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Email Typos - The Textual Catastrophes

Email Typos - The Textual Catastrophes
Apurvo Ghosh - Senior Designer | May 24, 2013
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In my last blog, I discussed how we can effectively communicate with our prospective and existing customers, which has a rosy impact on our business.

As I am writing this blog while leaning on my couch, I am pondering how much we have progressed over the years in leaps and bounds as far as technology is concerned. Frankly speaking, technology has taken us such a long way that we can now clearly see things which were vague to us before, and hear things which were beyond our listening boundaries.

Apparently, today’s competitive world does not follow the laws of instinctive selection. In order to find a foothold in the ever-demanding marketplace, almost every company is exerting a monumental effort to beat the ruthless market competition. Therefore, doing things the right way and not erring, even a single millimetre, has become the culture of our corporate lives.

Email is the Centripetal Force

With the freedom of amazing technology at our disposal, it is overwhelming how rapidly email has become an inseparable and ever-so-reliable commodity in our day-to-day lives. Most contemporary businesses would be hard-pressed to live without it. Ostensibly, email is the centripetal force around which everything revolves. On the very first day you join a new company, first and foremost, your system’s Microsoft Outlook is configured by the company’s IT team so you can easily communicate with the HR and Admin teams and get the feel for things.

Now, looking at the broader picture of our corporate lives, finishing a task on your plate is of supreme importance for any professional, irrespective of the industry he belongs to. After doing everything else right, if you have erred while sending an email to your customer or manager, you are rapped on the knuckles for showing a sheer lapse of concentration at the very end.

In athletics, in an 800-meter race, there are ideally four laps of 200 meters. Let us look at a hypothetical example: An athlete managed to run as quick as a wink and left everyone behind in the first three laps, but failed to deliver in the last lap. At the press conference, he was forced to eat humble pie, as he failed to conquer the final destination.

Likewise, if you manage to wind up all your tasks within the set timelines, but make a mistake while sending an email to your customer, you are reprimanded for not being able to handle the situation maturely at the decisive stages.

Grammatical Emphasis is on the Wane

Grammatical emphasis is on the wane these days. Sometimes I speculate about the drastic changes that have taken place in our day-to-day language, accompanied by a stunning decline in grammatical emphasis. Not too long ago textual changes were not that frequent in newspapers. A team of proofreaders kept a close eye on grammatical disasters such as typos or other howlers.

These days, more often than not, you are able to spot typos in newspapers and grumble about the publication’s name and reputation.

Little Embarrassing Typo

So, what do we mean by a typo? It can be a mistake done inadvertently while writing an email, memo, SOW, RFP, or any formal/informal communication. Frequent errors of these kinds are quite displeasing to the eye and a cause of embarrassment to us. These unsightly typos can be doubly dangerous if the recipient spots it. However, we always try our level best to ensure that there are no careless typographic mistakes in our emails, but these silly errors keep following us like our shadows, and are not that easy to evade. Repeated errors of these kinds can have serious repercussions and can tarnish your reputation in no time. Misspellings and grammatical fluffs can also impact your credibility and can make customers irate in split seconds. The tolerance for these gaffes depends on your readers’ observation and how they perceive them.

Transposition of letters is one of the most common errors, which occurs when you are typing rapidly without paying attention to what is being written. For example, sometimes we write ‘taek’ instead of ‘take’. Omissions are quite commonly encountered by recipients when the author accidentally omits a letter from a word to create a typo out of nowhere. In hindsight, our eyes see what they want to see. Therefore, proofreading is only the initial step which can help you immensely in averting these textual catastrophes. Now while reading the phrase, “Prevention is better than ….,” our mind tells us the next word is ‘cure’ even if, by mistake while typing in haste, we type “cute” as the letters “r” and “t” are adjacently positioned on our keyboards.

