I don’t want to start the email with a brag, but…
I’ve just had a communication from the team of scientists I employ at Holt Towers to analyse the constant flow of statistical data that’s coming in.
As you can imagine, it’s a pretty high tech set-up.
Anyway, the telegram read:
Not bad eh?
It’s rare for even the best copywriters in the world to achieve 100% with their copy, but I somehow managed it last week.
A perfect score.
Yay – go me!
On some tests, you’re aiming for 100% – like when you’re taking a history exam or when you find yourself strapped to a Polygraph machine, desperately trying to convince Scotland Yard’s finest that you’re not the one who stole Mrs Higginbotham’s tea cosy.
In my case though, “100%” meant failure.
It told me that 100% of the emails I sent out to you last week had a glaring mistake in them.
Did you notice?
(No need to get up and examine the copies on your mantelpiece. You know, the ones you printed out on parchment paper and mounted in an antique frame.)
I’ll save you the hassle.
Turns out that “Nicklaus” has a “c” in it.
That’s right, I misspelt the name of the main character in one of my emails. As mistakes go, that’s pretty big, though not as silly as the one I managed to make on Thursday, when I somehow copied across Monday’s subject line, losing the chance to hook you in with a unique piece of compelling copy.
To sum up, I got the name of my main protagonist wrong and used a completely irrelevant headline.
And I do this sh!t for money!
The is like getting an edition of “Romeo and Juliet” where Juliet is called “Mercedes” and, instead of “Romeo and Juliet” on the cover, it says “Billy Ray Cyrus’s guide to Wigan“.
OK, so maybe my errors weren’t that bad. Maybe they’re pretty forgivable.
It could’ve been worse.
I could’ve written, “[DON’T FORGET TO PUT A WITTY SUBJECT LINE HERE, JOHN]”.
Here’s the thing – as soon as I noticed both mistakes, I hated myself. Like REALLY hated myself.
I felt so stupid. And angry.
More than that though, my first instinct was to panic and hit the “red alert” alarm. I wanted to rush around, frantically pressing buttons on my keyboard to make it all better.
I wanted to correct the mistakes, right this second.
I wanted to fix it…NOW!
I wanted to…
…but instead, I decided to just let them go. I fought the urge to fire off an immediate email, apologising for my indefensible transgressions.
“Let it go“, the hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi told me*.
So I did.
Here’s what I need to remember for next time – no one noticed.
I received two responses to each of those two emails – all complimentary (one has since become a client).
Not one of the replies mentioned the errors.
No one noticed or, if they did, they didn’t care.
It’s not important. It doesn’t matter.
Anyone who’s studied psychology for longer than 7 minutes can tell you that 95% of human communication is non-verbal.
It’s not about the specific words you use. It’s about the MESSAGE and MEANING behind the words – that’s the bit you need to focus on.
It’s the same with written communication too.
It’s the message that counts.
Give your readers a great story or compelling message and they’ll be too distracted to notice your typo. Even if they do notice it, they’ll forgive you because you got the important bit right.
Neil Armstrong famously messed up his line when becoming the first human to ever walk on the moon.
“It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”, is what he said, but what he was SUPPOSED to say was:
“OMG! This is like soooooo great. Sooooo awesome. Weeeeeeee! Look at me! I’m super bouncy. Suck it Buzz!”
Even though he mucked up the line, we still remember the achievement. We still remember the story.
Whenever you’re writing or creating something, ask yourself:
“What’s the message I’m trying to communicate with this?”
Focus on getting that as clear and compelling as possible and you won’t have to worry about every little error.
Your readers will forgive you…
P.S. I really want to leave you hanging with the Armstrong thing, but I can’t…
Just in case you didn’t know, he was SUPPOSED to say, “One small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind…”
Now go forth and amaze your pub quiz teammates…
* Turns out that this may not have happened. There’s a small chance that the cheap meat I bought from Daz in my local bookies may have been tainted.