The more things change…

Since my last post, the Summer Olympics came and went and each political party held their convention. There are many writing lessons to be gleaned from each of those events such as the importance of perseverance, training, practice, organizing/outlining to ensure a coherent presentation of your thoughts, and my personal favorite–the importance of comparing a changed document with the previous version before publication.

Without taking sides in the current nasty U.S. political climate, I think we can all agree on the fact that words were omitted when two sections of the Democratic Party Platform document were updated for 2012. Looking at this purely from a business writing or publication viewpoint, it seems that the person(s) involved with preparing the platform failed what I believe is the most critical step when revising anything written. They failed to compare the old and the new versions, side by side, word for word.

Now that takes awhile with anything over a few pages long. It’s tempting to just run spell check and have the new version proofed, reviewed, and authorized while leaving the old for dead. But without comparing the old and new side by side, word for word, the odds are high that something important could be unintentionally left out. Perhaps more than one something important will be left out. And if the new version is published or widely distributed, such omissions can quickly become a great embarrassment, or worse.

What if the document is an instruction manual and the omission is a critical step that skipping causes an unintended result? What if the document is a procedure that must be followed exactly and the omission causes a violation of regulations? These are two quick technical writing examples, but omissions during the revision of a recipe or a book on just about anything can be similarly serious.

Do yourself a favor and remember that a quick proofread to ensure correct spelling and grammar and that the material “sounds good” isn’t enough when you’re dealing with a revision of a previously published document. Compare the old and new one last time, before your readers do.

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