three-strikes rule (three messages from the other person with the misspelling, with replies from you containing your correct name in the signature line) before politely pointing out the error. If they ignore the correction, or take offense, walk away. You may have wanted the job, but you do deserve the respect of having your name spelled out correctly, even if it may cause a minor inconvenience.

In solicitation that borders on unwanted (you may be mildly interested, but the misspelling is a turn-off) then you don't need three strikes; if you want to respond at all, point out their error in your first response; again, if they ignore it or take umbrage at being corrected, walk away. Obviously spam's spam; completely ignore it whether they bothered to spell your name right or not.

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You have an unusual name. Unusual names are very prone to getting mangled. You can get upset about it and end up with high blood pressure or you can simply accept that we are humans and not let it bother you. Whichever path you take people are still going to mangle it.

People always used to think my name was short for "Lawrence", it's not. These days younger people think I'm female (it was the male spelling when I was born, now there is no male version)--compounded by the fact that on the phone my voice is fairly gender-ambiguous.

Unless it's an ongoing situation I don't even bother to correct people. There's no point in getting upset.

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