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Is it OK to use a nickname / short name on a business card?
June 13, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

What is the best form of your name to use on business cards and email signatures? Is it OK to use nicknames / short names?

My given name is James, but for various reasons I decided to switch to a diminutive form of the name, Jimmy awhile back. Most everyone has gotten used to calling me that, and I'm starting a new job soon where that's how I'm known.

I work in the entertainment industry which is pretty liberal minded, but my new position is relatively high on the food chain and I'm wondering if Jimmy is too unprofessional sounding for business cards and email signatures to outside clients. I don't want to go with James because I feel that would be too confusing to people (i.e. - "My name is James, but call me Jimmy"). So I'm thinking of going with Jim instead.

Am I over-thinking this? Should I just stick with what most people call me to avoid confusion?
posted by dr. strangelove to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
One of the corporate vice presidents at my office - in a conservative industry and a conservative area - is named Jimmy. It's on his business cards and email and that's how everyone knows him. Unless you want to constantly be correcting people, just use the name you go by.
posted by something something at 4:56 PM on June 13, 2011


I work in the entertainment industry which is pretty liberal minded, but my new position is relatively high on the food chain and I'm wondering if Jimmy is too unprofessional sounding for business cards and email signatures to outside clients.

go by what you're known with. if people call you jimmy, use jimmy. no one calls jimmy iovine "james".
posted by lia at 4:57 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should either use the name you go by or your real name... choosing a third name that is neither what you want people to call you nor your real name is... odd. And very confusing.

And I would just use Jimmy. It's not unprofessional sounding -- it's your name, it's fine. If you want to go by Jimmy, go by Jimmy.
posted by brainmouse at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2011


I'd say put James on your Business card, for one, and only one reason:
If someone calls and asks for James... you know that they are trying to reach you for business reasons, and that they probably don't know you that well.

Further, if you create a relationship with them, you can say, Call me Jim... then you'll have at least a small way of knowing how to act, respond, etc... from the first seconds of a phone calll....

I do the same thing, My name is Tim, but I put Timothy on my business cards, email sig, etc... if i get someone calling me for Timothy, I know it isn't someone i know that well...
posted by fozzie33 at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If someone calls and asks for James... you know that they are trying to reach you for business reasons, and that they probably don't know you that well.

This is a really good point, actually. I answer the phone for a CEO and if callers don't know what name my boss goes by, they don't get through.
posted by something something at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2011


I was going to say use the nickname, but everyone's suggestions of using the name as a form of caller ID is good too and now I like that idea better.
posted by Heretical at 5:09 PM on June 13, 2011


a friend of mine is James, but there are a few James' in our social circle so is known as Jimmy (or even Jimmy last name) he will forever be Jimmy to me, but will introduce himself as Jim (never James) but that's just the kind of person he is, and there are a couple of Jimmys around, so Jim is separate to them.

I reckon there would be people who would have no idea that Jim is a nickname for James - there are a few odd ones out there like Edward -> Ted, William -> Bill, Richard -> Dick, Unlike Timothy -> Tim (Jimothy? heh) Matthew -> Matt, etc.

So James would be out, too confusing, and the Jims I know are only James to their parents, or when in trouble. It would be OK to use Jim if you wanted to find the middle ground. But Jimmy would be fine too.

(James' in our social circle are usually "James Lastname" or "Jimmy Lastname" or "James + wife/gf James", there are a few!)
posted by titanium_geek at 5:09 PM on June 13, 2011


as another james who has long gone by jim, i'd say go with what most people call you, even if it's jimmy. some people can't wrap their head around seeing james and connecting it to someone who calls themselves jim.

as far as the entertainment industry goes, it seems to work okay for jimmy iovine.
posted by jimw at 5:10 PM on June 13, 2011


Use the name on your passport or driver's license. When the person you give your business card to does a background check, you will be thankful that there are no discrepancies. It could seriously hamper job/business opportunities.
posted by Renoroc at 5:12 PM on June 13, 2011


You should either go with your full official name or with what you go by. (Or both, if it's not obvious - James "Softshoe" Wilson, or whatever.) Going with a third option you never use in any context is just confusing.

If you think Jimmy looks "unprofessional" on a card, do you feel that it's unprofessional to be called Jimmy in work contexts? If so, maybe you should try to make the shift to Jim or James or whatever else you prefer.

(FWIW I know plenty of people in the entertainment industry who go by absolutely ludicrous/juvenile nicknames - it tends to be in more blue collar aspects of the industry, for example teamsters - but then who doesn't respect a teamster?)
posted by Sara C. at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2011


If someone calls and asks for James... you know that they are trying to reach you for business reasons, and that they probably don't know you that well.

