Alright, alright, let’s just admit it right now: we ALL make mistakes! Nobody really wants to admit it, but it’s just part of being human. In the course of our lifetime we have and will make many, many mistakes; some large and some very small. The mistakes themselves cause their own bit of anguish as we are forced to accept that we are not perfect and still always have room for improvement. However, it is the consequences of these errors that are undoubtedly the worst part. Sometimes we can get away with an ‘oops’ moment with next to no fallout, but other times we can face further challenges, penalties, and setbacks just based on a single slip-up. It seems unfair that one can be judged due to such an innate human quality, but it isn’t uncommon for even the smallest of errors to cause great suffering.
When it comes to owning and running your own business, there seems to already be insurmountable odds stacked against your success, so who wants to have to stress about making one wrong move that could cost you all your hard work? Well, unfortunately I’m not here to tell you how to avoid all the common entrepreneurial mistakes there are out there, but I would like to focus on one group of seemingly small errors that can compromise your professional reputation. Just as in my last post I talked about how text speak can earn you a reputation of ‘business amateur’, I want to zero in again on how the way you communicate can affect the way you are perceived professionally. This time, I’m going to reveal to you how grade school level grammar lessons are important even now that you venture out on your adult pursuits.
Think those monotonous lectures on punctuation in elementary school were useless? How about spelling bees and grammar quizzes? I’m sure we all loved every minute of those grammar lessons. (Well I did, and I know it’s most likely only because I’m sick in the head!) If your business requires e-mail correspondence, printed or web-published materials, and marketing via social networks, then you may want to dig up those memories of Mrs. So and So’s red pen all over your most prized essay. Nothing can turn off an intellectual professional like the misspelling of “they’re” or an improperly used comma. Not everyone is a grammar Nazi that will notice every apostrophe that’s out of place, but some are, and an elementary flub can make you appear careless. Let’s face it, it’s not that most of us don’t know how to properly capitalize, punctuate and spell, but more often than not, it’s a time crunch and the failure to proofread that leaves our correspondence in need of that dreaded red pen. Though most of your audience will chalk up those errors to just that: an oversight and not a lack of intelligence, it can also lead to other negative impressions.
If you don’t have time to proofread, or you have more important things to do than to look over your e-mail before you send it, then how quickly and possibly carelessly are you going to tackle the projects that potential clients might send your way? Appearing too busy or spread too thin is not an attractive quality to a client who wants to insure that their needs are going to be met in a timely, professional and attentive manner. It may seem that it’s quite a stretch to think that a couple missed proofreading sessions would have this magnitude of an impact on your business, but it’s not an exaggeration. Failure to put a little extra effort into the simple tasks is indicative of the same type of treatment of important tasks and projects. Though it may be necessary to embrace your own weaknesses and work on improvement, it is neither necessary nor favorable for a client to also have to embrace them.
Clients and other business professionals should only see your most polished finished product at all times. All humans have faults and make mistakes, but that is what editing is all about: realizing them before anyone else and correcting them. It is to our great advantage that we deal mostly with the written word here in the VA realm. Whereas spoken words will often leave our mouths unchecked, written words can be reviewed, deleted and rewritten before anyone is the wiser. This is why it is very important to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove that you do indeed have the time and patience to make sure every product you turn out is of the highest quality and is the best representation of your skills and values.
Note: Do not, I repeat: DO NOT rely on your word processor to correctly identify your spelling and grammar mistakes. PLEASE! Proofreading is most accurately done by an oh-so-fallible human, go figure! Read, read and re-read and be sure to research anything that seems a little iffy to you. Chances are if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.