“Many of our readers have related tales of encountering poor etiquette in all sorts of business situations. More than a few suggested that we revive the “Sally Sez” column that disappeared without so much as a “pardon us,” (pardon us, by the way) when Sally Schott’s day job became way too demanding of her time. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty universal story. So we’ve found a compromise: reviving a business etiquette column, but inviting you to write it! Tell us about your experience in 850 words or less and who knows? You may see it on this page in a future edition of Business Lexington.
Our own Linda Hinchcliffe gets the ball rolling with an observation concerning the need to be sensitive about the correct spelling of names.
There are few names that aren’t open to spelling misinterpretations. John Smith? Or is it Jon? Or Smyth? Or Smythe? If you care to show John or Jon, or whomever you are writing to, that you are not careless and that the communication is important to you, get it right. It’s a matter of respect and a recognition that the effort has been made to get it correct. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Justin Kaplan and his wife, novelist Anne Bernays, produced a piece on names and the importance they play in our culture. They argue that names are bound up in our identities and how we distinguish ourselves. Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce received a letter from an irate writer who commented on how he was tired of having his name misspelled. He wrote, “I have a collection of certificates and programs where someone else is honored!” A name is such a personal thing that to have it written incorrectly may totally invalidate the communication it dons. To misspell a name is to show a lack of effort, and a lazy approach to the name in an introduction may very well indicate that same approach in the business deal or matter that follows.
The holiday season, when mailed pieces increase substantially, sees a sharp increase in incorrect name spellings. United States businesses will send out 300 million to 400 million holiday cards to show they care — and misspellings undermine that sentiment, said Jan Norman of the Orange County Register. There are those who will not open an envelope that sports an incorrectly spelled name. Nationally recognized career expert Dr. Randall Hansen agreed. “I fall into the camp that if you have any kind of major error on your cover letter or resume, then your application is done, over, tossed.” That includes the mistake of misspelling the name of the person to whom the cover letter is addressed. And Washington State University’s student publication gets to the problem early. It is stated in its student writers’ manual that if there are three occurrences of names or words being misspelled, it is grounds for termination.
So how does one make sure a name is spelled correctly? If it is a business situation, call the company and ask the person’s secretary or a receptionist. Most likely, the name will be spelled correctly in the company directory. Check a correspondence that the person has sent to you. Check the company Web site. Even a direct call to the individual, making it clear that it is important to you to get the spelling correct, is preferable to sending a correspondence with a name spelled wrong. And if your name is a tricky one, have mercy on those you deal with. Admit that your moniker is a difficult one and spell it out. It’s also an easy way to show that details are important to you.
And regardless of your name, be glad you are not our nation’s Secretary of State. According to GRAMMAR HELL, the most often misspelled name in the news is Condoleezza Rice!