Have you proofread your official documents?

FM consultant Alan K. Millin explains why professional documents demand accuracy and its significance

Alan K. Millin is a noted FM consultant and thinker based in Dubai.
Alan K. Millin is a noted FM consultant and thinker based in Dubai.

Ideally, we like to be able to consistently repeat our service output at the required level of quality, since it’s generally thought to be good for business. So, we automate tasks to improve efficiency and deliver value to clients, and look for improvement opportunities to reduce our costs. Perhaps it’s only natural then that we turn to computers for help. Unfortunately, our weapon of choice also makes us a bit lazy.

Most of us would have used the copy-paste function that our word processors empower us with. Most of us have also probably either forgotten to change an important name – or a word of similarly high significance – when we ‘adapt’ previous career experience to present-day use. It’s embarrassing sometimes but we learn, laugh, and move on. Sadly though, some of us seem to miss out on the learning part of the experience.

I have recently had cause to engage the services of real estate professionals in the UK. These are chartered professionals that command impressive fees.

Therefore, I was more than bit surprised to find recommendation made by a certain professional organisation referred in one of the reports I had commissioned.

The first error was in referring to the organisation as ‘the Institute of…’, when in fact its correct form was ‘the Institution of…’. The second error lay in the fact that the Institution in question actually ceased to exist more than 10 years ago.

I wrote to the real estate company highlighting the problem, gave them the details of the Institution’s history and current form, and provided a hyperlink so they could check their facts. I also asked them to revise the report I had paid for and reissue it.

I eventually received the modified report. Unfortunately, the author still referred to the target organisation as ‘the Institute’, instead of ‘the Institution’.

The detail of the reference organisation’s formal name may appear trivial but when we pay good money for a job, we expect it to be professionally and accurately presented. By an amazing coincidence, that’s also what our own clients expect from us.

It appears that this guy had been copying and pasting for more than 10 years without checking his facts. This should be a concern to any client. We all make mistakes, but to keep making the same one for over a decade is – I hope you will agree – a copy and paste too far.

I later engaged another real estate professional to carry out similar work. Despite the correspondence that we exchanged prior to the work, the accurate preparation of the invoice, and my advance payment, the guy still managed to spell my name incorrectly on the front page of the report. He also managed to make a blunder in another part of the report, even as it was more amusing than anything and certainly not worth complaining about.

It’s easy to be critical, but these issues highlight the dangers associated with copying and pasting, and the importance of proofreading. Software applications exist that will help us produce better documents, but we still need to proofread our output. Even if it is difficult, but we should at least make the effort. For now though, I will sine off and wright something else.

About the author: Alan K. Millin is a noted FM consultant and thinker based in Dubai.

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