LinkedIn, the professional networking site, is adding a new feature that will allow users to hear how other members pronounce their own names.
The move—coming to LinkedIn’s 690 million users this month—largely responds to people who wanted the company to better prepare them for a first meeting or call with new contacts, the company said.
Correct pronunciation is also an important part of creating an inclusive workplace, noted Joseph Akoni, a product manager at LinkedIn in the Bay Area who worked on the new feature.
“Everyone, including myself, makes mistakes when pronouncing other people’s names,” he said. “I’ve encountered this personally with my Nigerian middle name—there’s a 99% chance someone won’t pronounce it correctly on the first try.”
The update to LinkedIn’s interface allows users to record up to 10 seconds of audio via the app to pronounce their names. Others can listen by pressing a small button on people’s profiles, either on the app or the website.
For some users, it’s a relief.
“If you don’t have an unusual name, you’ll never really know the daily effort involved with having one,” said Emma Nabridnyj, a freelance editorial director in London.
Because so few people know how to pronounce her last name—it’s na-BRID-nee—she frequently finds herself clarifying it to new clients, partly by pointing at her kneecap.
Pakelody Cheam, an associate account executive at a public relations firm in New York, pronounces her name pa-KEL-oh-dee chim.
Sometimes she feels bad watching others struggle with it, she said. But a good try counts. “When people take the time and make a conscious effort to get it right, it can say a lot about the person or their company,” she said.
Even so, the new tool isn’t helpful to deaf or hard-of-hearing users. LinkedIn said it is working “to build in accessibility features,” but so far has not added a specific means for users to provide a written pronunciation, for example.
Last month, Twitter Inc. was accused of ignoring deaf users when it rolled out voice tweets, but no accessible option for those who can’t hear. It was “a miss to test something that wasn’t accessible to everyone,” the company later said.
Twitter is not planning any features to help with name pronunciation, but some users have added written pronouncers to their bios, a spokeswoman said.
In 2015, Facebook Inc. added a “pronunciation guide” option to profiles on its main platform in the U.S. Users there can write out their names phonetically, while an audio button plays an automated voice saying the name, too. The company said it has no update on taking the feature international.
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn’s pronunciation feature relies on users—not a bot—to enunciate their names correctly. That has led some people to imagine how it could be commandeered by zealous networkers.
“For those founders who can’t help themselves, it’s a 10-second elevator pitch opportunity,” said Rowly Bourne, Facebook’s head of venture capital partnerships and startup growth in London.