Some people love to point out that The New York Times has typos aplenty. This is because those people have never, ever misspelled something themselves. They are spelling gods, and we are all better for them. Of course we’re just being sarcastic, because the Times does have errors, and more often than not, it’s getting a person’s name wrong.
In fact, according to the paper, of the 2,800 errors corrected in print so far this year, 460 have been misspelled names. So, to help itself and all of us who are not spelling gods, here are some tips from the Times for spelling names correctly:
- In every interview, ask the subject to spell his or her name.
- If you use another source, online or elsewhere, be sure it’s reliable. (Don’t take a Google poll and go with the spelling that gets the most hits.)
- Don’t just check how we spelled the name last time — our archive is, among other things, a minefield of past errors.
- Copy editors should check as many names as humanly possible.
- If you couldn’t double-check before the first deadline, do it afterward.
- Be wary of names with common variants — Stephen and Steven, O’Neil and O’Neill and O’Neal.
- Don’t rely on memory.
On a personal note, Fishbowl Chris would just like to add that everyone should remember that an apostrophe counts dammit. Thank you.