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The Wrong Name Every Time

I have a question for the e-hell community: how do I politely correct my boss who continually spells my name wrong?

I have worked for my business organization under the same CEO for five years now. I work in our main office where the CEO also works.

I have an uncommon first name, but it’s by no means hard to pronounce or remember, as it is only four letters long. When I meet new people at work I wear my name badge to help people remember it.

My CEO continues to spell my name wrong and I don’t know how to politely correct him. He spells my name wrong when he emails me, in business letters, when he is recommending me as a contact person to people outside the organization, and even in the Christmas card he gave me last year.

So far my tactic has been to unobtrusively use my correctly spelt name when writing things to him, or hoping that he notices my name badge, but he’s been completely oblivious. I think he needs more of a pointed approach before he notices anything.

I need help to stiffen my polite spine and correct him so that he actually takes notice, even though I’m super embarrassed that I’ve left it so long!  0529-13


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  • Bea June 6, 2013, 7:59 pm

    My mother’s name was JoAnn: not Joanne, Joann, Joan, or Jo Ann, but JoAnn. She forever got any and all of the listed variations. The day she passed away, the nurse at the hospital, who had known and loved her well, called her Joan while speaking to us. A few days later, at her funeral service, the officiant called her Joanna. Thankfully, said officiant also left the room briefly at that point to get a microphone, so I was able to chase her down and catch her in the back room to correct her before she did the whole service that way.

    • admin June 7, 2013, 12:14 am

      As Jeanne, I hear it said as Gee-Ann, Gee-Ann-uh and Jeannie. And I always have to spell it. Just comes with the territory.

  • Amanda H. June 6, 2013, 11:48 pm

    I can sympathize. My maiden name is a very simple one, an adjective and a noun that are spelled exactly as they sound (let’s use Longwillow). But because I grew up one state away from a state with a town with the same name but spelled a bit differently (two letters off), it took the school district until my senior year to get my surname consistently correct. I even got a laugh out of another student the year before when I mentioned my surname as “Long-as-in-Island-willow-as-in-tree.” When I started college out west, spelling was not an issue as the surname was fairly common there, but half the people I ran into started misspelling it (think saying “why-low” instead of “willow”). Caused some facepalms, and led me warning my husband that I was going to bring the surname curse to his family when we married. He insisted it wouldn’t because his surname is extremely common. Cue TWO misspellings within a year of us getting married.

    I also have an (occasional) misspelling issue with my first name with one of my husband’s relatives. Among family, I shorten my first name. One relative frequently–but not always–changes the last vowel from a Y to an I (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because my MIL’s name ends in an I). I usually respond by making sure my name is legible and spelled correctly on thank-you cards, since it’s almost always misspelled on gifts. It seems to be slowly sticking. The most amusing instance, though, was one Christmas where this relative sent gifts to us (Me, husband, three young daughters), and only my husband’s name was spelled correctly. We laughed good-naturedly about it, though, and responded only by making sure to, once again, sign the thank-you cards correctly.

  • Lex June 7, 2013, 3:46 am

    My first name is Alexandra, the feminine form of Alexander. You’d be surprised at the number of people that refer to me as ‘Alexander’ despite KNOWING my gender.

    My mother is ‘Anne’ and has given up correcting people that call her ‘Ann’ :-7

    It is not unreasonable to ask someone to spell your name correctly. You mention that the CEO recommends you to people as a contact person? Perhaps you can use this as an avenue to mention it – “A customer mentioned to [Receptionist] that you gave them my contact details but they couldn’t find me – can you confirm how you spelled my name so I know whether the customer was using the correct email address?”

    “Oh, I spelled it A-n-n”

    “Ahh, it’s spelled A-n-n-e, that might be why they couldn’t find me in the staff directory.” (or whatever)

    Just because a person is your CEO doesn’t mean you can’t ask them to use your correct name.

  • Red Cat June 7, 2013, 5:39 am

    My name is Carolyn and I get Caroline, Carol, Carla, Karen, etc. I usually wait until they’ve mispronounced it a few times, then I say ‘By the way, my name’s CaroLYN.’ They usually apologise, then I always say ‘I don’t mind, but I find others are embarrassed if they discover they’ve been calling me the wrong name for months!’ That way, my name gets sorted and it seems as though I’ve done them a favour.

