By David MacDonald T he Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” is arguably the most exoteric contribution Socrates made to phi- losophy; generation after generation finds collective new meaning in its simplicity. I like how malleable it is even outside of existential questions in the mundane. Take an everyday experience like writing emails to colleagues and clients. What do you do to minimize the amount of ‘*’ texts and emails you send out each year? You know the ones I mean. There’s a compound word where there shouldn’t be. You forgot to capitalize the initials of a State. There’s a comma where a semi-colon should be. You quickly catch your mistake and send off that second email or text with asterisk preceding your correction in the hope of redeeming yourself in the eyes of your audience. Next time ask yourself before you hit send, ‘did I allow one of my little idiosyncrasies to impact my writing?’
with confident and competent writers. Criticism doesn’t equal slings and arrows and finding your voice on the page doesn’t mean going it alone. Second, give yourself time. This one is perhaps even more difficult to adopt than the previous piece of advice. With timestamps on every single text message and email it seems like time moves faster these days. It’s almost a com- petition sometimes to see who’s quicker with the dialogue. Time is money, right? Well it is when the message isn’t muddied by grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Do you remember the All in the Family Christmas special where Archie sent an entire work order to London, England instead of London, Ontario? These sorts of mistakes are kind of like excessive speeding while driving. Most habitual speeders aren’t getting to their destination much before you speed limit sticklers – and think about the added risk they’re taking. Ask yourself before you hit the send button which London your message is destined for. Finally, read it out loud. For this one, I encourage you to model your behaviour. Once your colleagues see you doing this it will become office etiquette. It’s like calisthenics at work. It was once reviled in North America as a new age fad but now the benefits are so widely known that it’s common- place. Reading out loud helps you to hear the music in your writing, letting refrains and tempos come alive in your ears, not on a screen.
And it’s easier than you think.
First, go easy on yourself. We all have hang-ups with the written word. When you accept that it becomes easier to ask for a second opinion. Professional writers don’t require editors because they’re lonely shut-ins; they need them because they make mistakes and they want guidance.
You’re not going to find a single champion athlete who will say they got to where they are on their own. The same goes
JULY 2018 • SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
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