How to stop misspelling names

Mallary Jean Tenore is a frequent victim of journalism’s sixth most
prevalent mistake: misspelled names. In an article for Poynter, she
explains why journalists get names wrong, and how to prevent it.

Tenore spoke with Regret the Error’s Craig Silverman. She writes:

“Drawing on the [New York] Times’ own corrections, Silverman said the paper has referred to Jackson Pollock as “Jackson Pollack” at least 66 times. Silverman pointed out in his book that the Times has also misspelled Dan Aykroyd’s name at least 45 times, Madeleine Albright’s at least 40 times, and Philip Morris’ at least 128 times. A few years ago, former public editor Clark Hoyt wrote about the Times’ history of misspellings, saying ‘The New York Times misspells names at a ferocious rate.‘”

The issue doesn’t just lie with unusual spellings or unique names, Silverman points out. Usually, it’s because the journalist hasn’t bothered to do the homework.

Why do we care? Aside from the obvious unprofessional appearance and frustration from sources, Tenore notes that “research has shown that inaccuracies cause the public to lose trust in media.”

The solution? Start off each interview by asking your source to spell out their name and job title. Then read it back to them. Soon enough, it’ll become habit. It also “sends a message that you’re committed to accuracy,” Tenore writes.

If you’re quoting someone else’s work, copy and paste the by-line instead of attempting to retype it. But be wary of your source, because it may simply be repeating an error elsewhere on the web. Because you don’t want to have to run a correction like like.