  • --Lia June 7, 2013, 6:05 am

    Ozy– When someone in a position of power (college professor) refuses to do something normal, ordinary and fair to someone in a lower position in the hierarchy (lowly student), the only thing you can do is go over his head. You go to the department head and explain that Professor Asshat has been misspelling your name, has been asked to correct the mistake, and is now doing it on purpose. You ask the department head to please correct his employee.

    I’d leave speculations on motivation due to religion out of it. You might be right; you might be wrong, but making accusations having to do with religious prejudice won’t help and can only stir up bad feeling. (Just as an aside, I’m trying to think of a 4 letter name with an i/e variation that’s very Jewish. Every Jewish name I can think of is Biblical which gives it a sort of universality. All sorts of cultures all over the earth get names from the Bible. But never mind, for me this is like a word puzzle.)

    I know this was a long time ago, and it’s also unlikely that it will ever come up again, but from the moment Professor Asshat refused your normal request, I’d have asked him why. His answer would determine my response. If he says he’s just absent minded, I’d go to my advice above about telling a light story about how you got the name or why you like it, something to put it in his mind better. If he says something about how he knows how it’s supposed to be spelled, I’d point out my own parents as the ultimate authority on that and make a joke about how maybe he should call them and explain their mistake to them. If he refuses to say, I’d go with bringing it up with the department head or the dean. Also– ask about his own name. He might have stories of his own to share.

  • The Elf June 7, 2013, 6:43 am

    Just make sure you nip this thing in the bud. I started working in this industry in the 90s, when I was fresh out of college and unsure of myself. My name is unusual. The weird thing is that it is used by two very different cultures, spelled the same way in both but pronounced differently. Naturally, there are more immigrants in this area from the other culture, so everyone defaults to that pronounciation.

    So, here I go entering the professional workforce and right off the bat no one says my name right. First I tried to correct them to my nickname, which is what I go by outside of work. That was a total fail, because then no one could find me in the email system. So I tried to have the email system changed. Can’t do it – has to be firstname.lastname@company. The only variants are allowed for people with the same name. I gave up there and tried to correct pronunciation of my first name. But because I was shy and unsure of myself, I wasn’t consistent about it (especially with my boss) and it never took off. Now it’s 2013, I still work in the same industry and have built an entire professional reputation tied to my mis-pronounced first name. It doesn’t bother me anymore – the difference isn’t huge, it’s not the name I go by for friends and family, and at least I get emails since they spell it right.

    But I wonder – If I had been firm about this in the 90s and politely corrected people every time this happened, maybe this problem wouldn’t have gotten such legs. At this point, I think it would do far more harm than good to start correcting people.

  • SS June 7, 2013, 7:17 am

    I confess I wasn’t as polite as I probably should have been when I received a certificate at one of my old professional jobs that was acknowledging me as an employee of the quarter. Along with it was a letter about how important I was to the company and how appreciated I was. It was only a 50-person company and I worked in the office with the CEO’s secretary who had written all of it. I went to her and told her that I’d would have felt more far more important and appreciated if they had made the effort to spell my name right. I told them that it gave me the opposite feeling since I felt that I wasn’t important enough to even bother knowing my name after I’d worked with them for several years.

  • European Redhead June 7, 2013, 7:28 am

    The easiest names are hardest to remember and spell correctly. My name is Nina. I get Mina a lot, followed by Dina, Tina, Gina, Lina and Mylena, basically any first letter and the -ina following it. Often I see people spell my name Neena or pronounce it Nay-na. Why? I don’t know, it’s the simplest name 🙂

