Here’s the second installment of one of my favorite posts – the Rules of Can’t Be Right. This edition is focused on written reports. Here are some important checks you can use to spot potential errors:

    • Ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” If you didn’t know what it was saying beforehand, could you really tell someone what your point is?


    • Look at written prose in a different font or format than you originally used to write it. Doing this freshens your eyes to spot mistakes in something that you’ve spent quite a bit of time working on. (It’s amazing how frequently I’ll miss a mistake while writing this blog that becomes readily apparent when it’s published in Blogger with a different look.)


    • When you have a bulleted list, check to see if the beginning words are of the same type (i.e., all verbs, all of the same tense, etc.) and if each line ends in the same way (period, no period).


    • Run the spelling and grammar checkers. Yes, it’s completely basic, but that doesn’t mean people always do it.


    • Print it and read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised to find how fractured something that looks right can sound when you’re speaking it.


    • Have someone else take a look at it. That’s another way to get a fresh set of eyes as a double check. If the person is unfamiliar with the topic, all the better since they won’t subconsciously fix problems that more experienced people might.


  • Ask yourself, “What knowledge am I assuming that the reader has on this topic?” Figure out how you can eliminate the need for the assumption to be necessary by providing the background to understand your material.

Please leave comments with tips you use to double check work and look for mistakes. We’ll run them in a future installment of the rules of CBR.