Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to correct someone in English if they get your name wrong

What should you do if someone says your name incorrectly in English?

What if it’s a professor and you want to show respect?

This can be a tricky situation, but today we will give you tools to correct the person politely while maintaining the connection.

Today we have a question from a listener:

Dear Lindsay and Michelle,

I am Kay (I am not comfortable saying my name now, will save it for later) and I have lived in New York City for two years. I have been listening to All Ears English podcast for about three weeks (intensively, about ten episodes for a day while commuting) and it’s been so helpful for me. Whenever I searched for methods for more advanced English learners, I often got frustrated because most of the podcast hosts spoke so slowly (unnaturally) to the degree that I couldn’t stand it. I really like that you and Michelle speak so naturally and let us know natural English expressions. The expressions are so natural, so whenever I listen to the podcast it reminds me of my American friends. 

A professor emailed me, but my name was written in a wrong way. How should I make a correction without being rude? Just to be clear, it’s not a spelling mistake. The professor sent me the right email but wrote my name as, for example, Moonjoon instead of Minsoo.  Should I make it clear in the beginning of the email or is it better to say it at the end as like a postscript? I remember the episode when you were talking about how not to be rude when my order got confused (at a cafe or so). Can I say, “you’ve mistaken my name” (is it too rude or unnatural?) or “people often get confused my name and her name, but I just wanted to make sure that” (make sure what?). People often misspell my name but it’s actually the very first time when a person called me in a totally different way. I am not offended at all, but just wanted to know how to behave in this situation.


How to decide how to deal with this: Questions to ask yourself

1- Is it a huge 101 class? How many other students are in the class? If you are one of 300 students and you never actually interact with the professor then consider whether it matters that you correct him. Will you never speak with the professor in person or is the professor making this same mistake in the classroom while talking to you and calling on you?


2- How many interactions have you had in the past, how many will you have in the future?


3- Personal dignity. It’s a matter of standing up for yourself and taking up your space in the world. If you plan to interact with the person then you should correct them.


Your options:

1- If it’s a huge group and you only communicate by email, you could wait and see if he or she makes that same mistake again. Maybe it was a one-time thing.

2- if it’s an important issue because they are making the mistake in person and by email I would wait until you see them. If they call your name in class incorrectly don’t correct them on the spot. It would embarrass them. Instead go up to their desk after class on your way out and say:

  • Excuse me, Prof Brown. I just wanted to let you know, my name is Minsoo. I think you pronounced it Moonjoon.
  • Hi just one quick thing- My name is actually Minsoo. I have heard you say Moonjoon a couple of times.

3- If you MUST do it in an email, don’t sign off at the end of an email by saying

Sincrely, Minsoo (not Moonjoon)

That sounds rude and abrasive and a bit passive-agressive.


Listen to some related episodes:

3 Strategies to Remember Someone’s Name-a guest episode with Alan Headbloom

Names are tricky for American people if you are from another country.

It’s not an excuse and you should usually correct people, but don’t take their mistakes seriously.


What questions do you have?

Let us know in the comments below.

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