The Unruly

  • September 2014
  • Posted By Practical Editing

There he stands. His company has submitted a tender for a large construction project. You have just a few questions and then you can decide to which company you will award the contract.

You conduct the meeting. He has intelligent things to say and clearly has much experience with similar projects. He answers your questions well. However, you are constantly diverted by his appearance. You ask if he’s feeling ok, if there’s anything wrong. He cheerfully says, ‘No, I’m just fine!’

The Unruly ManAfter the meeting, you find you can’t remember all his answers, and there were a few things you forgot to ask as you were distracted.

The other potential contractor also had a good level of experience and answered the questions well.

It’s a big and important project. Which company will you choose?

If one company’s representative can’t even manage a shave, polished shoes, clothes that fit, and a hair brush, how will he cope with this big project?

The impression you give through your written work is just as important as your physical appearance at an important business meeting. If a company submitting a tender can’t even format consistently, or use appropriate tone, and correct grammar and spelling, how good is their attention to detail going to be on-site?

The intended audience and purpose are the driving factors in business and technical writing, and should be considered from the outset.

You don’t want your audience to be diverted by the unruly hair of poor formatting, the too tight shirt of unrealistic project goals, or the odd socks of glaring errors. You don’t want them focusing on the badly scuffed shoes of data inaccuracies, the half shaven-ness of late-night speedy spellchecks, nor the loud and inappropriate tie of garish font types. You want them focussed on your message.

Often, even if we have a good understanding of writing conventions, after looking at a report or other piece of writing for a long time, we can no longer spot the errors. So, don’t forget to look in the mirror before your next big meeting, and don’t forget to have your next report, proposal, or standard operating procedure edited before submission!