Revision essential for quality control

Revision essential for quality control

WRITE For Impact preaches having all communications edited. That doesn’t mean engaging a professional for every document. It could be as simple as getting a colleague to read over an email.

Sometimes no one is available, so self-editing techniques should come into play. The simplest of these is to keep re-reading your copy. Another is to print out your document and read the hard copy in a different section of the office.

I was thinking about all this recently. My contract to provide onsite editing and coaching was coming to an end at the same time a new boss was appointed to the department.

We exchanged pleasantries a couple of times. Never one to burn bridges, I was polite and kept up the banter. Then one day I received an email inviting me to a meeting. He wanted my observations on how the business handled its communications.

He then left a report on my desk outlining his plans.

I read it and I was appalled. Not at the strategy which, although not ground breaking, was at least adequate and a starting point for him to put his stamp on things.

It was the standard of writing that I found disconcerting.

What to do? Walk into the meeting with a marked-up version of his report pointing out the grammatical and spelling errors?

I erred on the side of caution and entered the room with a cleanskin copy of his master plan, only to be hit with a double whammy.

He was furnishing a copy of the document as I walked in, and the look on his face suggested he was expecting praise. Whammy one.

His verbal introduction was: “Thanks for meeting me. I was keen to get your prospective on how we are handling our communications.”

Surely I misheard. “Prospective?”

Whammy two. He used “prospective” incorrectly three more times in the next 35 minutes.

It put a whole new perspective on advice about editing.

If your communication is going “up the office chain” you should probably get a colleague to check it.

If your communication is going out of the office on behalf of the business, you should definitely get it checked.

I should have heeded my own advice.

My status as a short-term employee was no reason to remain silent on the misuse of the word “prospective”. Speaking up would have offered an entree to discussing ways of improving the writing in his report.

It’s a simple case of “walk a mile in my shoes”.

I’m extremely appreciative when people pick up mistakes in my writing. It’s why I put it up for revision. It means I can get it as close to perfect before I submit it.

The other issue is: how does someone who can’t write very well, and who doesn’t know the difference between “perspective” and “prospective”, end up heading a communications unit?

There are myriad answers. Maybe the people in power regarded him as a great people person and organiser, a “big picture” man, and were prepared to overlook his language deficiencies. Maybe the people in power were poor writers too.

It’s worth judging prospective employees not so much on their communication ability as their preparedness to ask questions.

Realising there is always room for improvement is a great way to approach anything. As with editing, it puts things in perspective.

Darrell Croker is senior coach at Write For Impact