Author Topic: How to best point out typos?  (Read 1619 times)

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checkitnice

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How to best point out typos?
« on: November 12, 2013, 10:49:01 PM »
Well, typos, dumb mistakes, and gross errors resulting from an inability or refusal to read for comprehension? 

I posted previously about having to retrain my backup. It went pretty well, he seemed to have a lock on everything and was able to complete all necessary tasks. I got back from maternity leave today. So far things seem to have gone alright. But good god I am finding terrible mistakes. Misspellings in legal documents. Actions taken that were based on an incorrect and careless interpretation of data, that could have serious legal implications if not caught.  How do I go about showing these to him?  He needs to be aware of these, but I'm not sure how to use constructive criticism in this situation?

Help me, I'm sleep-deprived and I prefer to have my mistakes printed out with a note attached and thrown in my inbox. Being sensitive and polite just does not compute for me right now.

LeveeWoman

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2013, 11:14:05 PM »
Well, typos, dumb mistakes, and gross errors resulting from an inability or refusal to read for comprehension? 

I posted previously about having to retrain my backup. It went pretty well, he seemed to have a lock on everything and was able to complete all necessary tasks. I got back from maternity leave today. So far things seem to have gone alright. But good god I am finding terrible mistakes. Misspellings in legal documents. Actions taken that were based on an incorrect and careless interpretation of data, that could have serious legal implications if not caught.  How do I go about showing these to him?  He needs to be aware of these, but I'm not sure how to use constructive criticism in this situation?

Help me, I'm sleep-deprived and I prefer to have my mistakes printed out with a note attached and thrown in my inbox. Being sensitive and polite just does not compute for me right now.

My best advice is for you to take care of yourself, and get some sleep!

sweetonsno

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2013, 12:48:09 AM »
I agree with Levee woman. Go to sleep.

I can't remember whether you are your backup's supervisor or not. If not, talk to your/his supervisor and ask how he or she would like you to address it. Heck, maybe s/he'll do it for you.

If you're the one who has to address it, I suggest the "sandwich technique," in which you surround constructive criticism with praise. Something like this:

Sam,

Thank you so much for covering for me while I was on maternity leave. You've got a good lock on the responsibility and you've been able to complete all of the necessary tasks. However, I've found quite a few typos in some of the legal documents. Please be sure to run spell check before you submit documents. You should also give them all a quick once-over for errors that spell check won't catch, like [insert serious problem that spell check wouldn't catch]. Please do let me know if you have any questions about our style guide, or you could ask [whoever your copy editor, honorary or otherwise] to see if we can catch any mistakes that the spell checker missed. Again, thank you so much for taking over while I was gone. I'm so glad that I didn't have a huge heap of documents to write waiting for me when I got back!

Thanks,
Checkit

If you think he'd appreciate specific feedback, then attach the note to one of the error-riddled documents and mark the mistakes in pen.

checkitnice

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2013, 02:18:41 AM »
(I'm up while nursing. I'm not losing sleep over work, thank goodness.)

sweet, I like your example. This is exactly what I needed.

PastryGoddess

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2013, 04:28:54 AM »
I've had to deal with this before with a coworker I was training to take over part of my former job duties.  He used a standard document template that you just had to update the information in, and completely ignored the formatting.  I knew that I wouldn't have time to check every single on of his documents, so I went to my boss and asked her what I should do.  After all, I wasn't his boss, but I was tasked with making sure that the transition was seamless.  What I was told to do was to go through each document with a red pen and mark up the mistakes.  Then I had to go and sit with him and show him each mistake and explain why we had to be careful and use the correct formatting.  I then left the marked up document with him so he knew what to look out for next time.

It took 3 hours out of my day to do this, but this way, I covered my behind.  He had a marked up template showing him what he did wrong and how to fix it.  So when it happened again, I could point to the document and remind him that he wasn't following the template and needed to make sure it matched our corporate guidelines.

Zizi-K

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2013, 09:10:44 AM »
Your situation may be different, but I remember during my first job, I made a series of mistakes as I was being trained. Some of it had to do with carelessness, but mostly it had to do with not being in the habit of checking my work and not knowing what to go back and look over. (I worked with drawings, not documents, just FYI.) I remember about 3 months in to the new job I finally felt like I was getting somewhere and finally understanding some things. I think maybe someone finally looked at what I'd been working on, and I was called in by the principal to go over it. He was stern, calm, and basically told me that these kinds of mistakes were unacceptable. I remember sitting there gaping like a fish at him. At that point, I wouldn't have made those mistakes, but a couple of months prior I certainly did make them. Thank goodness my work had already started to improve and I never had to go through something like that again.

