Monday, August 2, 2010

The Importance of a Name - Get It Right!

Many of you may assume this post has to do with naming characters, but it doesn’t. Today I want to share about the importance of names in the context of the business end of writing.

So many times writers agonize over naming characters within their manuscripts, but don’t get the name of the editor they’re querying correct. Or they try to network with someone and get his or her name wrong. This is a HUGE mistake. Sure, this person will remember you, but chances are it’ll be in a negative way. Names are critical when you’re interacting with people.

Some of us have difficult and ambiguous names – like mine. When I was the Managing Editor for Centered Magazine I constantly had writers querying me—Mr. Eddie Melson or worse Mr. Eddie Nelson. My first impulse with those queries was to hit the delete button and that’s usually what I did. Why? Because their lack attention made me think if they couldn’t get my name right, they probably had a lot of other mistakes in their writing.

Writing is a highly competitive business. Don’t start out with strikes against you just because you didn’t bother to double check the spelling of someone’s name. When I was first starting out, I remember getting a lead from John Riddle, an instructor at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. As I carefully copied down the information of whom to query he made a comment I’ll never forget. “Be sure you spell the editor’s name correctly. She won’t even open your email if her name is misspelled.” That advice is golden and I’ve never forgotten it!

A lot of this business involves referrals and leads from other writers, so networking is critical. Because of that it’s also important to make certain you get the name correct when you’re posting a comment on someone’s blog or sending them an email. I read a blog last week, written by a blogger named Kathy and the first comment posted was addressed to Katy. Big mistake. It could have been a typo, but it also could mean the person commenting wasn’t paying attention. Either way, it leaves a poor impression—not just to the blogger, but to anyone who reads that blog.

Here are some things I do to help me slow down and make certain I’m getting the name correct.

  • Write it Down – I keep a scratch pad next to my computer and I always write down the name of the person I’m referring to. Writing it in longhand somehow helps engage my brain and acts as a way to double check my accuracy.
  • Check the Gender – so many names can be either masculine or feminine. Most websites and blogs have pictures (Centered Magazine had pictures of everyone on staff making it easy to see that I’m a woman) so I try to check that way. If it’s a blog and there’s no picture, I look at previous comments to see how most people have referred to the person – male or female.
  • Add to My Contacts – if I’m going to make a comment on someone’s blog or query an editor, I add them to my contacts list. This helps me find them again without searching the Internet and it gives me another way to double check their name.
Words are our business—and that includes names—so when we write, we need to be accurate and diligent.

What are some ways you ensure your accuracy? Has anyone ever misspelled your name? How did you feel?

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. Thank you so much for this blog, Edie! I think those of us with easily mistaken, misspelled, or mispronounced names are particularly sensitive to this. I've been called everything from Alicia to Falisha (instead of Feleesha - in fact, even that is a concession I finally made because my daddy is the only one who still pronounces it correctly - Faleeseea). And forget about spelling it correctly - my own mother in law never learned to spell it correctly. :-) That being said, I do think sometimes when the name is close to a more familiar name, our eyes play tricks on us sometimes. All the more reason to be careful and diligent in getting it right.

  2. This is an excellent point, Edie! Thank you for sharing it.

    Being an Alycia, I completely understand the slaying of names. I've been called Felicia, Alisha, Alyssa, and had my name mispronounced and misspelled several times.

    As well as learning to spell someone's name correctly, I deem it just as important to learn to pronounce it correctly. Especially if one is going to meet someone face-to-face or speak with them over the phone with a pitch or business-related information.

  3. You are so right! I learned this lesson after my 40 yrs. as an admin asst. Names are so important! Just the other day, someone misspelled my name in giving me credit for something I did. I tried to cover it up by saying, "Oh, that's ok." But I felt bad inside of me. Our name is our "self".

  4. "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1 NIV

    We want to represent others as having a good name, and we also want to be remembered well. Great post, Edie!

    My maiden name was Neulen. A name rarely spelled correctly! Double checking is extremely important, but often overlooked. Thanks for the insider information encouraging me to double check!

  5. Thanks Ladies for sharing your stories! So many times we discount the way we feel about something, thinking, "I'm just being silly." Realizing I share common feelings makes me more aware of how I treat others.