I am wondering if there is an etiquette to printed names on business cards? There are so many ways to write a name, I am a little confused. For example, someone named William David Smith works for a Silicon Valley computer company. His friends call him Bill. Which is most appropriate to have printed on a business card:
1. Mr. William Smith
2. Mr. William D. Smith
3. William “Bill” Smith
4. William D. Smith
5. Bill D. Smith
6. Bill Smith
Is there some kind of rule for when you use your middle initial? Does it depend on one’s status in the company? Example:
Shipping and Receiving
Mr. William D. Smith
Chief Financial Officer
Thanks for any help you can provide,
L., Dublin, Ireland
First, check with your new company. It may have a policy dictating how your name is to appear on your business card. If there is no policy, then the decision as to how to present your name rests with you. One thought in making that choice is to consider that a business card reflects you as a professional. Therefore, having it look and read as professionally as possible will ultimately reflect positively on you. Any time you defer to the more informal—a nickname like Sparky or an abbreviation like Kathy for Katherine—you risk having some people not see you for the professional you are. If you have a middle initial, by all means, include it.
One way around the issue of an abbreviated name or a nickname is to print your formal name on the card, and then when you present it, you can say, “Nice to meet you Sharon. Please call me Kathy.” Problem solved.
The issue of titles is more a cultural issue than anything else. In the United States, the convention is not to use titles like Mr., Ms., or Dr. on a business card. An exception to this guideline is if you have a name that is non-gender specific like Dana or Alex. In this case when the person receiving your card hasn’t met you in person, the title alerts him to your gender. Also, the title Ms. is preferable over Miss or Mrs. Any professional designation, such as MD, CPA, or CFLU, follows the name: Katherine E. Park, MD.
The business card is a means of providing contact information about yourself, therefore, be sure it includes:
The name, physical address, and web address of the company
Your name and company title, if you have one
Your work contact information: office number, cell phone number (if used for work), fax number, and work email.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.