Details Matter: The Importance of Proofreading Business Documents
In the business world, details matter. From work attire to resumes and interoffice memos, making a mistake could harm your reputation. Take a study by Larry Beason, PhD that reports on how business people react to error in written documents. Beason’s study of fourteen business people revealed patterns of qualitative agreement over the construction of a negative ethos for the writer in response to error. Based on his data, it is clear that we cannot take proofreading for granted; errors are worth our attention.
We may believe that a single typo or minor grammar infraction will have little impact on our communication with potential employers or colleagues. It is true, according to Beason, that reaction to error depends on the error type and some readers are more bothered by certain types of errors (e.g. fragments, spelling) than others. Furthermore, reaction to error depends on the context of the written document “such as whether a document is a formal letter from an executive or a sticky-note to a colleague…the way in which each reader encounters the text [will] affect his or her interpretation of errors” (47). Nevertheless, Beason’s study indicates that errors are more harmful to the image of you as a writer than you may realize. Your credibility could be jeopardized in the following ways:
You could be seen as:
- a rushed and hasty writer who did not take time to proofread.
- a careless writer that is inattentive or neglectful when writing.
- an uncaring writer that lacks concern for the reader or for creating the document.
- an uninformed writer that lack relevant knowledge of formal English.
Your reputation as a businessperson could be called into question. You may be considered:
- a faulty thinker because error is a result of limited reasoning skills.
- not a detail person that may overlook details in other areas.
- a poor oral communicator–you may commit errors in speech as well.
- a poorly educated person because error casts doubt on a writer’s education.
- a sarcastic, pretentious, and aggressive writer (though this is only associated with the overuse of unnecessary quotation marks).
Your status as a representative of a company may also be scrutinized. There may be concern that you will represent the company in a way that is harmful to the company’s reputation.
The best way to ensure your business writing is error-free is to proofread, proofread, proofread. One strategy used by many successful business writers is reading work out loud to catch mistakes. Or, have a trained professional review your writing before you send out a resume or submit a report. Put as much energy into creating written documents that reflect your credibility as you do into choosing the right interview attire.