Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicating with accuracy, part of Communication Tips Weekly.
- A 110 plug that requires grounding will not fit into an ungrounded outlet because there is no hole for the grounded prong. The system is engineered to be error-proof. Surgical trays with indentations for each instrument ensure that nothing get's left behind. It's a system engineered to be error-proof. And those online forms that require us to enter our password twice? Those are engineered for error-proofing.
Now wouldn't it be nice if we could error-proof our own written work? In this week's communication tip we will identify seven ways you can move toward more flawless documents, which will prevent communication mishaps, and build your credibility. Select a few of these to try for yourself. First we need to have an attitude of accuracy. We must want to find errors. I know I'm in trouble when one of my students comes rushing into class a few minutes late, and hands in a paper still warm from the printer.
I say, "Did you have a chance to proof this?" The student replies, "Uh, yeah. I read it on the way to class." Well, when you are on the way to class, and about to miss a deadline, you don't want to find an error. You hope the document is error free, and your eyes help you see what you want to see. If instead we give ourselves ample time for proofing, and then make a mental game out of finding the errors we're far more likely to catch our own mistakes.
Next, put some time between when you write the original document, and when you proof. You've heard that adage that distance makes the heart grow warmer. Well distance also makes the eyes grow sharper. Third, try to proofread when you have minimal distractions. Close the door. Turn off your cell phone. Clear off your desktop. Hide unused cells in Excel spreadsheets when entering data. The fewer things to distract your eyes, the more focused you will be on the proofing.
Frequently we see what we expect to see, rather than an error that slipped in. My fourth tip is to focus your eyes and your attention. You can use a 6 inch ruler, so your eyes don't scan ahead as we normally do when reading. Read aloud and slowly as you proof with your ruler. You can also increase your visual focus by practicing word searches. Focus your attention by reading through the draft multiple times, looking for something different in each read.
Maybe the first reading is for grammar, and just grammar. Next read is for numerical accuracy. Third read could be for spelling of names. By the way, you can add frequently used names or places to your software dictionary. Once I was writing to Professor Klemkowski, and I saw that little red squiggly line under his name. I just ignored it because spellcheck wouldn't know the name Klemkowski, of course. I was mortified later when I realized I actually had misspelled his name.
Add frequently used proper nouns to your dictionary. That way when you see the red squiggly, you'll pay attention. Next, you might also find it helpful to change the way the document appears just to shake things up, and stop that habit of seeing what we expect to see. You could highlight the entire document, and then proof. Or print it horizontal instead of portrait. Or even just slide the document into a colored report cover so that it appears different than you are accustomed to seeing it.
Do use spell check, and grammar check, but don't be dependent on them. Lot's of mistakes, as you can see in these three sentences, can slip right by our automated proofers. Auto-corrects can be helpful, but nothing beats your eyes, and your brain for a great proofread. Last, but not least, another set of eyes is always a great strategy. On those really important documents ask someone else to proofread for you.
We may never be completely flawless in our writing, but these tips certainly help engineer us to be more error-proof.
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