Showing posts from September, 2017

The Favras Effect: Why you Should Always Ask Someone Else to Proofread for You

No matter how carefully you proofread your own copy, some quite serious typos can slip through the net. But show the copy to someone else and they spot the errors immediately, even if they merely glance at the text. Usually this person who spots the obvious error with a mere glance is your boss, doubling the embarrassment. In workshops I often call this the Favras Effect after the French aristocrat Thomas de Mahy, marquis de Favras, who was hanged on 19 February 1790 for being on the wrong side in the French Revolution. Just before he was hanged he was shown his death sentence, glanced at it and observed "Je vois que vous avez fait trois fautes d'ortographe". -- "I see that you have made three spelling mistakes".  Because of this comment Mahy has since had a reputation for his coolness in difficult circumstances, though it is quite likely that other people in similar situations might also have seen obvious errors that everyone else missed, but eithe

Email: First Answer the Question

Analyzing past miscommunications I see that one of the most common causes of failure is when the original thread-starting question contains a well defined question but that question is not answered, or at least not answered in a satisfying way. Sometimes the respondent somehow misses the question, perhaps by reading the message too quickly on their phone.  There is one simple way to avoid this problem. When you receive an email that contains questions mark each distinct question then check that your answer provides an actual answer to each of them. Don't rely on memory; go back and check what they wrote. Quite often the respondent does attempt to reply but they don't actually answer the question, simply adding more information or commentary. You can catch this mistake by asking yourself if the reply is really a direct answer to the question. So, for example, someone asks what is the topic of your speech you should respond something like "My speech is about the impac