Business Communication Pet Peeve #1: Spelling and Pronouncing Names Incorrectly

Image courtesy of Randy Borum's stick figure collections

Image courtesy of Randy Borum’s stick figure collections

OK, I have to start this post off by saying I watch a lot of stupid reality shows where rich people hate their lives and fight with people constantly. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were so easy for the rest of us that we could manufacture reasons to be hostile and annoying? I do have a point to all of this and the post will go somewhere…I promise.

I often read the reality blogs and the corresponding comments. I find it hysterically funny that so many viewers actually try to give these people advice. The funniest part is that they almost always spell the people’s names wrong while they’re calling them horrible mothers, gold diggers, and deadbeats. Why would you take people’s advice seriously when they can’t even spell your name correctly even though they can see how it’s spelled at the top of the screen?

In business communication, this spelling and pronunciation thing is much more important. If you worked for Procter & Gamble, don’t write “Proctor” on a resume. It’s hard to impress people with your work history if you technically don’t even write down the company names correctly. Some people won’t notice, but the ones who do will be off-put and make a paper airplane out of your resume or request for a raise. If you work with someone whose name is Juli and you’re going to send an email to her at, don’t you think it might be fairly obvious, you know, from her name being listed in the email address, that her name contains no “e” at the end? You might be surprised to see how often these errors occur in business communication, products, and resumes.

Why does this matter? It looks unprofessional and rude. If you can’t put in the effort to figure out how to spell or pronounce things, why would an employer think you’d put in the necessary effort to do great work?

Here’s some handy advice. There’s a really simple way to find out how to pronounce a person’s name, a company name, or a product name. Ready for it?

Ask someone!

People are often relieved that you actually care how to pronounce their names. Potential employers will be impressed if you ask them how to pronounce the name of the company’s best-selling product.

Granted, asking someone might not always work. For example, I worked for a company where everyone pronounced the company name differently. Not a big deal to most people, but it just didn’t feel professional to me. How were we supposed to present a united front if we don’t even call ourselves the same thing? Another example is with eLearning. This is how I write it, but if you look, you’ll also see e-learning and E-Learning. So how do you proceed if there’s not a clear pronunciation or way of writing something?

Write or say it consistently.

For example, in my blog posts, you’ll always see eLearning. I write it this way consistently to show that I pay annoying attention to detail. If you get in the habit of doing things consistently, you no longer have to think or worry about it. You won’t have to look back in your communication pieces to see how you did it before. You’ll just know you’re doing it the same way and you’ll show that you can also pay annoying attention to detail.

Anyone have any funny stories about resume typos or mispronunciations?

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