For the majority of my life, my name has been mispronounced. I have been “accidentally” renamed or referred to by another name that bears no resemblance to my actual name. I have been nicknamed without my permission. The pronunciation of my name has been the root cause of many of the growing list of microaggressions, or rather everyday aggressions, I have experienced in my career.
While I continue to give people the grace, the support, and the help to pronounce my name correctly, my patience for misspelling my name is currently at an all-time low.
Here’s the question at hand:
In the age of Google, LinkedIn profiles, email exchanges, and more, how can you continue to misspell someone’s name?
“Dear Mira” was how a message from someone trying to sell me something started off. It would seem that spelling my name correctly, if you are trying to pitch me, would be table stakes to get right.
“I want to thank Mariah Mallick for her recent article on working mothers in the pandemic” was a wonderful shout-out in social media that I read recently. Except...Mariah? Were they referencing me? How does Mita become Mariah?
And in recent conference promotional materials, they announced speakers for a panel including me, “Mitta Malick.” My name was the only one spelled incorrectly on the announcement of panelists. If I offered to lend my voice to a panel discussion, the least you can do is offer me the dignity of spelling my name correctly.
Misspelling my name is an everyday aggression that is in some ways worse than mispronouncing my name. Because it can take time, effort, and practice to learn how to pronounce my name correctly, you might not get it right the first, or second, or third time. And I am okay with that as long as you show that you are trying.
And there’s really no good reason to misspell someone’s name. It’s an act that’s lazy. It’s careless. It’s hurtful. It shows you don’t really want to take the time to figure out how to type out their name. Because you can Google the spelling. You can go back to email correspondences and see how they sign their emails. You can check their LinkedIn profile. You can check, double-check, and recheck that you have spelled their name correctly.
And mistakes happen. And I will be the first to admit that even I have misspelled people’s names.
In a recent email to a colleague named Elyssa, I typed too quickly and addressed her as Elysse (since I also happen to know an Elysse.) After several minutes passed, and as I started my second cup of coffee that morning, I was horrified. I realized my mistake. I emailed Elyssa immediately to apologize for misspelling her name. Elyssa graciously accepted my apology.
I recognized the mistake myself, emailed her an apology, and corrected the spelling of her name while addressing her again the second time. Elyssa didn’t have to correct me. And she shouldn’t have to.
So if you are going to mention me in social, in a newsletter, or announce me as a panelist using a social graphic misspelling my name, please don’t be surprised when I comment back publicly:
“Thanks for including me and for the shout-out. Can you please ensure you take the time to spell my name correctly?”
And I’ll do the same when I see colleagues’ names misspelled. I won’t scroll on by and think, yikes, their name is misspelled. I’ll intervene and ask that their name is spelled correctly.
I have been called a lot of things in my life. Rita. Pita. Anita. Smita. Mira. And too many others to list out here. Seeing Mita spelled correctly shouldn’t be that difficult of a request.
So please try not to misspell my name. Let’s take the time to learn how to spell each other’s names. If you can Google the latest tortilla hack, you can also Google how to spell someone’s name. Just remember, there’s only so many times you can blame autocorrect.