Spell it right: Even when you’re not in doubt, look up names
Here are a couple of names I’ve seen misspelled in Bleacher Report stories recently:
You know what those two men have in common? Maybe not much, except this: No one should ever misspell their names. That’s because their names are hard to remember how to spell. So if you use the name Mike Krzyzewski in a story, and your name is not Krzyzewski, you should look up how to spell Krzyzewski. Even if you think you know how to spell Krzyzewski.
I never spell Krzyzewski myself. I copy and paste it from a Google search. Every time. I’ve just done it six times.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get readers not to trust you, misspell a name. It’s an instant credibility crusher. If a writer can’t be bothered to spell a subject’s name correctly, why should a reader take seriously what that writer has to say about that subject?
I asked Bleacher Report’s copy editors what names they’ve seen misspelled in copy recently that writers really should have gotten right, because they should have looked up the names:
And then there’s probably the most famous athlete whose name gets misspelled most commonly: Dwyane Wade.
You don’t have to look up every single name. If you want to trust yourself to spell, say, Kobe Bryant correctly, fine. Feel free to go it alone on the name John Wall. But if there’s any possibility you might misspell it, look it up. It just takes a second to plug the name into a search engine. Google will correct it for you.
For years I prided myself on the unmarketable skill of somehow knowing how to spell baseball player Mark Grudzielanek’s name without looking it up. It’s the “e” in the middle that’s tricky. Sorta feels like it should be an “a.” But you know what? I always copied it and pasted it anyway, including just now.
We should all remember the words of the great entertainer George M. Cohen—Jimmy Cagney played him in the classic movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He said, “I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”
I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. His name was George M. Cohan.