Writing Errors Do Damage

I saw two things in the Business section of today’s Orange County Register that lifted my spirits. Both support points I try to make in my business as a provider of writing assistance services. In his column (click here), Stephen Wilbers talks about the impact of writing errors. He says:

Big errors are damaging. Small errors are distracting. Big errors undermine your credibility. They’re the kind that nearly every reader notices and some readers never forget. If you make a big error when writing to certain readers, they will put you in a box, tape it shut and place it on a shelf labeled, “Never to be paid attention to again.” Believe me, it’s not a comfortable place to be.

I always tell clients that even small mistakes draw the reader’s attention away from the subject matter and focus it on the errors themselves. Even if they are not severe enough to cause a misunderstanding about what is being said (and all too often, they are), errors still obscure the message and detract from the company’s image. This is especially unfortunate when a company is promoting the superior quality of its products and/or services. The incongruity is obvious.

The second item appears in the “Five Tips” column. Today’s tips on e-mail come from Anthony Sanchez of Waterford Technologies in Irvine, CA. He makes the points that e-mails are valuable business communications, and sometimes, the only record of an approval or an agreement.

I have always maintained that in business, it is just as important to write carefully in e-mails as it is in more formal correspondence. Yet e-mails are often written in informal shorthand and are rarely edited before they go out. When employees have substandard writing skills to begin with, and believe that mistakes don’t count in e-mails, these communications pose a risk to the company if they are not checked first.

Good writing can prevent misunderstandings and inspire customer confidence. It is too important an issue to neglect. Especially here in Southern California, the workforce contains large numbers of people educated in other countries who use English as a second language. Even when they speak and read quite well, writing can still pose a challenge for them. In U.S. education, the basics aren’t stressed as much as they once were, and good writing skills can no longer be taken for granted, even among college graduates. This is the need I try to address in my business, although, sad to say, many executives do not believe that good writing is an ideal worth spending money on. I even had one potential client send me the following:


So I felt good coming across these two items in the paper today. It’s always nice to get validation, even when you already know you’re right.

Published in: on July 3, 2006 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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