We all make mistakes.
But if you want me to answer you, don’t ever call me “Jane.”
And if you address or refer to me as such in any written form, especially when the correct spelling of my name is right there in front of you, e.g., in the signature line of the e-mail from me to which you are replying, I am not going to be amused. Or give your writing the consideration it might otherwise merit.
This past week, a gentleman repeatedly referred to me as “Jane” in a series of e-mails, totally confusing other folks involved in the conversation. And after the mistake was pointed out to him, he persisted in referring to me as such. Finally, exasperated, I tactfully but firmly drew his attention to the aforementioned signature line and requested that he call me “Janie.”
It is just one letter. Just one little “i.” So what’s the big deal, you ask?
Well, first of all, do you think it is easy going through life as Janie — Hickok — Siess? Can you guess how many incorrect variations of each name I have been subjected to over the years? No, you can’t because I still see new ones from time to time.
For instance, there is no hyphen between Hickok and Siess. And no, it is not acceptable to abbreviate “Hickok” to just the letter “H” because it is not my middle name. It is my birth name.
And I won’t even venture into the “Ms.” vs. “Mrs.” conundrum. For the record, I’m not “Mrs. Siess.” You may call me “Ms. Siess” or, simply, “Janie,” thank you. I am not now, never have been, and never will be “Mrs. Somebody Else.”
The misspelling of names is one of my pet peeves and, in my estimation, one of the hallmarks that separates the writing pros from the amateurs. Our names are the key to our identities and, while some folks are very flexible about the manner in which they are addressed or referenced, there are just as many who, like me, have strong preferences.
For that reason, I developed the habit many years ago of checking and double-checking the spelling of names when drafting a document, especially correspondence. To me, taking the extra few seconds to assure that I have spelled a name properly is one small but meaningful way not only to demonstrate my own competence, but also show respect for the person in question.
So if I receive an e-mail, letter or other business document in which the author has spelled my name correctly, he/she instantly grabs my attention and engages me because that one simple fact tells me a few things about him/her. It signals that he/she is observant and detail-oriented. It is also the mark of an individual who cares about the manner in which he/she is perceived and signals that he/she desires to be viewed as a professional. I am far more likely to peruse and reflect upon the remainder of the author’s writing when my name, if included in the document, is spelled properly.
Taking the time to assure that you have spelled names correctly is increasingly challenging and important as our society becomes more and more diverse, and many people are using alternate and unique spellings of traditional names. Examples I have observed lately include “Jesseca” (as opposed to “Jessica”) and “Johnathan” (rather than the more common “Jonathan”).
So while spelling a name may seem, at first blush, like a trivial matter — it is, with regard to “Janie,” just one little “i,” after all — it is actually one simple but effective way in which to assure that your writing is, in all aspects, as accurate and well-crafted as possible, thereby engendering respect from your readers.
Do you have any pet peeves? Leave a comment and share some of them with me.