I encourage everyone writing anything in business to use
Spellcheck. Run letters, memos—and, yes, even e-mails—through
an automatic check before sending them off.
But Spellcheck is a double-edged sword. It seems many
writers think if it turns up no errors, or if they correct
those that do appear, they are home free. But in fact, this is
only the beginning. Here are some steps to help you perform a
2. Spellcheck will tell you if you have made up a new word,
but it won’t pick up too when it
should be two,
loose instead of
affect when you meant
effect. You must understand the sense
of a sentence to catch those errors, and the computer can’t do
that for you. You must do it yourself by reading the material
slowly and carefully.
3. Check for grammatical errors. Have you given your
singular subjects singular verbs? Have you used
me correctly? When you used the
possessive form, did you put the apostrophe in the right place?
(If you need help here, visit 101 Grammar Gaffes or
4. When we are very familiar with the material, a kind of
Gestalt effect kicks in, and we
see what we expect to see, instead of what is actually there.
When dealing with something of great importance, you can avoid
this by reading the piece backwards, one word at a time. Yes,
it is time consuming. Yes, it is worth the effort.
5. Do check the spelling of people’s names as well as place
names. Even though it may seem like a little thing, people’s
names are very personal and spelling them incorrectly can seem
like an insult, even though unintentional. (It’s also useful to
remember that the correct way to pronounce a person’s name is
the way that person wants it pronounced!)
6. When your letter contains calculations of any kind, make
sure they are accurate. If you are copy-typing from someone
else’s work, you will obviously check your typed figures
against the original. But don’t assume the original was
correct! Check all arithmetical calculations before you
consider the work done.
7. If your memo contains a date that includes the day of the
week, make sure it’s accurate. If you announce a meeting for
Wednesday, June 19 and June 19 is actually a Tuesday, you will
certainly look foolish when people call to ask which it is.
Even worse, some people may book the wrong time in their
calendars because of your mistake.
8. You can proofread more accurately on paper than on
screen, so print your draft before the final check.
I’m just going to print this and check everything. Yes, it
Feel free to use this or other articles on this site in
your in-house publication or online newsletters, so long as you
make no changes, use the entire article, and add the following
attribution at the end:
Helen Wilkie speaks at conferences and conducts
corporate training sessions on all aspects of business
communication. She is the author of Message Received
and Understood! and The Hidden Profit
Center. Contact her by phone at 416-966-5023, by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or browse her main website at www.mhwcom.com