Or should I say 'Details, Details, Details'.
How many of you spotted the deliberate error?
A good friend of mine reminded me that details matter.
This advice is particularly true in the current environment where there is a lot of competition for jobs. How you communicate in letters of application can make the difference between success and failure.
I am very fortunate in that someone has just given me a kick to remind me of the importance of paying attention to detail. A document was returned to me, with the suggestion I should redraft material to create a better impression. I duly obliged. More importantly, I asked some else to proofread the document for me. I was amazed at how many small errors I had made. I have to admit I struggle with proofreading on a computer screen. Also, I sometimes have a low boredom threshold, and I am eager to get my communication out and move onto the next thing on my list. I can be highly task-driven, more concerned about getting the task done at the expense of quality.
To be honest, I thought it was just a weakness of mine, I have even considered that it might be mild dyslexia, or maybe I am just plain lazy. However, it turns out I have a science-based excuse (and I am plain lazy).
Yes, typos suck, but it turns out that the brain is very adept at ironing out the errors and filling in the gaps without you even knowing it.
The reason typos get through isn't because we're stupid or careless, it's because what we're doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. "When you're writing, you're trying to convey meaning. It's a very high level task," he said. As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). "We don't catch every detail, we're not like computers or NSA databases," said Stafford. "Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning." When we're reading other peoples' work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brain power.
I have taken to using Grammarly to help check my work, even going as far as taking the premium subscription. In running my own business, and looking for opportunities, how I communicate and the impression of my attention to detail matters. What is really interesting is that the quote above (taken from the article I linked to) has Grammarly all over it. If I run it through Grammarly, it looks like this:
The reason typos get through is not that we are stupid or careless. It is because what we are doing is very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford. He studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. "When you're writing, you're trying to convey meaning. It's a very high-level task," he said. As with all high-level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). "We don't catch every detail, we're not like computers or NSA databases," said Stafford. "Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning." When we're reading other peoples' work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brainpower.
Can you spot the difference between the first and last version? The first version was perfectly acceptable to me. The irony that a blog about typos was flagged full errors by Grammarly has not escaped me.
So does detail matter, do we care about grammar. Does the computer equivalent of a pedant improve our communication or destroy our creative spark, relegating our style to one of uniform blandness. What would have happened if Hunter S Thompson had used Grammarly? What would Grammarly make of Shakespeare?
FIRST WITCH When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? SECOND WITCH When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won. THIRD WITCH That will be ere the set of sun.
Shakespeare according to Grammarly:
It appears that the phrase in rain is not paired with the correct article. Consider changing it.
This sentence appears to be written in the passive voice. Consider writing in the active voice.
More irony, Grammarly just flagged up that its own correction is in the passive voice.
No doubt we can argue about style versus grammar all day long. We have to strike a balance between creative writing, entertainment and precision. Let's face it, precision is a bit dull.
However, there are times when you need to create the right impresion and attention to detail really matters. So check, recheck, and get someone else to read your work-of-art before you publish.
Disclaimer: I have not proofread this article or asked anyone to check it for errors.