Y me spelchekk

  • May 2014
  • Posted By Practical Editing

Y me spelchekk?

3am AEDT, Sydney, Australia: Steve Ford (not his real name), 53, sits at his desk completing a business proposal.

Concurrently, somewhere in London, sits Rupert Birtwhistle (not his real name), 72, a British banker.  It’s 4pm UTC. He awaits a proposal he has specifically requested from the company in which the Australian is a partner.

Steve is about to make a big mistake. He’s made a few already, but this will be a doozy….

It’s now 3.30am AEDT and Steve hits send. The proposal slides out of his email and into that of Rupert, where it will leave inerasable skid marks. The proposal is for work sorely needed, yet Steve hasn’t asked someone to read through it. He hasn’t checked the formatting, hunted for grammatical errors, nor corrected the spelling mistakes. Steve had time to prepare the proposal before now to give his business partner the chance to edit it. Even though he started late, he still could have read it through for himself and ensured that the font size didn’t change midsentence.

Now his company’s reputation is forever damaged in that arena. The argument, “but formatting and spelling doesn’t (sic) matter. They know what I mean,” doesn’t hold. The technical facts may be correct, but the writing is horrendous. There are spelling mistakes, missing words, incorrect word usage, and very jumbled sentences. Basic spell check hasn’t been used.

What do these easily rectified mistakes say about the technical work of the company? What impression do they give, especially when the person to whom they are being presented is, stereotypically, likely to have been schooled by at least one nightmarish English tutor? Some may argue that it’s the technical work that counts. Many of the technically skilled wear their lack of writing skills with pride, purporting that all their talent is focussed on the technical and scientific, and that at least they didn’t use pubic instead of public. To those who work in different areas, however, it demonstrates a lack of care and attention to detail. How do you describe a scientific concept succinctly and clearly when there is confusion about wear, where, we’re and were?

So, what will Mr Birtwhistle’s response be to this specially requested proposal?

Steve still hasn’t heard…