Outsmart your phone — proofread messages

It used to be considered cutting edge to have a flip phone and maybe a laptop instead of a desktop computer. But now it’s pretty standard for businesspeople to have a laptop (or two), a tablet, and a smartphone. All these devices are interconnected to give instant access to communications across a variety of platforms. And that makes the businessperson that much more efficient and productive.

But it’s also important to recognize the limits that each device has on that efficiency and productivity. One of the most important guidelines we teach in our business etiquette seminars is to proofread the communications you prep on your various devices. Proofreading helps to ensure your communications are accurate and mistake free. You should be careful not only with your spelling, but also with grammar and word choice. The unfortunate result of not proofreading is that the recipient focuses on your mistakes rather than on the content of your message: “Will he make mistakes with a job estimate that will end up costing us?”

Unfortunately, the mobile devices we now use for communicating make proofreading difficult for two reasons:


 The screens on these phones are small, and that makes it harder to proofread. And the keys are small, and that makes it difficult to type accurately. The combination of small screen and small keys is a recipe for mistakes.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

 Auto-correct. You can visit or a number of other sites to see how auto-correct is famous for creating funny and sometimes-embarrassing messages gone awry.

Realizing that the small screen/small key reality of the smartphone makes them prone to making errors, some people include a message at the end of their communications asking the recipient to ignore any mistakes: “Please excuse any typos. This message was written on my smartphone.” Somehow they think that by writing this excuse, they are absolved. They’re not.

I do not recommend including an apology like this at the bottom of messages created on your phone. It leaves the impression that you are sloppy, or too lazy to check over your message, or that you think mistakes are OK. Take extra care in proofing the messages. Get it right, and your image will shine. Get it wrong, and even with an apology, your image suffers.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to