Creativity or Mistake?
Many parents like to customize the spelling of their kids' names. They play with the letters to make the name more individual or attractive or "namelike," or to include a relative's initials as an homage, or to make their preferred pronunciation clear. The motivations and the possible spellings are endless. You can't assume that an unexpected spelling you come across is "wrong," even when the name is traditional or based on a common English word.
But sometimes spellings ARE wrong. If you're looking at a record of a student, patient or client named "Wlliam," isn't it likely to be a typo? And shouldn't you ask the person to make certain, rather than risk their records getting lost in your database?
Plenty of typos make it into official government name data, too. Most parents have the mistakes corrected, but some just roll with it. The harder a name is to spell and/or type, the more erroneous versions will pile up. The trick is, the same names that spawn the most errors tend to spawn the most intentional respellings, too.
Take a look at this list of spellings of Autumn, all of which show up in federal data as being given to five or more girls in a year. Which ones would prompt you to ask about a possible error? Keep in mind that mistakes could take the form of typos, misreadings (human or machine) from a handwritten form, or poor spelling on the part of the typist:
I'd place "Autymn" at the clearly deliberate end of the spectrum, and "Autunm" as the surest typo. But there's plenty of gray area in-between.
If the person is standing in front of you, it's simple enough to ask them to confirm that you have the spelling correct. If they're not, though, checking can take a lot of time and effort -- and sends the message that you think their name is "wrong."
Here are three more official spelling arrays of traditional names. Where would you draw the line? I'll start off gentle:
OK, now brace yourself: