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How To Politely Correct Mistakes in Business Documents

People are unpredictable, when it comes to criticism. You can be talking to a giant of constancy and courage, but this same person can be offended to tears if you point out some error in their work or life. Conversely, you can be sitting with a fragile individual and they welcome contrary opinions with joy; they jump for the chance to try new things and challenge their usual way of thinking. How mistakes are presented have a lot to do with how they are processed, as well. The bearer of news for criticism is not always guaranteed to be a person of tact. They may not be the type of person who possess a large amount of care for how they present error. Some people are just plain rude when they let others know that they have done wrong. Sometimes, it just does not matter how the news gets delivered or heard.  The problem is that a person adept at reading great material feels poor writing in their soul. It is like hitting an unexpected pothole in the road, while driving. You are reading some text and following a great argument and then there is a shift that destroys the whole process. Understand, it is important to write well because that script or proposal will find itself in the hands of a professional. This inability to receive and give criticism in the business world can put a lot of potential success in extreme jeopardy. Let’s focus on the delivering end of these kinds of exchanges today.

The responsibility for properly creating professional business documents falls to writers who possess skill with their native language. There are great people who run companies, but they may not be people who handle the written word well. Unfortunately, there are those who believe that power and control equal the ability be masters at the written word. Those with writing ability understand that the two skills are mutually exclusive. The wise CEO, and other officers, will employ the services of professional subordinates to handle their written work. Leaders at the top of hierarchies will have their written work gone over with another set of eyes, if they are smart. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to leave the writing to writers.

Also, people do not understand that speaking and writing are not the same thing. There are ways in which the spoken word can be written to sound conversational, but this is a skill. If you are not secure in communicating with the written word, it is ok to ask for help or seek qualified writers. There are great differences between communicating in spoken word and writing it down for professional eyes.

Armed with the knowledge that people are sensitive, you do not want a business prospect to put their walls up from having their feelings hurt. You want to bypass any defensive positions that your business prospect may adopt, if their feelings are hurt from pointing out grammatical or spelling errors. Therefore, you need some ways to exercise a level of polite etiquette when you seek to correct mistakes in business documents.

There are numerous ways to communicate your concerns to people who write business documents. This article will talk about a few ways to address this issue, with the understanding that these ideas do not comprise an exhaustive list of suggestions. It is assumed that someone with great reading skills are looking at this business document or communication.

First, you are reading a business communication and hit an anomaly in the communication. A common error that comes up in writing is the incorrect use of homonyms. Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Some examples are: light and lite, sun and son, meet and meat. We cannot leave our short list of examples without the infamous two, too and to problem. The challenge comes in the writing because these similar words mean vastly different things. Context can give you some clues for what is being said, but you want to be clear on what is being transmitted. The sun rising is very different from the son rising. An angry irritated query will not be helpful. A great tactic may be to begin your inquiry with a compliment at having read and received the business communication. You do not want to gush over the submission and appear to be inauthentic. Tell the writer that their letter or proposal was powerful or timely. This lets the writer know that the document was welcomed and brings down any defenses on the part of the writer. Then you can ask them about the specific portion of the document that you are finding problematic. This issue could be a homonym or an issue with punctuation. The point is that you want to be seen as a person who cares about the business relationship. You want to be kept in a good light to keep the business relationship intact. In this case, and others, offer a suggestion to correct the error.

The final goal, for addressing mistakes, is clarity and correctness. Another option is to use this as an opportunity to gently offer help to the writer of that business document. Opening your query with an enthusiastic compliment is a great opening in any letter of this type. Make as point to let them know that you are familiar with their policies and procedures. You notice some differences in recent communications and you want to share some history with them. In this way, you hope to get everyone on the same page, as far as the relationship between you and the company occurs.

There may be times when these conflicts arise, internally. You are on the team that is creating a brochure or proposal with colorful graphs and images. Some of the team members are quite sure that they have delivered their best product. They feel that their part of the project is complete. This project is not completed without a unanimous decision among the participants. You believe that the project could use some tweaking. Therefore, you let your concerns be known and suggest that the team needs to put more work into the project. You do this gently.

There is no way to document all the approaches to this common challenge in business. If you can remember that first step in complimenting a writer, firm or teammate, you will go a long way in resolving any challenges that could arise from hurt feelings. If a party feels offended, it is exponentially harder to resolve issues.

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By Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday holds degrees in English education and creative writing. As an educator, Michael specializes in corporate training having worked with IBM, Philip Morris International, and the Danone food company in Paris. He is a published author and is deeply passionate about the written word.

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