  • Bibianne June 7, 2013, 7:39 am

    Speaking of names: My husband and I get a kick out of this. BOTH our firstnames can be used by both sexes (and both with the placement or lack of the letter “e”) (OK, this may drive puzzle girl aka Lia up the wall 😉 ). Also because of the law in my Province, we both kept our given names (i.e. I did NOT change my last name).
    We now live in the US.
    This makes it SOOOO easy to spot people who pretend to know us (read: telemakerters, etc). Mr. HERfirstname and HERlastname does not exist (Well, he DID, but that was my GREAT Grandfather and I seriously doubt he would be answering the phone 😉 ) or Mrs HISfirstname HISLastname. In this last instance, I only accept to use it when we go to conferences… so people know he belongs to me (in case he gets lost or needs to be saved from THAT person, and anyone having to go to conferences will understand that statement. hehehehehe)

  • PrettySticks June 7, 2013, 9:58 am

    All of these stories make me so angry… I just think that is the ultimate sign of disrespect to not acknowledge someone’s name properly. I have one of those not-unusual names that has several valid spellings, and find people just use the spelling they feel like. It’s also a nickname for a longer name that has several valid nicknames, and sometimes people just pick a different nickname. Also, my best friend from age 6 until, well, now is named Kristina and if she called the house for me my father would ALWAYS leave a message that said “Christine called.” He referred to her as Christine when talking too and I would legitimately not understand who he was talking about. My mom once told me he knew perfectly well what Kristina’s name was, and he only wrote it that way because he knew it bugged me. And (a) I don’t really know if that’s true and (b)… wait, is that supposed to be *better*?

    In high school we read “A Modest Proposal” – a great satirical essay where Jonathan Swift suggests the solution to the problem of starving children in Ireland is to start eating babies – and were given the assignment of writing our own satire mimicking the style, suggesting some outlandish societal change. I wrote mine suggesting that no one should bother calling anyone by the right name, since it clearly caused undue stress on people’s mental capacities. I thought some folks here might appreciate that:)

  • Lythande June 7, 2013, 10:17 am

    I suppose I’m luckier than people with almost-normal names – this is my real name, and no one knows how to pronounce it, and no one knows how to spell it, and no one really makes a serious effort. Correcting pronunciation is a way of life. 🙂

  • Gamer Girl June 7, 2013, 11:52 am

    I used to have this problem as a little girl. My name is “Nicole” and the most common variant spelling is to add an “H” in there, like in “Nicholas” (which, btw, is my dad’s name and whom I’m named after). Apparently, doing this would drive me to distraction, even as a small child.

    As my mother tells it, when I was around seven years old, at a friend’s birthday party, I received a treat bag with my name on it that had been spelled “Nichole”. According to family folklore, after thanking the girl’s mother, I fixed her with a seven-year-old death glare and informed her in my most annoyed voice that “My name is ‘Ni-COLE’ not ‘Nic-HOLE’. There’s no ‘HOLE’ in *my* name.”

    We still laugh about it 3o yrs later.

  • Julianne June 7, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Julianne (pronounced “Julie Anne” not “Julian”) is my legal name and although it is now a quite popular name to give a little girl, back when I was a kid nobody had ever heard it. I got more misspellings than I could keep track of. My solution was to introduce myself as “Julie” to anybody that I know socially. It is not often misspelled, and if you call me “Julianne” I know there’s a strong chance you’re reading my name from a computer or a piece of paper and I don’t know you. At work, I am listed in the directory under both names so I can easily be found. Occasionally I receive checks made out to “Julie” which I then sign over to my husband and he deposits them, so that hasn’t been a problem. Sometimes an odd spelling can be a bonus.

  • Simmi June 7, 2013, 10:10 pm

    I feel your pain!

    After 25 years of everyone gettin my name wrong, I gave up and started using my nickname. So, now, I introduce myself as Sim. I’ve been called Simone, Sam, Samantha, Simona, Silena…

    I mean honestly you wouldn’t think Sarah would be so difficult!

    Variations of Sarah:
    Sally, Shelly, Shirley, Sarsha, Sasha, Sara, Zara, Sera, Shara… The list goes on!!!

  • Karen June 8, 2013, 5:42 am

    For over a year, I was the only Asian female working in my office building. Then “Jane” came along who also happens to be the same ethnicity as me, and worked directly for my boss’ boss. (I work directly across the hall from Boss’ Boss so I run into him in the hallways often and we always have a pleasant exchange of hellos). Up until about 3 months after Jane started working for the organization, Boss’ Boss knew my name. After that time? He started calling me Jane. Fortunately this doesn’t directly impact my job (as he is not ever referring me as a contact point or sending me emails, etc. because those go through my boss) so I don’t feel the need to correct him.

    @Green123: Your post made me laugh out loud, seriously! Too bad I can’t do that to the Starbucks employees near my workplace who have spelt my name “Karin” and tried to spell my name with a “C” (until I corrected him). The kicker? The person who spelt my name with an “i” instead of an “e” made a big production of asking me if my name started with a “K” or a “C”…

  • KitKat June 8, 2013, 1:48 pm

    The other thing that bothers me when I introduce myself is “Do you go by Kathy?” I have an unnatural hatred for being called Kathy especially when I say “Hi, my name is Katherine.” I thankfully had parents that basically let my brother and I choose our own nicknames when and if we wanted them. I correct that first statement with, “I go by Katherine or Kat.”

  • Kallay June 9, 2013, 2:48 am

    My name is Kallay and you would not believe the variations that I have gotten over the years. When I meet new people I tell them to think of “Cali” like “California.”

  • Caitlin June 9, 2013, 6:43 pm

    I have two different situations with this name misspelling/different name business.

    My name one that has many different spellings, and the one my parents chose is Caitlin. I’ve gotten Kaitlin, Katelyn and more even when spelling things for people. I also have an aunt who still to this day spells my full name Caitlyn (and she has known me for 26+ years now) because my nickname has a y in it.

    I also work with someone who constantly both in emails (to me, where the reply email is obviously addressed to my correct name and to my boss) calling me “Meghan”. While that is a lovely name, it is in fact not my name or not anywhere close to my name. I finally said to my boss I would not respond to his emails if he continued to call me the wrong name as I had told him at least a dozen times in various ways (reiterating my name on emails even with a signature attached, saying my name to him in person, things like that) until my boss and I together finally asked him why he called me that. Apparently, a person he deals with on his end is named Meghan and I guess he rushes through his emails and doesn’t pay attention. I still don’t understand how that came to calling me it in person though!

  • Caitlin June 9, 2013, 6:44 pm

    should read “my name IS one” and “both in emails () and in person”

  • Hannafate June 9, 2013, 6:58 pm

    A friend of mine is touchy about people mispronouncing her name. Her name is Darla. Sometimes people call her Carla, or Marla, and she doesn’t mind that much. Maybe they don’t hear too well, and the names *are* very similar. But, if someone calls her Darleen… take cover! To her, it means that they stopped listening at the “Dar-” and assumed the rest of the name to be one they were familiar with. There’s no “eee” sound in Darla.

    Then that show came along, Greg and Dharma, and she had yet another mispronunciation to deal with.

  • xiola June 10, 2013, 12:28 am

    My name is “Marta” which in Australia is very uncommon but in Poland, from whence my parents hail, very common for girls – like a Kate or Mary type name. Without fail, when meeting someone new, they call me Martha or Marty (which to me is a boy’s name). For some reason when I contact people over email they very often call me Marty. My male friend is called Jesse and he constantly gets the female spelling, Jessie, even by those close to him. Drives me mad. If someone keeps getting it wrong after seeing it written, I take offense personally. I always correct them thus: “Just a quick FYI, my name is spelled Marta. Curly one I know. Have a great day!”

  • BMS June 10, 2013, 9:01 am

    I pride myself in learning how to pronounce my students’ foreign names. It might take a few tries, but I generally figure it out, and they appreciate it. But then they decide to make things easier for everyone by choosing an American name. So Xinlan becomes Charlene or Qian becomes Robert. The problem is that it doesn’t make it easier! All the record keeping systems have the original names. So now, in addition to remembering how to pronounce Yiqing, I have to remember that Yiqing is Anthony. I try to always call people what they want to be called, but why would you take a beautiful name like Yin Mei and replace it with something horrendous like Urusla? (Yes, I’ve seen that one)(Apologies to any Ursulas out there as well)

  • Lyn June 12, 2013, 1:52 pm

    My name is Mary Lyn. I have NEVER gone by anything but Lyn. My dad was the only person who ever called me Mary Lyn. You can probably guess some of the mis-nomers I get. Marilyn (CONSTANTLY) … Linda, Lana, etc etc. People I have worked with for years still spell it “LYNN”. We named our daughter Mary Catherine. Her nickname is Katie. She has sarcastically “blamed” me many many times for her name troubles (Cathy, Mary Kate, etc.)

