Did you know that someone’s name is one of the most precious words to them?
If you don’t believe me, think about how you feel when you are ‘treated like a number’, someone pronounces your name poorly and you get a letter with your name wrong in some way.
I once got a letter that referred to Mr T Hughes, opened with Tash and had Mrs Hughes on the envelope. I didn’t like being called Mr but the lack of care shown by the inconsistency was very poor.
Getting people’s names right is a sign of respect, and in business it also shows attention to detail matters to you. So consider the following tips:
PS On a humorous note, I received a phone call a few days ago where the person asked “Is that Mr Tash Hughes” (badly pronounced)
I answered “No” thinking – do I really sound like a Mr?
Next question “Can I speak to Tash Hughes?”
My answer “You are – I am Tash but I’m not Mr.”
“Oh, I thought you were a boy, Goodbye” and hung up!
I suspect the increased use of SMS and chat shorthand is a major factor, but it seems that many people aren’t sure about when to use capital letters in their writing. So here is a quick summary of when to use a capital letter:
Capitals letters are sometimes also used within names (e.g. AvSuper, MacGregor), in scientific terminology (e.g. E. Coli, Eucalyptus, cyclone Tracy) and where two words have been abbreviated into one (e.g. eBooks, eLearning.)
There are variations in some of these rules, especially if you travel to another country but using these guidelines will avoid any major errors!
Edited to add: I came across a fun poster with the basic capital letter uses, which is great for kids and anyone struggling to remember these rules.
* The use of a generic noun as a proper noun requires a capital letter, too. So while mothers is written in lower case, a capital letter applies in the following sentence: Mary said “Hello Mother. How are you?” Likewise, you may write about a library (generic) or the Ashburton Library (specific).
When writing, the other important aspect about names is spelling.
If you are writing a note to yourself, obviously the spelling is less important. But as soon as you are writing something for a business use, it is essential you spell names correctly. That includes the names of your colleagues and competitors as well as clients, and also any business names you refer to.
Taking the time to get someone’s name spelt correctly in your records can save you time and the embarrassment of getting it wrong later.
You may not like the spellings emma-lee, elisabeth or mishell, but if that is how someone spells it, that is the way you need to spell it when refering to that person.
Getting it right shows respect; getting it wrong will annoy or even insult the person you are writing about, and can even lose you sales.
My daughter recently discovered that people didn’t live at the same time as dinosaurs. She was shocked and didn’t really believe it.
“But if people weren’t alive when dinosaurs were, then how can people know what they were called?” she asked.
It lead to a discussion of why we use names for things – even things that we don’t see in our everyday life. Names save us time, words and energy, as well as individualising us as people.
When writing, the choice of a name can be really important as names also set the scene. Names can give information about the person, such as gender, nationality, personality and age, and about the theme of the writing.
And it’s not just naming characters in fiction stories either. When I am writing something that includes examples, I take care to use names that imply a mix of people – for instance, using male and female names.