Present Messages with Care

The second “C” of professionalism is care. Care in business communication deals with your ability to pay attention to the details, and to present yourself without mistakes, sloppiness, or other things that can detract from your message. The consequences of carelessness can be devastating. You may come across as sloppy and inattentive and, as such, not the right person to hire or promote. That negative image may also be projected onto your company as a whole, which could adversely impact business.

Some carelessness may even cause costly business problems. If a typo goes undetected, you may under-charge a client for work performed (wrong price), book non-refundable travel arrangements (wrong date), or miss out on a major sales lead (wrong contact information). In fact, an entrepreneur from the United Kingdom estimates that simple spelling errors cost online businesses millions of pounds every year in lost sales.[1]

Here we cover two broad strategies for demonstrating care.

Find and Fix Mistakes

Sure, everyone makes mistakes. Most of the time, people in business will forgive a small and inconsequential mistake. But a pattern of mistakes in your messages can signal a much bigger problem. Mistakes can include spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and typos.

Unfortunately, finding mistakes in your own writing can be quite difficult. One reason why it is harder to spot your own mistakes is because you know what you are trying to say. When you are reading your own writing, your brain will fill in the gaps and make the corrections for you. Another reason is that if you have been working on a message for a while, chances are that you may be getting tired. So you might be skimming instead of reading closely. Even if you are making an effort to read closely, if it is something you’ve already read a time or two, your brain will again fill the gaps for you.

Here are two broad strategies to help you spot and correct mistakes.

Use Technology

Technology will not magically fix everything, but it can help you find the obvious. All word processing applications, even those that are online, have built-in spell checkers and grammar checkers. Many email programs have automatic spell check options that can check your messages before they are sent to help you catch mistakes. Even most social media platforms and comment forms online have spell checkers, or you can install free plugins from organizations such as Grammarly.

But don’t rely only on automatic checking and defaults. Even when misspelled words are automatically highlighted, it is worth running an additional spell check before finalizing longer documents. If you use unusual names or words frequently, add them to your word processor’s dictionary. That way, the software can assist you in spotting spelling errors.


The human eye can spot even more mistakes than a computer can, assuming you have trained yourself to read carefully. Here are some helpful approaches.

Read Your Message Carefully
Get in the practice of rereading every message from top to bottom before you send it. Do not skim it, read it. Slowly. Even if you haven’t made any spelling errors, you may find that you have omitted a word, left in a fragment of a sentence, or used a wrong version of a word (like their, there, or they’re).

Read from Bottom to Top
After your read from top to bottom, read back up from the bottom of the message. Often when you are rereading something you have written, your brain will fill in the missing pieces and you will see what is not there. Your brain is forced to pay closer attention in reverse. Start at the bottom of the document and read to find missing or misplaced words, sentences, or even paragraphs.

Read out Loud
It may feel strange at first, but when you read your messages out loud, your ear will likely pick up mistakes that your eyes simply miss. If you feel too awkward reading your own message out loud, have your computer read your messages to you. You can use some of the accessibility tools built into your computer software to read your files. Simply listen to that computer-generated voice. It can be a great way to spot grammatical errors.

Let it Sit
If you have time to spare, one of the best things you can do is to put your document aside for some time. Even an hour or two away from the screen will allow you to rest your eyes and “clear the slate.” When you come back to read it later, you will be able to better spot your own errors. 

Ask a Coworker to Proofread
Again, it is easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than it is to spot your own. Of course, this solution is impractical for all of the email messages you send in a day. But if a document is high priority or if it is particularly long, get a coworker to read it for you. That person will be able to spot errors. (They may also be able to point out any parts that are unclear—but more on that in the next chapter). Having a coworker proofread might be especially helpful for reports or PowerPoint slide decks.

Attend to Details

Another component of care is presenting yourself as consistently and neatly as possible. Here, it’s not just about eliminating actual mistakes, but also about attending to little details that differentiate sloppy communication from polished communication.

Consistency refers to doing something the same way every time. Inconsistencies can show up within a single document or single presentation and signal a lack of care. For example, a report might be single spaced throughout, except for a few random paragraphs that are double spaced. Or a presentation slide deck may have some slides in one font and then other slides in a different font.

Neatness refers to presenting yourself in an orderly way. It looks different depending upon what kind of message you are sending and how it is being delivered. Some examples of business communication that doesn’t meet the standard of neatness include documents that still have sections that are missing or incomplete, emails that are missing attachments, messages that are sent to the wrong email address, images that are skewed or highly pixilated, and handouts that are bent.

Even though details such as these may seem nitpicky or inconsequential, cumulatively they can impact the overall professionalism of your message. So taking extra time to attend to the details of your message is important.

  1. Sean Coughlan, “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Online Sales,” BBC News, July 14, 2011,


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Business Communication: Five Core Competencies Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Lucas, Jacob D. Rawlins, and Jenna Haugen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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