Do you ever want to reply to emails with, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Or, “Thanks for asking me about that. If only you had some way of finding it out yourself.”
Or,”Hey there’s this new thing called the internet. You should check it out.”
Please don’t be the person who makes me want to send you those replies. Because all of them basically mean, “Look it up yourself.”
When you’re sending an email or other written correspondence, stop yourself if you
- … are beginning the email with, “Remind me…”
This means you’ve already been told, but you think your time is better spent by having me look it up for you than by you looking it up for yourself. This is a great way to make your coworkers feel disrespected and resentful.
- … are including or attributing a quote from memory
As Mark Twain never said, “I’d rather be misquoted than languish in obscurity.” If you are including a quote from literature, history, or culture, it’s worth your time to get it right.
- … are referring to historical facts
You may have heard everyone you know talking about the Bowling Green Massacre, but if you’re referring to it in print, you should spend two minutes looking it up first to get the details right.
- … are presenting data
I’ve been guilty of giving estimates from memory in informal emails from time to time, but once these estimates are in the wild, they can grow to become more “real” than the actual truth in people’s minds. If that happens, these informal inaccuracies can haunt you. Don’t go from memory; look up the numbers. (And don’t send a note to a coworker asking them to remind you…)
The Editing Pony
The Editing Pony is a blog series about good business writing. I’ll post periodic tips and gladly critique and rewrite emails or one-pagers for you in a blog post. Contact me to learn more.
Why a pony? A writer friend said she hadn’t edited in ages, but she was “getting back up on that pony.” Thus, the Editing Pony was conceived, to trample your words with ruthless, plush cuteness.