I have a common name, but an uncommon spelling. Specifically, my name is Kelli.

Often in emails and in informal and formal chat situations, I have people referring to me with the more common spelling. Because of the situation, I rarely correct them. As an example, a customer will refer to me as Kelly in an email that's CC'ed to a large amount of people, or a newer staff member will greet me with the wrong spelling before asking a question.

Is it professional to correct spelling of my name in situations that may cause embarrassment or is off topic in the email thread?

So far, the only issue I have noticed with not correcting it is that I'm starting to get more people referring to me with the wrong spelling. I've also been asked about emails that I've not been getting. I realized that since my email is [email protected], I'm not getting emails from people who spell my name wrong. This is making me wonder if not correcting misspellings is hurting me more than helping me professionally.

  • 39
    If not getting these emails becomes a significant problem to you, you might want to ask your IT to redirect emails to your incorrectly spelled address to you, or at least make sure that the address produces a bounce rather than just be a silent sinkhole.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 10:35
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    My name is 4 letters long and it drives me mad when people call me Niel. That isn't even an alternative spelling. Seriously, it's 4 letters. What's so hard about it? I always correct my colleges, but I don't communicate with customers.
    – Neil Kirk
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 23:03
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    @NeilKirk: “I before E, except after C, or when sounded as A, as in Neil or...” wait, how does that go again?
    – amaranth
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 6:36
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    Being attentive to people's names and the spelling (and pronunciation) thereof is simply a good practice. But some people are unfortunately not so attentive. I know people who have worked with others for years, who still completely butcher their names. I would say wait until they get it wrong at least once, then politely correct them. Being pushy like "Anne-with-an-E" just makes you sound arrogant. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 21:41
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    You will never climb the peak of this mountain. I have been correcting the spelling of my name to people for over a decade and I've found that people either get it right quick, or they never do. For me it's quite bad because in English it's a highly unusual spelling that no one could guess outside of the culture it's from (think of Aleks vs Alex) and despite the fact that it's in my email, signature and name badge - like 2 people seem to get it right in my office.
    – pi31415
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 7:29

12 Answers 12


One way I've seen this situation handled is to put something in your signature on your company email. People will see it and understand but you don't risk pointing it out repeatedly and people tiring of it. You could do something like:

Kelli Smith 
[email protected]
(That's Kelli with an 'I', if you want your email to get to me)

Or something more the flavor of what would be acceptable to you or in your company. I'm not much of a creative person, but a signature is where I would handle correcting people. They'll get used to it.

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    I dunno, seems kinda defensive. Personally I prefer not to give the impression that it's my fault rather than the fault of the sender if they are too unobservant to notice which five letters make up my name. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 2:37
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Well, I have an unusual pronunciation instead of spelling and believe me, putting the blame on the other party is just wrong. If you really have to blame someone, blame your parents, anybody else can't really help it. People remember names in different ways and there is a reason 'common' spellings exist. It's no good being insulted by it or anything. Either way weird pronunciation or spelling has it's ups (recognizable in a crowd and unique usernames respectively) and downs (people misremembering), so it's all good in the end :) . Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 3:21
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    I don't see anyone being blamed here. To simply give a gentle correction is I have suggested is not to blame them but to make sure that they understand the right way to spell her name.
    – Chris E
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 3:22
  • I guess most customers of the company don't care how Kelli's name is spelled, all they care about is that Kelli receives their e-mails and solves their problems. So as long as all e-mails to [email protected] and [email protected] end up in Kelli's inbox, and Kelli will read, answer and solve them in due time, the customers are happy.
    – pts
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 12:41
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    @DavidMulder: I have an unusual pronunciation as well. You're not the only one. I'm not "putting the blame on the other party": it's nobody's "fault" and in my experience it's important to emphasise that. Otherwise people start resenting you for "making it difficult" for them and it really detracts from the actual job at hand. That being said, if somebody gets the spelling wrong because they are being unobservant and/or lazy then, yes, that is absolutely their fault, and also really rather rude. Just a little care and attention is not too much to ask. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 14:25

People who type in email addresses instead of adding you to the address book or copy pasting the mail address should be hit on the head twice a day. There are so many things you can type wrong and so many different versions of names.

You could write in your signature something like:

Kelli "with an I" Lee
Department XY
Company ABC

It will be confusing for a second, but people will remember it quickly and probably think of it each time they type in your email address. (assuming hitting them on the head did not help)


You should always correct them, but subtly.

One way is to be a little "pushy" with your business cards.

Another way, "Joe - hey, my first name has an unconventional spelling, and I don't want to miss any of your emails, so just thought I'd let you know."

