Sloppy Writing at Work Has Dire Consequences

After Sue, an event planner, sent out the initial information about a national conference to all the members, vendors and speakers attending the conference, she knew she'd accomplished a job well done. Unfortunately, Sue accidentally wrote the wrong start date of the conference in her message. As a result, when all was said and done, the company had to pay upwards of $20,000 in penalties, like airline change fees. Needless to say, it wasn't a job done as well as she thought.

Sue's mistake is one that workers around the globe are making more often than ever. Everyone makes mistakes, but a "minor" slip-up in writing -- such as the start date of an important conference -- can cause irreparable harm, costing companies time, money and credibility. "In addition to credibility issues, the wrong dollar amount in a contract or letter of agreement may force one party to honor the wrong price," says Ronnie Moore, communications expert and author of 'Why Did I Say That? Communicating to Keep Your Credibility, Your Cool and Your Cash!' and 'Tricks That Stick,' a writing companion. "The wrong address or phone number can delay or prevent contact or correspondence. These errors may be considered 'minor' but they can potentially be costly and embarrassing.

"No matter what field you're in or position you hold, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and credibly in writing is a required and important skill for advancement in any organization, Moore says."Even if they workers don't do a lot of high-level writing, at the very least, they must write to each other, often in e-mail," Moore says. "Knowing how to select the appropriate level of detail, get to the point, answer the reader's questions, and create the right tone is critical." "I hate writing; I'm so bad at it!"

Plain and simple, some people just don't have a flair for words. Think of how often you hear your co-workers say, "I can write if I have to, but I'm not very good at it." Moore disagrees, noting that anyone can write, but workers confuse business writing with skills needed to write a novel or poem. People think they're bad at writing because they have no process."Workplace writing is different. It's a multi-part task you break down into manageable parts, just the way you break down any project," Moore says.

Moore compares writing to cooking: There is a recipe, a step-by-step process, to follow. Whether you love to write (or cook) or hate to write (or cook), you break it down and do it, she says. The next time you're writing, follow Moore's five steps to ensure mistake-free text:1. Take a break before trying to proofread. Give your tired eyes and brain a rest.2. Find a proofreading buddy, and check each other's work. It's easier to proof other people's writing than to do your own.3. Proofread on paper (not on the screen)....easier on the eyes.4. Proof text backward. That stops the tendency to skip words as you read and miss some of the errors.5. Look things up when you're not 100 percent certain (e.g., fewer or less, comma or colon). Don't guess.Still having trouble with your words? Memorize these tricks from Moore's book, "Tricks That Stick," for remembering confusing words and you'll be on your way to mistake-free text in no time.

Accept/Except Rule: "Accept" =" receive voluntarily or" with consent. "Except" = excluding.Trick: The "ex" in "except" goes with the "ex" in "exclude" or "excluding."

Assure/Ensure/Insure Rule: "Assure" = " give someone" confidence, assurance (the object of "assure" is always a person). "Ensure" =" to make" certain, sure. "Insure" = to protect against loss. Trick: Remember "assure" goes with "a person." With "insure," think "insurance."

Can/May Rule: "Can" = " know" how, able to, power to. "May" =" possibility or" asking/giving permission.Trick: Remember the expression "can-do," as in: She has a "can-do" personality!' That means she has the ability or power to do it.

Invaluable/ValuableRule: "Invaluable" = "valuable beyond" estimation, priceless. "Valuable" = "having great" qualities, characteristics, or price. Trick: Remember that if something is "invaluable" it is "in a class by itself."

Principal/Principle Rule: "Principal" = "leading participant or head; the unpaid balance on a loan; or an adjective meaning primary or" main. "Principle" = "a" law, value or rule. Trick: The "a" in "principal" goes with the "a" in "adjective." This is the only adjective form. The "le" in "principle" goes with the "le" "in rule."

Copyright 2007

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