This brief video says it all: it doesn’t matter how eloquent or captivating the given presentation is — errors and typos will overpower the rest of the content as that’s all anyone will see.
That one little “they’re is” will overshadow your entire slide like a dark and dreary rain cloud. Hemingway himself couldn’t make you overlook it if he were personally reading his own words to you. Even with his dapper charm.
It makes you look bad.
An error in a presentation is downright embarrassing. There is no excuse around it. It comes off as careless and idiotic — lazy at best. If you couldn’t be brought to look over something that you’re presenting, you really don’t appear to care about what you’re talking about. Or that you have the capacity to spell correctly. Harsh as it sounds, it’s that simple. The best salesman in the world can’t counter that.
Everything else fades away.
When that error is spotted, you can kiss everyone’s attention to whatever else you’re saying goodbye. You’ve officially lost them. They’re gone. The error takes the spotlight and your point gets brushed under the rug. Again, this may seem insensitive, but it’s the only thing people will see. You may as well put yourself on mute.
You lose all credibility.
Is it going too far to say you lose ALL credibility? No. Because you do. If someone can’t make the effort of looking over their written presentation, why would they ever make an effort in doing business with you? If they can’t spell or spot a typo, how would they run your numbers and make you money? Whether those capacities exist or not is irrelevant. That impression ruins your chances.
So what do you do about it?
Well, for starters, look over your writing. If you don’t feel confident enough in your abilities to spot mistakes, there are editors out there that would be more than happy to help you (wink, wink). Some can even punch up your content.
Keeping verbiage in presentations to a minimum is also a good rule of thumb to follow. No one wants to read paragraphs on a slide. Especially if you’re reading it out verbatim anyway. If you want someone to read your writing, you’d get more of a response if you just handed them a print-out. If you keep your presentation slides brief, with only key points highlighted, you increase the likelihood of the audience’s attention, as well as their retention of information.
But what if somehow a typo makes its way to the final presentation and you only notice it in the midst of presenting? Call it out. It could even be grounds to make a joke and lighten the mood, which can help win over the room if done properly: “Oops, that should say so and so. My mistake. Couldn’t have you thinking I didn’t know the difference.”
Although your excuses for finding the right word are limited with the vast possibilities in the English language, sometimes not even a thesaurus has the right fit for that word that’s just what you’re looking for.
So how do you go about this sort of predicament?
Perhaps you can substitute an English word with one from another language that more aptly fits your desired description. But, at the risk of all your readers not knowing it, you’d either have to choose one that’s widely known or include a brief aside to explain it. Widely known is never memorable. And asides can unnecessarily complicate the flow of reading. That leaves us to our own devices. With a little creativity and a bit more boldness, why not make up your own words?
Neologisms have to come from somewhere. Who knows, if they gain enough popularity they could earn a spot in the dictionary. By a similar principle, irregardless, despite its incorrectness (and overall atrociousness), made it into the dictionary as a result of its frequent use. Sigh. If that got by the society that decides on such matters, your undiscovered words may stand a chance too.
If you add your own twist (or a nonexistent suffix or prefix) to an already existing word, you could have something that works. As long as the borrowed elements sound real, you stand a chance of people believing you. If people are asking whether it’s a real word, you’re in the clear. Knowing for sure it’s not is where you’d know you failed. Here are some examples:
You need someone to de-nicify your living room so you don’t appear like you’re trying too hard.
That action movie was brimming with kickassery.
Right before lunchtime, everyone knows not to disturb me, as I am in hangry mode.
Obviously, don’t use such words in serious contexts like business proposals or anything professional. As much as you would break up the monotony of black on white with these vibrant words, you’d also risk not being taken seriously.
It’s not uncommon to see double negatives in writing.
Now, wouldn’t that have read better if we said it’s common instead?
All too often, people like to state things in their negative forms. But why? That just confuses everyone in addition to being a mouthful. It disrupts the flow of thinking that accompanies reading. And that can throw everything off.
Two negative claims cancel each other out and thus give you a positive one. But why not just state the obvious positive in the first place? There are way too many filler words out there as it is. Why add to the litter even more?
When you’re trying to communicate to a reader (especially if it’s a potential customer) you don’t want them having to stop and think, “Wait, not uncommon? So, it is common? Or isn’t it?” In such instances, people would need to re-read the given sentence a second or third time for clarification. Good luck keeping someone’s attention after something like that happens. If they see their time is being wasted, they’ll be far more inclined to click the little “X” in the corner of the web page. Wouldn’t you do the same?
In a time when keeping an audience’s attention boils down to seconds, you’ll want to maximize on that time as much as possible. And rambling will not help your case. By doing so, you’re disrespecting your reader. And that’s not the way to win people over.
Pay attention to this one tiny thing, and make it a habit to turn two negatives into a positive. It’s better to state something the way it is, as opposed to the way it isn’t. Negativity never did anyone any good. Let’s put this habit to bed with some examples illustrating how to do it:
He wasn’t unsure about how to make the distinction.
He was sure about how to make the distinction.
I’m not unimpressed by the idea.
I’m impressed by the idea.
It’s not unlikely for something like that to happen.
It’s likely for something like that to happen.
She doesn’t dislike him.
She likes him.
See how much simpler life is when you stay positive?