But - while my boss certainly was polite, as in he didn't yell or curse, he most certainly did confront me with the mistakes and he did impart the seriousness of making them. This made quite an impression on me, much more so that if I would have received an email or some other more passive form of communication. This guy needs to be sat down and told what he's doing wrong and that it is unequivocally not OK. You don't have to sugarcoat or worry about being nice.

(If you are not his boss, then this kind of message should really come from the boss and not someone on his same level.)

MrTango

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2013, 09:12:06 AM »
If these documents are in MS Word or another word-processing program, then I would enable the "track changes" function and correct everything, then send it back to him so he can see all of the corrections. If all you have is a printed copy, get out the red pen.

You shouldn't have to worry about hurting his feelings or having to tip-toe around the corrections.  Just let him know that you found some errors in the document(s) and he'll need to make the corrections.  If he's mature enough to have the job, he should be mature enough to accept the corrections without taking it as a personal attack.

Arila

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2013, 11:42:29 AM »
I agree with the advice to talk with your supervisor and/or his, to make sure that they know what's going on, and can guide you on the cleanup efforts which are needed. Tell them the plan for you to make the required edits in a marked up copy which he will then correct.

I have been  on both sides of the fence, both the inexperienced one being corrected, and the experienced one doing the correcting. There's probably no way to avoid making the replacement uncomfortable, so the best you can do is just be professional about it. The example of the sandwich technique given above is perfect, because he probably did feel a bit thrown in the deep end and may feel as though he did the best he could under the circumstances, so be understanding of that, but the fact is you still have to make sure that everything is done right, even if that means going back to correct mistakes. Having the supervisor/manager aware of the activity and backing you up (maybe they even have the initial "CheckIt found some mistakes which need to be corrected, she'll be getting together with you to work on that this afternoon" conversation too) will be really helpful.

siamesecat2965

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2013, 12:01:40 PM »
I like the sandwich technique, and can also say, as someone who was on the receiving end of a poor review for things I was NEVER TOLD were not being done correctly, please let him know.  I would have been more than happy to fix whatever it was I wasn't doing right, or at all, had I been made aware.

But since I wasn't, and my boss and his simply were correcting my errors and omissions (and I never saw them), it wasn't until they laid it all out in my annual review, blindsiding me, that I had any clue I hadn't been doing a good job.

Lynn2000

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Re: How to best point out typos?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2013, 05:25:36 PM »
I would start by taking the most serious mistakes to the boss. It sounds like it could be a lot of work to find and correct them all.

If Boss just tells you to deal with it, I would start with an email. Basically, I would give a couple examples of what he did wrong and tell him he needs to go through his stuff and fix all of the mistakes, and get the revisions to you by a deadline. And I would say when I would be available to help/give advice. I do think the guy should be thanked for what he got right, but the mistakes sound to me like things that should not be soft-pedaled. I would probably go with straightforward--you did X wrong, please fix it by Y date, ask me if you have questions.

Misspellings and context errors are just sloppy; but he should be able to fix them fairly quickly and easily. You may have to give him more guidance about data interpretation, but my goal would be to not walk him through every single case, but rather point out a pattern that he can follow on his own. My optimistic assumption would be that he wants to improve and do well, so this is his chance to learn from his mistakes. And, *I* don't want to have to mark every single thing he did wrong--after a few examples he should be able to spot the mistakes and fix them in documents you haven't even looked at yet.

I've been on both sides of the fence. I proofread a lot of things written by non-native English speakers, so if they're making repeated mistakes, I'll mark a few then give them a broader rule to follow: "Check your verb conjugations" or "X-Y or XY--pick one and be consistent" or "Use more articles (a, an, the)." I don't want to mark every single thing and then have them fix it blindly, and make the same mistakes next time--I want them to learn and improve, and make fewer mistakes next time.

Plus, I know that when I make a repeated mistake, or a stylistic choice my boss doesn't like, I'm embarrassed and/or frustrated when she keeps pointing it out. I'm embarrassed enough that I spelled something (a name, say) wrong, and I will immediately go back and correct it ruthlessly--mentioning/marking all dozen times I spelled it wrong just compounds my embarrassment. Or, "I want the section headings underlined." Okay, noted, I will go back and do that. Making a big deal out of how the section heading isn't underlined every single time, when I haven't had a chance to fix it yet because we're still here talking, just makes me frustrated.
~Lynn2000