As Milo says, it can help to build the habit of referencing by user name, but the other thing to do is this: make sure you are accepting the user mention autocomplete correctly. That is, when you start typing the name after the
@ sign, find the name you want in the autocomplete list that appears, select it with the arrow keys, and hit Enter or Return to accept it. If you do this, you are guaranteed to have the correctly formatted user mention when you are done. If you don't see the names of users in this autocomplete list when searching from either first name or username, then the server is having a small caching problem that one of your admins should be able to solve for you.
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