  • Amy June 13, 2013, 12:33 am

    My name is Amy. Three letters. But because of the trend of giving kids ‘uoooonnnique’ versions of names, it’s almost never spelled correctly. People always ask ‘Aymee’? or ‘Aimie’? or whatever. I always reply with ‘nope, the normal way’ and get a kick out of it. But I do find it quite odd and it’s totally a symptom of us mucking around with names. I always thought I’d never give my kid a difficult name or intentionally misspelled name because it’d doom them to a lifetime of misspellings and such but it turns out this whole fad has gotten so bad that now the normally spelled names are being affected 😛 I have a challenging last name and Amy is short for Amelia (in my case) but out of the three it’s the most simple – Amy – that gets misspelled the most.

  • Bethany June 14, 2013, 11:49 pm

    Amy- is your last name Pond? 🙂

  • Emma June 15, 2013, 2:48 am

    LOL @ Bethany, that’s a good one.

    I never got why people get soooooooooooo offended when people don’t pronounce/write their name right the first time or the first few times they meet or in the first stages of “knowing each other” or if it’s someone they only run into occasionally. Sure, it might be a ‘simple, common name’, but there are hundreds of different ways to spell/pronounce it, and since it is sooooo simple and common, they probably know a bunch of other people named that name already. At one point in my life I knew 4 “Caitlin’s” who, of course, all spelled their name differently. (Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Caitlin, Caitlyn) THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME! It took me a bit to remember the newer ‘Kaitlin’s’ spellings. To people complaining about being called Kathrine instead of Cathrine… (An, Ann, Anne, etc) IT’S THE SAME!!! How do you know if they are saying it with a C or a K??? (or with or without a silent E or anything else?)

    If you know someone for a very long time and just meet someone of the same name or similar name, of course they’re going to be more predisposed to using the name they’ve known the longest! Give them a chance! Yikes! 9.9 times out of 10 that person is very worried if they’re using the ‘correct’ name or not and they are trying their best.

    Like Amy said, parents are inventing all these “uuuuuuunique” spellings of names for their precious little angels so it’s really an unfair thing to assume someone will know how your name is spelled if they hear it once. I’m sure everyone’s heard of the ridiculous La-a story. We all know the wonders of the english language, ex: phone, sounds like ‘fone’, and other various “intentional misspellings” of marketing things to be all hip and cool. A trend I’ve noticed in the fantasy novels is to write ‘magic’ in any other spelling other than it’s actual one. (Magik, magyic, magyical, magykal, etc)

    There are also dyslexic people out there who might skip over that one vowel in your name. Or people with legit memory problems. English could also not be their first language. Now of course, I’m not condoning purposely misspelling or mispronouncing someone’s name to be mean or just plain ignorance. If you’re going to write the name for an official document or enter it into a database or write an invitation, then etiquette says you go seek out the correct spelling. But getting all offended over a simple mistake is in my mind, petty. You should be worried more about their attitude/character and how they treat you, not if they can pronounce your name ‘right’ or not.

    Hmm, perhaps I’ve come off a bit harsh, but this is a bit of a thing for me because I am a bit dyslexic and have some short term memory trouble. I have been chewed out rather rudely a couple of times for ‘mispronouncing’ and ‘spelling it wrong’. A simple “Hi, my name is ____, it’s spelled _ _ _ _” and a bit of patience is all that is needed. My last name has a silent letter E on the end, and sometimes for other people it is correctly spelled that way with out it, but my family name has that silent letter. If I see someone spelling it ‘wrong’ I simply tell them that my name has an E on the end of it, simple as that.

  • MamaLynn June 20, 2013, 1:05 pm

    My mother’s sister misspells my name (I’m 38) and my daughter’s (she’s 8). FAMILY, ugh.

