Andrea, owner of a small insurance consulting firm, says, "My industry is pretty conservative, and I'm pretty traditional myself, so I use E-mail sparingly. Mostly, I write letters and send out proposals on letterhead.
"My letters are on a variety of subjects, from a letter of agreement to a cover letter accompanying a proposal. My proposals tend to focus on one project at a time and run about five to ten pages. I decided to see if I was proofing my letters and proposals carefully enough—or if I was overdoing it.
"Using the assessment to evaluate a letter of agreement to a new client, I was pleased at what I found out. My scores were as follows."
1. Your communication will be distributed only within your organization. 1
2. Using the Formality Index, you've determined that your communication is very informal. 2
3. Your message is upbeat and fun. 2
4. If your readers misunderstand your message, no negative consequences will result. 2
5. Your communication is short. 3
7. Your communication includes only one section. For example, it's a 100-word newsletter article, a business letter, a memo, or an E-mail with no attachments. 5
8. Only one subject is included in your communication. 5
9. Using the Matrix of Persuasion, you've determined that your readers are on your side and that they have the resources to do as you ask; in other words, you've assessed your writing task as Easy. 3
"My score totaled twenty-five—Level Two: Clarity, Grammar, Organization, and Completeness. Just what I thought. It was very reassuring to know that I was on the right track—and I'm able to use the Level Two checklist to help me proof the right things and not waste time proofing things that don't matter. Letters of agreement need to be carefully worded so as to leave no questions about the scope of work, delivery schedule, prices, and responsibility.
"But having said that, it's pretty much a boilerplate letter. I change the specifics, but most of it stays the same. I've used this format long enough—for years—to know that it's a clear agreement and that the grammar is correct.
"Proofing to confirm a solid organizational structure has proven valuable. Given that the letter is a boilerplate, I need to be certain that I don't end up with a confusing mishmash every time I substitute paragraphs and phrases.
"Proofing to Level Two standards takes a little time. But I've caught errors that range from embarrassing, like including a past client's name, to horrific, like agreeing to perform work that had nothing to do with the actual project. It's completely worth the effort."
Level Two proofing includes all of Level One standards (see previous page), plus the following:
1. Did you select an appropriate organizational structure?
2. Does your message flow easily from paragraph to paragraph and from section to section?
3. Have you included any attachments, appendices, or corollary documents (such as a brochure) that you refer to in the body of your communication?
4. Have you considered the level of detail that's appropriate to include and are you providing it?
5. For those units of information that require detail, have you fully explained everything that needs to be described, outlined, or summarized?
6. Have you included all footnotes and endnotes that are referred to in the body of your communication?
7. If your document comprises multiple sections, are they consistently numbered and formatted?
8. If your document comprises multiple sections, are you including a table of contents, and is it correct?
9. Stop and think: Are you missing any pertinent units of information?
10. Reread your communication once again focusing on the overall message. Is it clear?
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