“Measure 2x, cut 1x” for calls to action

by | Jun 18, 2012 | Blog | 0 comments

In the new age of IM and tweeting, spelling errors are ok 😎

—from a client’s email to console me after I misspelled baseball pitcher Matt Cain’s name.

Okay, I appreciate this viewpoint, especially when so many of us often use tiny and virtual keyboards on our smart phones.

It’s hard to type perfectly, and the automatic spell feature doesn’t work flawlessly.

Yet, when it comes to dates, time zones and area codes, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. This is especially true if we’re making a call to action and want people to take a specific action.

Accuracy is essential!

Near misses with dates, time zones and area codes are errors.

These mistakes create confusion, contribute to wasteful actions and hurt your credibility. To figure out what’s the right word or number, you generally need more back-and-forth communication.

Just look at the examples I’ve collected over the past three weeks, including one mistake I made:

  • March 30 instead of May 30 as the deadline for a survey about to be released in mid-May. (Guilty as charged!)
  • July 8 instead of June 8 as the deadline for a not-to-be-believed business offer.
  • April 23 instead of June 23 for a special meeting announced in early June.
  • 149 instead of 194 for a street address in a contract revision (after I had corrected the original last year).
  • No area code for a cell phone number in a part of the country with five frequently used area codes. (And many people have cell phone numbers with no relationship to their current geography.)
  • Mix-up on time zones in setting up a call among a virtual team in three time zones.

Trying to figure out what’s the right date, area code or time zone is a poor use of time.

And because time is money, we and our colleagues end up paying for the mistake three times: 1) making the mistake; 2) finding it; and 3) fixing it.

Plus, we strain the brain by wasting valuable brain power on straightforward transactions. We’d be better off focusing more time and attention on complex issues, especially when we’re juggling so many critical change initiatives.

So before you hit the “send” button, check the numbers in your dates, time zones and area codes.

And while you’re at it, look for “wordos”—correctly spelled words that pass spellcheck but aren’t the right words. These include “is” for “if”; “of” for “if”; and “form” for “from.”

Change the word and change the meaning, as I explained in 5 Foolproof Ways to Avoid Hurting Your Reputation a few years ago.

No ranting here about how our quality standards are continuing to drop….

The times—and our expectations—are changing due to new technology and the need for greater speed.

Yet, when you’re making a strong, compelling call to action that you want people to follow, you need to make it as easy for them as possible. Individuals should be able to quickly follow your instructions, take the action and feel a sense of accomplishment that they’ve acted and succeeded.

Plus, they should appreciate that you’ve treated them with respect, including being considerate of their time. This improves your credibility and trustworthiness.

So let’s get our dates, time zones and area codes right the first time!

If Matt Cain can pitch a perfect game, surely we can type the right numbers and months.

If we’re not ready to perform at that high a level, we at least can be more like Master Carpenter Norm Abram who measures twice and cuts once.

Are you up for the challenge?


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