True confessions time -- we all carry emotional baggage from our childhood, and I feel that it’s time for me to share my largest bag … I hate when things don’t match! Give me a minute to explain. I know from experience that clothes shopping with preteens can be painful, but I can honestly share that I don’t know what it is like shopping with a preteen girl (I have 2 boys). Obviously for my mother, shopping with me was no fun at all! I was too tall for the girls’ department, too skinny for the preteens’ department, and too young for the juniors’ department, so when we finally found something that fit (and was age-appropriate), we snatched it up .. even if the pieces didn’t always exactly match. “The colors are far enough apart to look fine,” my mother said time and time again. And at first, I totally believed her. But one day, as I looked at the red in my shirt and the red in my skirt, I realized -- I DID NOT MATCH! And I was horrified!! I had no choice but to continue wearing the outfit, but I promised myself from the next shopping trip on, I would only purchase (and wear) things that match. To this day, if I have even the slightest doubt that my blues don’t coordinate or my brown shoes are not really the same brown as my brown pants, I will change clothes or shoes. And my clothes-matching baggage has moved into other areas of my life - my home decor, Christmas wrapping paper (not always matching but totally coordinating colors), and if I had my way, our cows. You heard me - I wish our cows (we have about 15 of them on our retirement land) all matched. They don’t - we have a red bull, some black and white girls, and now three new brown ones. Ugh! Matching may not be as important to you as it is to me, but in my own emotional world, that small detail can make or break my sanity. What small details are important to you? Being on time? Having a clean car? Alphabetizing your spices? We may chuckle a bit at the small details that others (or that we) value, but small details are no laughing matter when it comes to communication. In our fast-paced world, it is so very easy to overlook the small details, but those details can negatively impact credibility, productivity, quality, and even safety. Stay tuned for future blogs about focusing on small details in other communication experiences, but today’s blog offers some practical tips about written communication. Spelling mistakes and incorrect grammar are details that reflect poorly on you and your company and imply that you lack education or that you are careless and don’t pay attention. But the English language is pretty messed up, so spelling and grammar rules can be difficult to remember and follow. What can you do? Go back and relearn spelling and grammar? Although that sounds totally like a fun time to me, I’m sure you would rather use these strategies.
Always proofread your written communication. I know that sounds like such common sense, but when we are in a big hurry, we hit the send button before looking over the message. And then we miss the mistakes. If time allows, have a trusted colleague look over the message, preferable the best speller and grammarian of your group. Or to keep your brain from seeing a “correct” version (our brains can correct mistakes as we read), read your message from the bottom up, backwards. Use Google Translator to read your message aloud. It’s easier to catch mistakes when you hear them. Look into using Grammarly, a program that proofs your written communication and offers corrections for FREE! I use it for all of my written messages including Facebook posts. Print out your message to proofread, and use a pencil or pen to physically touch each word as you check for mistakes. Look online and check a word’s spelling or the grammar rule. Sometimes words look “funny” to me, so I use a dictionary program to check spelling and usage. Finally, realize that we all make mistakes. If you can, send out a corrected version. If not, learn from the mistakes and work to use better strategies in the future. etc Strategies believes that you should focus on the small details of your written communication and correct any mistakes to create a clearly-worded, well-written, mistake-free email or document that reflects credibility, consideration, and professionalism. Now if I could only find a strategy to make our cows all match ...