What’s in a Name?

My name is Justin Warren.

As part of my day job, I regularly get email that starts with “Dear Warren”. Today, I got an email starting “Dear Jason”.

People get my name wrong occasionally when speaking to me in person, usually calling me Jason. I’m used to it. Sometimes I get Warren over the phone. I figure that’s because Warren is a first name, and people often sort things alphabetically by last name. Outlook/Exchange is often set up to display names as “Warren, Justin”, so I guess people forget that when they reply.

Still, I doubt they manage to reply “Dear Chesterton” if they reply to “Chesterton, Jane”.


“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

— Dale Carnegie

Most people feel quite embarrassed when they get someone’s name wrong after meeting them for a second, or third time. Forgetting the name of someone you know well is considered pretty poor form indeed, or a possible sign of early onset dementia.

And now you’ve gone and done it in writing, a mistake that is now recorded for posterity.

What if this was a customer of yours? Think you’ll make the sale now?

What if it was to a prospective employer? No doubt there are plenty of other people who managed to spell the manager’s name correctly, so guess who’s not getting an interview?

No excuses

And really, what excuse do you have? You know the format of names in your email program, because all of them are set up that way, right? It should be trivial to work out which one is their first name, unless they’re from a different culture who use a different ordering.

You’ve even got the spelling of it right there in front of you!

How would you feel?

Consider for a moment how you feel when it happens to you. Irritating, isn’t it? It’s like the person sending you email couldn’t even be bothered getting your name right, so why should you care about what else they’ve written?

I mean, it’s obviously not going to be all about you, is it? They’re so pre-occupied with themselves and their issues, problems, or what-have-you that they can’t even be bothered getting your name right.

Remember that when you’re communicating with an audience, even an audience of one, that it’s not all about you.

And maybe they’ll remember your name.

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