Better to be Safe Than Sorry

Typos are the unintentional ludicrous blemishes we accidently make. The smallest of typos, if sighted, is regretful and can weigh heavily upon your professional reputation. I may sound clichéd, but remember “Prevent and prepare rather than repent and repair.” The following are some rules to avoid the occurrence of these textual catastrophes in your emails:

  • Proofread your draft email cautiously: Sometimes you think you're too busy to sweat the small stuff, and in fact, quite anxious to press the Send button before proofreading. But, your customer might not give a second thought to make fun of it, if he catches sight of the smallest of typo in your email. Therefore, after drafting an email, the first and foremost task to be done is proofreading.
  • Spell checkers are not foolproof: Run the spell check on your draft email before hitting the Send button. Microsoft Outlook’s spellcheck feature is a part of your proofreading activity, but you cannot blindly count upon it.
  • Learn from your mistakes, because repeating them is a cardinal sin: Typos and other types of errors do happen, but we are not licensed to repeat our mistakes in this corporate world.

Let us look at a hypothetical example: A team of developers blasted on all cylinders to crank out the code and developed the application in the set timelines. Now, the code had been checked into ClearCase and the team was all set and done. But, the task was not yet complete because there had been no formal written communication between the customer and the team. Consequently, the team lead quickly wrote an email to the customer and cc’ed the entire team that the code had been checked-in and everything was all set for UAT (User Acceptance Testing) to commence. One of the developers jumped off his seat and came running to say that instead of UAT, AUT (Application Under Test) had been written. The final nail in the coffin was driven when the team figured out that the ‘Recall This Message’ option, available in Microsoft Outlook, also failed to work at the nth hour. At last, the lead wrote a correction email and made sure he proofread it 10 times before clicking the Send button.

On the subsequent day, the customer lauded the team for their hard work and perseverance to deliver the beta version of the application as per the deadlines. But, at the end of the conference call, the customer poked fun at the email typo, which made the entire team blush and feel guilty.

Keep in mind the feeling of responsibility that advocates you to proofread your email consistently. We all know that mistakes do happen, but repeating them, can make things cumbersome for everyone.

Read out your draft email: Reading aloud aids immensely in checking your email for accuracy, consistency, and typos.

  • Request your peer to proofread: Many a time, you are not able to detect an error while self-reviewing a line of code, test case, or a piece of text. On the contrary, if you hand over your code, test case, or draft email to your peer, errors are instantly caught. Therefore, activities such as code review, test case review, and peer review are of great significance. Hence, if your buffer gives you the leverage to ask your peer to quickly glance through your draft email; do not hold back due to uncertainty or unwillingness.
  • Be crisp and clear: While composing an email, make a conscious effort to write to the point. Do not try and experiment with words which might be too difficult for your recipient to comprehend. Long and convoluted sentences may look attractive while reading, but are more prone to typos and other errors. Therefore, try to keep things simple.
  • Write with a free mind: Frankly speaking, when you are a bit stressed about work or for any other reason, the typo will creep in slowly but surely. Therefore, do not be under any strain or pressure and draft your email with a relaxed mind.
  • Recall this message option can work, but conditions apply: Sometimes you encounter petrifying situations likedetecting the presence of typos after sending an email. Now, can that email be recalled? The answer is Yes and No. Microsoft Outlook comes with a unique Recall this Message feature. How does this feature work? Double-click the email itemyou want recall in your Microsoft Outlook’s Sent Items folder. Now, navigate to Message Other Actions and click Recall this Message. You can remove the unread copies of the message and can also delete the unread copies as well as replace it with a new message. If you wish to be communicated about the status of your recalled item, ensure that the Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient option is selected. Otherwise, you can clear these options.

Now, here is the gotcha in this. This option will not work if you use the Recall this Message option after the recipient has already read your email.

Conclusion

What if you sent an email with typos, then as a result, apologized for your mistake? Does that mean you've still committed a sin? We all know the proverbial cliché, “To err is to human”. But, will the competitive world forgive your frequent slip-ups? I hope you know the answer to this question. Now, to make amends, you come up with excuses that there was not enough time to run the spell check or self-review the email, and this was the reason why the sickening typo sneaked into the equation. Does this justify your haphazard attitude? The answer, of course, is no.

Do remember, it is not wise to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Before the cumulonimbus clouds (referred to as email typos in this context) are waiting to strike with all their might, the smart application of the rules above can certainly help you ward off these textual catastrophes from your emails.

References:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57439120/dont-send-that-email-5-tips-for-avoiding-typos/?tag=mncol;lst;2

http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-typo.htm

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/feeds/typos-acceptable-or-unacceptable-behavior/1076


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