Names are important to people. It actually matters to me if I am addressed as Carla or Karla. One is my name and the other is not. And Carol is a great name, but it isn’t the same name as Carla. However, names are difficult to proofread because of the variety of spellings and forms even for common names. One of my most difficult proofreading tasks is for an event program with multiple workshop speakers. Each name matters and there are so many possible ways to be wrong and only one way to be right with a name.

Here are some tips for verifying names:

  • If you are interviewing someone in person, hand them your notebook and ask them to write down their name for your records. Then look at it to make sure you can read their handwriting. Having someone write their own name is much better than having them spell it for you while you write it down, because you may transpose letters when someone is speaking.
  • If you are verifying a name for a well-known person with a web presence, verify the spelling of their name on their own website, not just by googling their name. Other websites might have erroneous spelling of an unusual name, but someone’s own website should have the correct spelling.
  • Be direct, just ask the person to verify the spelling of their name, because you care about getting it right. They will appreciate the effort and your desire for accuracy.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen with names. Many years ago, I asked my soon-to-be-husband to verify the spelling of the names for his side of the family on our wedding invitation draft. He approved the draft, and  when we got the invitations back from the printer, he noticed that his middle name was spelled “Allen” rather than “Alan.” Being frugal, he said it didn’t matter, that we could use the invitations and no one would notice. I responded that of course it mattered, we had to get his name spelled correctly in the invitation or my grandfather would enter it incorrectly in the family history book. We got the invitations reprinted, because names matter.

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