What’s the most important challenge when writing business English? Checking your spelling, grammar and punctuation is important but not as important as re-checking it.
Mistakes in spelling
In 2008, Chile released hundreds of thousands of coins with their country’s name misspelt. Guess how many millions of dollars it cost to recall and scrap all those coins, never mind the government’s embarrassment and loss of credibility.
The world’s costliest checking mistake was probably a misplaced hyphen in the coding of the guidance system on the Mariner 1 spacecraft launched in 1962. The error caused the rocket to veer off course so badly it had to be destroyed mid-flight. Cost to the US taxpayer: $600-million.
Getting back down to Earth, mistakes in the grammar or spelling on your website or in your emails will cause customers to question your ability to deliver a complex product or service if you can’t even get the basics right.
Another problem is that search engines might miss your website entirely if certain key words are misspelt. An error in an email subject line can result in your mail going directly to junk mail.
Pricing errors can be costly too. In some countries marketers are forced to sell a product at the advertised price even if it was an obvious error. An Italian airline once advertised a fare at $39.00 instead of $3,900.00. They were forced to comply with the lower price on more than 2,000 ticket sales and lost over $7-million.
The person who has written a report, copy for an advertisement or website is the least qualified to check for errors. Why? Having written it, edited and re-written it again, they’re too familiar with the content.
Their familiarity means they can miss even glaring mistakes because they know what they intended to write and, subconsciously, they believe their words have been accurately presented.
For any Written work where mistakes can cost you money or cause reputational damage, set up a system where at least two of your most literate colleagues examine your text.
If you are checking your own writing read it out loud.