Go with the assumption that your audience is "competent, but uninformed." Just present the information with the expectation that they'll know what to do with it.

Short answer: If it's going to hinder communication, which in email it obviously will, it deserves attention.

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    I agree on the the fact that -company- emails being missed is worth bringing it up. If it was [email protected] that was getting lost, I'd have also registered [email protected] and have it forwarded.
    – Xrylite
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 22:38
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    @Xrylite - If the admins will let you. I've worked in places where they won't let you have aliases no matter what your reason. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 0:28
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    @Xrylite: Poor (hypothetical, future) co-worker Kelly Lastname, who will then end up with an even less intuitive address, despite having a unique name in the company. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 11:01
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    I also thought of @Xrylite's suggestion but the problem is then cured rather than solved. Next email will be sent to [email protected] as well. Better option would be an automatic reply with "If you want to reach Kelli please forward to [email protected]" given that [email protected] is not already taken. Admins ought to be helpful instead of capricious! :)
    – Kyr
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 12:31
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    @Kyr: Perhaps have a bounce message which is in fact unique for that name but could appear auto-generated: "There is no email account [email protected] but one or more similar accounts exists: [email protected] (Kelli Lastname)." Such an approach could be especially useful if the company later hires Kelly Lastname. The message could then list both the above address and "[email protected] (Kelly J. Lastname)". Note that if people send mail meant for Kelli to [email protected], using that address for Kelly Lastname would make her receive such mails.
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 19:09

Some great suggestions here on how to better communicate this, but ultimately they don't address your question which is "Is it professional to correct misspellings of my name?"

Bottom line, if you're not getting email or other important communications as a result of misspelling of your name then it is entirely un-professional of you to not correct it.

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    Why downvoted? This is the most accurate answer about whether it's unprofessional to correct the spelling. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 21:35
  • +1, Also the longer your leave it the more awkward it will be in the long run. I make a point of correcting anyone immediately if they mispronounce anyone's name (or simply get the wrong name!) Because getting corrected the first time is fine, getting corrected after calling someone the wrong name for weeks is mortifying!
    – JeffUK
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 6:20

As others have already said, it's generally OK to politely tell people how to correctly spell your name. Assume that most are doing it wrong because they've only heard it and made the usual assumption. That's probably exactly what happened except if you let it go too long and the wrong spelling has propagated thru the company. Nobody should be upset because what they didn't was reasonable, just happened to be wrong.

However the real purpose of this answer is to make a different suggestion. Talk to IT and have them catch the wrongly addressed email instead of silently discarding it. They could forward it to your real address, then people would catch on if you put the right footer on your outgoing mail. Or, they could bounce it with a message saying that [email protected] isn't a valid address, did you maybe mean [email protected]?

  • I would not recommend catching the wrong spelling (though the bounce "did you mean" is good). I have seen this at a few occasions, and the result is that people now have even less incentive to properly spell the name.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 22:59
  • @PlasmaHH: Well, depends on how much you mind. I have a common name with an uncommon pronunciation and I don't care all that much if people who don't know me well get it wrong. With my mentality I would just throw in the "PS. Oh and btw, it's Kelli ;-)" (with the smiley to make clear I wasn't insulted or anything :) ) when somebody writes me a mail with my name wrong. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 3:16
  • @DavidMulder: Obviously the OP is bothered enough by this to post here, so would want a solution that has a great chance to work, otherwise it would be shrugged of. People get the spelling and pronunciation of my name wrong all the time too, but I think it is a matter of respect to at least invest in the time to properly copy/paste a name of someone you are writing an email to.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 12:31

You simply add a P.S. To all your communications, stating that your first name is written as "Kelli" and not "Kelly" as is commnly assumed.

P.S.: I write my name as "Kelli" and not "Kelly", as you would reasonably assume :)

  • I don't like this. It's defensive, and it suggests that the "unusual" spelling causing problems is Kelli's fault; it's not. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 2:38
  • @LightnessRacesInOrbit If I were the OP, it wouldn't bother me one way or the other. The name is what it is, as I am having the OP point out. So what? Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 4:15
  • It's the "as you would reasonably assume". It's unnecessary. It's saying "hey, don't worry about the fact that you can't be bothered to read and then spell my name -- a whole five letters -- as I wrote them, that you've spent literally zero care and attention on professionally addressing me. I understand!" which is nonsense to my mind. This as someone who also has the OP's problem and has done for several decades; it absolutely bothers me. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 14:33

I too have had people butcher my name. Most often it was advertisements in the mail. My user name actually comes from one of those advertisements. But I've had worse than that. Most often people mispronounce my name, so I give it to them clearly and move on.

