April 27, 2012

Career Advice

Distinguish Yourself: Stop, Drop, and Proofread

By: Roger Custer

In our youth, we were taught to “stop, drop, and roll” for fire safety. I remember going outside and practicing in elementary school – maybe you do too. As a professional, you can use the same principle for job safety instead of fire safety. Distinguish yourself by making a habit of proofreading written communications. In other words, stop, drop and proofread each written communication!

I receive many resumes and cover letters. It becomes clear when the writer did not take time to proofread. Common errors include misspelling the recipient’s name or organization (I’ve gotten “Dear Robert” and “Dear Mr. Custard”). Even worse is when the job applicant sends the same cover letter to several potential employers and forgets to change the organization or misspells the organization. These are very simple errors that can be prevented by a few minutes of proofreading.

Consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread important documents, including job applications, high-priority emails, letters, or messages. A fresh set of eyes can improve your communication immensely by noticing errors you overlooked or pointing out poorly articulated ideas. For example, misplaced commas or punctuation can convey an entirely different meaning, as explained by Lynne Truss in Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Don’t trust spell check or auto correcting software on your phone. Proofreading will help you find auto-corrected errors, the most common of which include words with multiple spellings or misuse of “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” I had one cover letter that was probably auto-corrected to say “I am defiantly interested.” You can find plenty of examples of epic fail auto-corrected text messages through google!

On email, be sure to check the recipient so you don’t reply instead of forward, or reply all instead of replying to one person. Also re-read your message to make sure you don’t promise an attachment that’s not attached, or write something you will regret later.

In this competitive job market, don’t be that person who is excluded from consideration just because you forgot to stop, drop, and proofread. Distinguish yourself through clear written communications.