The Importance of 'Spill Checking'
A survey question reads:
"Your a jerk"
What bothers you most about this statement:
- Being called a jerk, or
- The grammatical error?
(Note that the original survey used a stronger word than "jerk.")
The point of the question was to determine your tolerance for avoidable errors. It was supposed to get to a certain personality trait. Spell check would not have caught that "your" should have been "you’re" although good old-fashioned proofreading might have.
Operating as we do at the speed of business, we often make mistakes that would have and should have been caught before they go out. As a result of those miscues, we are judged not by our message content but on the quality of its delivery.
I write, "we", because I am just as guilty as the next jerk. Should that comma after "we" have gone inside the quotation marks or did it belong outside like I wrote it? I'm not sure. I was absent that day in eighth grade at Pollard Junior High School in Needham, Massachusetts. I remember it distinctly because after that everyone else in my class had that skill.
Does it matter, this grammatical error issue? Damn right it matters. Send out a letter of introduction with a spelling error and you will have a difficult time convincing a prospect that you are as good as you say you are.
Talk to anyone who has posted a job offering and you will hear stories of horror regarding the content of the resumes received. They quickly find the circular file. Damn right it matters.
Some mistakes—probably most mistakes—go undetected. How many of us know which of these statements is proper:
- She had a myriad of options.
- She had myriad options.
I didn’t until I used the wrong one and was corrected by a reader.
Although we all know this lesson, we still blame Siri for our mistakes (or in my case, Dragon Dictate speech recognition software or more likely, my editor!). By taking a quick glance at the message we are sending, we can avoid the possibility of being labeled an incompetent.
Remember the saying:
Let’s eat Grandma
Let’s eat, Grandma
Commas save lives!
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