What’s My Name?

By Phil Gérard

Years ago, I applied for a position. The hiring manager’s name was Chris. On my cover letter I addressed a Mr. X. In my interview, to my horror, I learned that Chris was a woman. Since then I am paranoid about getting the name right. Whether that is the spelling, gender, the prefix, suffix, etc.

From my own experience I know that these things happen but it is shocking how many emails are addressed incorrectly. I know my name is not so common and therefore I have already abbreviated it to Phil. I want to note here that I do not care much about whether people call me Phil, Philippe, Philip, Felipe… I almost go by anything. But in writing I want to see my name spelled correctly.

The most common error is using the last name instead of the first name. Granted, Phil and Gérard are both first names but is it really so difficult to figure out in the age of email signatures and LinkedIn profiles?

People do not like their names butchered – whether it is a letter or email to a donor, a job application or an introduction to someone. Taking the time to make sure you get the name right is important. It shows that you care, that you pay attention to detail.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • Spelling the name incorrectly. Even more traditional names can be spelled in several ways.
  • Using the last name instead of the first name. This is my personal pet peeve. Don’t call me Gérard unless there is a Mr. in front of it.
  • Get the gender right. This is what I do if I don’t know the person and addressing them the first time: I do a search online to find out (i.e. an article, press release mentioning them). LinkedIn is another good tool to use for double-checking.
  • Get the prefix (before the name – i.e. Dr.)  and suffix (follows the name – i.e. PhD) right. This is particularly important if the person has a doctor title. You don’t want to address them as Mr. or Ms.
I have butchered names in the past and it will happen again from time to time but in general this is something I am diligent about. It is seemingly a small thing but can go a long way in making a good first impression.

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