Sunday 14 October 2012

Attention to Detail...

We all have our sloppy moments. Sometimes life is too much of a rush and perhaps a grammar lapse ekes its way into our work and escapes to the reader because the usual proofread is forced to make way for a meeting or mini life crisis of some description. We have to accept that sometimes it just happens.

But isn’t attention to detail what separates those of us with a professional level of interest in what we do from those who just go through the motions without caring about the end product or their involvement in it? Perhaps this blog is a mini rant about attention to detail; perhaps it is just to make people think about how they approach their tasks.

But there is one thing that I think there is never an excuse for getting wrong, and it is something I always triple check in my own work before I send it out. Recently on the same day, I saw two different communications in which my name had been spelled incorrectly and both of them just instantly made me feel that no thought had gone into the work and that the senders couldn’t really be very interested in the topic or proud of their input. The result: I did not feel at all inclined to put them to the top of my ‘must reply’ pile and gave them only a cursory glance.

And it happens so frequently, particularly in emails I have noticed. And not just to me. People hit reply and start bashing out the contents of the email and either spell the person’s name wrong in the greeting or type a different name entirely, even though it is right there on the email address.

One of my female colleagues is frequently addressed as Patrick because her surname has the same number of letters and begins in a ‘P’. Paul becomes Phil, Ellen becomes Helen, Charlton becomes Chandler. I have on occasion been called Elizabeth, Beth and Emma. With some of these I can see how it could happen in haste. But some are downright bizarre and bear little resemblance to the real name, and yet the misspelling and substitution happens all the same.

So if it is that frequent an occurrence why do we get so wound up about it? I think the answer is because the first words of a communication set the tone of the piece. Just as we judge the first words of a novel being representative of the rest of the book, if the content of that first section is inaccurate then our automatic reaction is to assume the rest of it will follow to the same standard, and so instinct is to move onto something else.

Attention to detail people: it is key. So think about it and learn from it. And I include myself in that instruction I assure you.

Elloise Hopkins.

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