Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Credibility can be in the details

Another friend and former colleague at The Times Leader newspaper, Joe Student, sent me a comment regarding an article about grammar. Here’s the link to the article: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/i_wont_hire_people_who_use_poo.html.
The gist of the article and comments is about how much weight should be given to job applicants’ grasp of grammar/punctuation, even if the job has little to do with those areas. Some of the people writing comments are very strict - more strict than me (and that’s saying something), and others are more lenient.
The comment Joe sent me started me thinking on one of my pet peeves: credibility. The comment is the following:
Truth: last week, my vice-president sent me a document and asked that I check it for "typoes and grammer."
OK, obviously this was an in-house communication – not something for public consumption. So, even I think leeway on grammar and spelling can be given in these situations. The occasional misspelling or grammar error in a business memo is understandable, especially in a hectic environment; many in-house notes are just that - notes quickly written in note form or in company shorthand.
However, there are limits. Even though this is an in-house note, the damage the vice president did to himself/herself could be in the form of mocking criticism from the employee at best, or a permanent dent to credibility at worst. And, that dent could get bigger and cause some severe damage with employees if the vice president has a pattern of this sort of thing. That credibility issue could grow into a lack of trust and respect of the vice president and the company.
I’m sure you have heard the following phrase used regarding politicians: character matters. Well, so does credibility. Although little mistakes – and even some big ones – can be excused with a little empathy from your readers, it is best to sweat the details so empathy isn’t needed in the first place. If you keep  using your readers’ goodwill and understanding as excuses for your mistakes, your readers will eventually run out of both and you’ll run out of credibility – and readers.

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