Check the Last Name

via names4real.files.wordpress.com

via names4real.files.wordpress.com

I always ask people to spell their names.

I’ve even been known to ask them twice.

You never know when a grandfather and a granddaughter may not share the same last name. The same goes for a mother and son. You can’t take any chances and any editor will tell you to double check the names that you have.

People have different last names all the time. Starting out in the profession, I had no idea. None of this would have even crossed my mind, had my editors not drilled it into my head that it’s such a big deal.

There’s nothing worse than getting someone’s name wrong. (Of course there are worse things, but getting something so simple as a name wrong is pretty bad. It doesn’t shine a good light on you as a reporter or the entire newspaper, as a whole.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done it a couple times. And each time I’ve felt like a complete idiot.

To avoid that, ask the person kindly for their name. It’s that simple.

One of our photographers actually has people print their names into a notebook that he carries with them. That way, he knows the names are spelled correctly. It’s kind of a neat icebreaker, too. It gets you and the person talking and it breaks that “nervous” barrier some people have, with talking to the press.

If you have a question on a name, just ask. If it’s a name that can be spelled a thousand ways, just ask. There’s no harm in asking another question, if you’ve already been talking with someone. I think they’d ensure that you have their name spelled right, then not.

If you aren’t in the habit of it now, you should start. After a couple of interviews or reaction stories, it’ll be ingrained into your “routine” when you do interviews. You won’t think twice about it and it’ll come up naturally in the conversation.

Try it out.

Jonathan

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2 Responses to Check the Last Name

  1. ashleyfoy says:

    So true! I always felt stupid asking but knew it would be more stupid to print the wrong name. I also always felt better when reporters ask for spelling/verification of my name too since I often used to get Roy/soy/Floyd/fox/foye/foi. Now is the opposite, I get asked too often! ;p

    • Hey,

      Yeah. It almost seems really silly at first, but once you get something wrong once, you never want to do it again. That alone is a great motivation to start asking.

      Yeah. It’s a good habit to get into.

      Jonathan

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