  • Cher630 June 21, 2013, 8:52 pm

    When you write him a memo, print your name in all caps and underline it a few times. If he misspells your name on an important document, go to him and say, “I noticed an error in the letter. May I change it?’ If he asks what it was, just say, “You accidently spelled my name wrong. No biggie, I’ll just correct it.” Dont’ make a big deal about it, but he should be corrected. I’m sure if someone spelled HIS NAME wrong, I’m sure he would correct them.

    My name is Cheryln – pronouned Cherylynn. One word. I’ve gotten SO MANY pronunciations and misspellings, I’ve lost count. I even had one high school math teacher call me “Michelle” for four years. In fact, at my 15 year reunion a few months ago, she called me Michelle! I corrected her and pointed to my name tag that had my name clearly typed out. Some people either have a blank space where the name part of the brain is or they’re lazy.

  • LizaJane July 7, 2013, 11:51 am

    We named our daughter an unusual name and used the original Welsh spelling. To top it all off, it’s really a man’s name. Sorry ’bout that but DH had it picked long before she was conceived. She’s in her 20’s now and it still gets mis-pronounced and mis-spelled. She gently corrects and moves on. She figures it’s a small price to pay for being the only one in her entire school (including college) and work history with that name. 🙂

  • NostalgicGal August 20, 2013, 12:54 pm

    My married last name is prone to a common misspell but. It is not pronounced like it is spelled. If I use the correct pronunciation it almost always gets messed up (they drop the first letter and totally change the name that way) and I’ve gotten used to responding to that. It will make total chaos however if it is listed that way as you will never find it alphabetically then. I will give it as the word is commonly pronounced and make sure to accentuate that the letter in the middle is THIS letter not THAT letter and leave it at that.

    I also have to fight that I do use a somewhat common first name, but I often abbreviate it; and it’s the short spelling to begin with. It is not the diminuitive and very common abbreviation!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is not my name. It took sixteen years to finally convince one of my nieces that that was NOT my name and showing her my driver’s license as well. Oh.

    The fad that started some years ago, for weird spelling common names, or looking up some truly strange new names to start circulating; just made life and spelling worse.

    Where I moved to now, there are a few people with surnames I met in the past, and I do know how they are supposed to be pronounced and how they are spelled. It amazed them that I knew both of these facts and do honestly try to pronounce and spell their names correctly.

    Remembering a person’s first name, oh man, I have a sieve brain like you wouldn’t believe. I will eventually get your name and face linked up, but. Please have a little slack for me. Still. The CEO that can’t get the name, that should be part of his job, this person works for him, he should get it sooner than later; and there are many gadgets now that he could store the information so he can get spellings and that right! A few months maybe, but at five years; maybe having a word politely with his secretary and getting stuff corrected at that level… and if he has cards and that to hand out, or a digital addon to electronic communication that has the correct name and that; will help.

  • JoAnn McPhee October 28, 2013, 1:59 am

    LOL! I had a trip to the hospital, where they had to take blood and I was dehrydrated {spelled JoAnn wrong} and they had to take it again! Now when someone asks me my name I say “IT”S JoAnn [capital J small o, Capital A, small nn”S, NO HYPHEN,NO SPACE,NO “E” The story is way worse, but I don’t feel like I want to relive it! And when I go to a new place to spell my name accurately and on my paycheck and checking account, I make sure they know exactly how to spell it! Or they get to hear the story! Make your point clear! Or maybe you could spell their name wrong! If they mean that much!

  • dual-core processors November 27, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Why users still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe everything is existing on web?

  • Marilyn December 10, 2013, 3:49 pm

    ?o matter if some one searches for h?s essential th?ng,so he/she wants to be av?ilable that in detail, so that thing is maintained ove?

  • Jill June 16, 2014, 9:37 pm

    Get over yourself! People that take offence to having their names mispronounced are what is wrong with the world! For one thing. If you have a name that looks phonetically one way, but mom and dad thought if cute to pronounce it counterintuitive, than get over your ego, and either deal with it, or change your name! Lord knows, it’s not like there is more important issues occurring in the world besides princess/or princes name being incorrectly pronounced. Very sad and telling of how tge younger generatin is so me centric!