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Business Analysis Tip: Professionalism and Proof-Listening

Client confidence is of paramount importance to the success of a business analysis consultant. If a client believes in you, he or she will be much more likely to make time for your questions and needs, believe in your ideas and solutions, and be more forgiving of your mistakes. A quick way to lose confidence is to be lax with professionalism. And one of the quickest ways to fall short on professionalism is to fail to catch and correct simple editing errors in both day-to-day communication (emails, status updates, and the like) and in deliverables themselves. Small errors can not only be distracting to a reader but detrimental to the message as confidence in the messenger can be diminished.

Everyone makes mistakes, but being a professional means all courses of action should be taken to mitigate this inevitability. It is amazing how often the simple, fast and free spell checks are not run on a document. Either they are forgotten or omitted because of time, but the three to five minutes spent spell checking a document is of the best time spent from the standpoint of professionalism and client trust (and also the quickest). Like misspellings on a resume, a misspelling on a deliverable can be interpreted in a negative light to the senior manager who may never have met you or doesn’t work with you directly. As a consultant, client renewals and references can be easily won or lost in this way.

Peer review is the best way to have one’s work checked. A peer can not only look for errors in spelling and grammar, but for completeness of thought and crispness of content. One must be respectful of the reviewer’s time, however, and before asking a colleague to review one’s work, a complete effort should be made to ensure the work is as polished as it can possibly be. Two valuable solutions can help with this ‘polishing’, and they are both available to anyone with common word processing software.

Obviously spell check and grammar check should be done first. But a less common solution is to have the built-in text-to-voice software read the document aloud. It is amazing how many small errors can be caught this way. As authors of a document, it is very easy to scan over and miss small errors and typos since the author knows what he or she meant to say and what they think they wrote. These small mistakes are hard to see, but when hearing them out loud, they stick out like a sore thumb. Often they are words that are out of place instead of misspelled. That kind of error is something spell check cannot find.

Microsoft Word  has this read aloud option which is simple to turn on and use by following these instructions. Other freely downloaded products do this very effectively as well, often offering a wide range of voices with varying accents from which to choose.

  1. From Microsoft Word. Click “File” and click on “Options” Select “Quick Access Toolbar”.
  2. Click the down arrow under “Choose Commands From” and select “Commands not in Ribbon”. Scroll down in the left box and click “Speak” then click “Add.”
  3. Click “OK”. The “Speak” icon will appear in the “Quick Access” toolbar, which is the string of icons at the very top of Word that includes the “Save” and “Undo” icons.
  4. Selected text you wish to have read out loud by highlighting it, or place the cursor within a word and click the “Speak” icon. Click the icon again to stop the “Speak” feature.

Although listening to one’s own writing may not be tops on the current list of project to-dos, your client will appreciate the effort and your credibility will remain strong.

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