It's OK (and professional) to correct misspellings of your name. How and when you do it is very important. How you do it determines whether it is professional.

Others have given valuable suggestions. But let me focus on the feelings that are generated. You want others to end up with a good feeling about you. This (I think) is how to be professional and friendly.

Think about it from the perspective of the person you are correcting. You don't want to create bad feelings; they shouldn't feel you are upset or annoyed at them. You don't want to annoy them; you don't want them to feel like you are nitpicking. You don't want them to feel like you are accusing or criticizing. Avoid focusing on yourself; don't seem proud. Avoid focusing on their mistake; don't seem critical.

How can you create good feelings and avoid bad feelings. Have fun with it. Joke about it. Let them know you appreciate them.

Be careful about fighting against a flood. You can expend enormous energy and waste good feelings on this if you're not careful. That would not be professional.

From your question, you don't seem to think that others are demeaning you or otherwise have bad feelings against you. What about the saying "If you can't beat'em, join'em". It can be like a nickname. You can either fight it or embrace it. In my experience, it can be better to embrace it. Be Kelly.

Ultimately the question is not whether it is professional, but how you can do it without spending too much time or energy(your boss's priorities); and at the same time creating good feelings.

  • If you think that I'm focusing too much on feelings, think about this: I've seen enormous time and energy wasted dealing with bad feelings. It's unprofessional to create bad feelings. It directly affects the bottom line.
    – D_Bester
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 1:35
  • +1 for best answer to the actual question. "How and when" is really the key to approaching the issue professionally. Definitely do not cc: all; that is not professional.
    – tardate
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 20:02

I would not have something like "Kelli (with an I)" in your signature. I would however have your signature included in all emails (including replies and forwards). Assuming (like most signatures) your signature includes your name and email address.

Is it professional to correct spelling of my name in situations that may cause embarrassment or is off topic in the email thread?

No. Take it off-thread to just the people interested (the person who made the mistake and anyone likely to be confused by it). Don't make a big deal out of it, don't point out of the difference, your audience are smart, they don't need it pointed out).


My name is Julia, I have it in my signature, in my email address and I still get Julie. ALL THE TIME. Even with people I ineract with in person, multiple times daily. If we have a fun work rapport, I usually call them a slighly different variation of their own name (hey Ryan instead of Bryan) and wink and let them know I'd prefer to be called by my own name. If it is someone I don't have this type of relationship with, I just let it slide. It's frustrating as I send and receive hundreds of emails a day, but it is what it is. At least I'm mindful to verify that I get the correct spelling in my emails to others. And that makes me feel good.


My name is Anne. Self-explanatory. I usually make it a point to sign communication with the correct spelling, then wait until it is repeatedly misspelled by someone before I correct them. By then, I'm really pissed off and don't care if it bothers them to be corrected.


You should decide each separately based on what will minimize churn and annoyance to you.

Unfortunately, there isn't a cleaner answer that produces a good result. Your big issue is that people mis-naming you is mildly(?) irritating, and having to correct them is irritating. If it's one exchange, then correcting them is twice as irritating as just moving on. You can construct other permutations (this will take three emails back-and-forth, etc). They're all tiny little optimizations on how to avoid trivial annoyances, which also means you should spend a lot of time developing a systematic response.

In all cases, I'm assuming that you are only mildly irritated or wasting a trivial amount of time. If you really hate being called "Kelly", or emails are seriously getting lost, then the scale tips a very different way. But that's a personal preference

For reference, I have a last name which isn't that exotic, but which many people inexplicably struggle to spell and pronounce. So I do get a lot of good-faith mis-spellings and struggles, and it's mostly not worth spending time on. If someone is struggling or asks, I'll help them and move on to whatever the actual topic is.

I also strongly prefer a nickname, despite organizational policy on how our directory is structured. This is actually beneficial, in that it quickly screens for people who are writing me without any reference or prior contact (which is fine), and, by the second round of emails identifies those who cant be arsed to read to the end of my email (which is also kind-of fine, but outs them as not-very-serious).


What's the worst that can happen?

Someone in HR in your company gets your name wrong. Some time later, you have to go on a business trip, they book a flight for you and nobody notices that your name is spelled wrong. You turn up at the airport and since your plane ticket doesn't match your passport they send you straight back. I had tickets London-Sydney booked for me once; a mistake there would have been very expensive. Or you need to visit a military or otherwise high security customer. And names don't match up, and the visit doesn't happen.

Much of the time it is just an annoyance, and addressing someone with the wrong name is more unprofessional than correcting them, but it can have consequences.

(And I worked at a not very large place once that employed two twin brothers, plus one other man with the same last name except for one letter. Here you would absolutely correct the spelling. )

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