While I don't know what aspect of the entertainment industry Dr. Strangelove works in, this sort of thing is not at all unusual in my part of it. I make cold calls all the time. Other people cold call my office all the time. Jobs often don't last long, either, which means I could easily have a legitimate work contact and not remember in which contexts they go by Tom, Tommy, Thomas, TJ, or just "Jones" - this does not mean I wouldn't send along my resume or call them up if I thought they could help me get something done (or vice versa).
posted by Sara C. at 5:30 PM on June 13, 2011


Go with what you go by. Your business card is not a call screening tool. It's very uncomfortable and confusing to people if they're never sure what to call you.
posted by rocket88 at 5:30 PM on June 13, 2011


If James Earl Carter can be Jimmy, so can you.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


dr. strangelove: "My name is James, but call me Jimmy"

Hand someone the card as "James". Verbally introduce yourself as "Jimmy" (i.e., not "James a.k.a. Jimmy"). No one will be confused.

And similarly to the caller ID reasons listed above, what the person calls you thereafter will give you valuable indications as to (i) how formal this person is, as well as (ii) what they think of your relationship.

Renoroc: When the person you give your business card to does a background check, you will be thankful that there are no discrepancies. It could seriously hamper job/business opportunities.

I doubt this would actually be a problem, at least not in any region where there are a few people with that name -- in those regions no one (with exceedingly rare exceptions) is actually named "Jimmy", and everyone knows that that stands for "James".
posted by matlock expressway at 5:57 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Jimmy is fine. My big big boss's real name is Edward but he goes by Kim, and that's how he refers to himself professionally in emails and cards. It's never been an issue.
posted by emd3737 at 7:44 PM on June 13, 2011


Sara C.: "If someone calls and asks for James... you know that they are trying to reach you for business reasons, and that they probably don't know you that well.

...Jobs often don't last long, either, which means I could easily have a legitimate work contact and not remember in which contexts they go by Tom, Tommy, Thomas, TJ, or just "Jones" - this does not mean I wouldn't send along my resume or call them up if I thought they could help me get something done (or vice versa).
"

I not only have a long first name, but I also have a long last name. My full first last are on my cards/in my sig but when I exchange cards I introduce myself as short form first name. It's never caused any issues. People will call or email me using either name - likely, I suspect-as Sara C. said above. Just not remembering. It's not a huge issue. What I find more challenging is remembering to introduce coworker X as full first which he prefers and I've only ever known him as short form first
posted by TravellingCari at 8:07 PM on June 13, 2011


My female friend has one of those female versions of a male name. In the last few years she's decided to go by the shorter male nickname version of it. No, she's not officially transitioning genders, she's just...going by it. I've seen it on her business card. I do wonder if it confuses people to see a clearly male name on her card and then deal with a female, but...she's never said anybody's had a problem with it. So if she can get away with that, I don't think "Jimmy" is gonna be a problem, especially in the entertainment industry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 PM on June 13, 2011


I know a Christopher who hates being called "Chris" and a William who gets very annoyed every time someone calls him Bill. So Christopher just corrects people and William now puts Will on all his cards. So I always use the name someone signs with unless specifically corrected.

In a business situation, I'd think "Jimmy" is casual on a business card, expected in an email sig.

I went by Gucky at work for years. It was always confusing for clients to see "Amanda" on my card and then have a coworker refer to me as Gucky, so I started signing my emails as Amanda "Gucky" Peterson. This worked very well. That way the formal folks could call me Amanda and yet wouldn't be horribly confused when someone said, "And now Gucky will take us through the brand positioning."

Do you have the option of James "Jimmy" YOURLASTNAME? Or does that feel too mobster for you?
posted by Gucky at 8:41 PM on June 13, 2011


Thanks to all for the intelligent, well thought out responses. I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to go with, but so far it sounds like Jimmy should be fine for my cards / external emails.

Gucky, not sure about James "Jimmy" LASTNAME. As you said, it does feel a bit like a mob alias that way. HA!
posted by dr. strangelove at 9:43 PM on June 13, 2011


I've had a nickname on my business card for years - Jon as opposed to Jonathan. Never had even the first problem with it.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:47 PM on June 13, 2011


In the last few years she's decided to go by the shorter male nickname version of it. No, she's not officially transitioning genders, she's just...going by it. I've seen it on her business card. I do wonder if it confuses people to see a clearly male name on her card and then deal with a female, but...she's never said anybody's had a problem with it.

Yep, I work with a Michelle who's known professionally as well as personally by 'Micky'. (We also have a male Jan, which confuses some.)

I'm the opposite - people seem to like shortening my name, despite never going by the diminutive - I tend to politely correct them. I wonder whether Christophers and Williams experience this a lot too.
posted by mippy at 3:06 AM on June 14, 2011


I wonder whether Christophers and Williams experience this a lot too.

My name is Michael, and the last time I introduced myself as "Mike" was perhaps seven years ago. But sometimes people, even people I didn't know back then and who weren't introduced to me by people who knew me back then, call me "Mike". Once I asked a question on the green about it and got some good answers.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2011


My business cards have always said "Chaz" instead of "Charles".
posted by chazlarson at 9:55 AM on June 14, 2011


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