Correctness

Correctness—One of Six ‘C’ Qualities of Effective Communication

The ‘C of Correctness’, one of six Cs which represents the six (6) qualities of effective communication, calls for revision of messages, to ensure that content, mechanics, and appearance of a message are correct. Each of these is required to meet the criteria of correctness.

Correctness means that the details of a message are accurate. Details involve not only the message content but also the message appearance.

Always ensure the message you communicate is correct to the best of your knowledge. Your receivers invest precious time in listening or reading your message because they feel that the message communicated by you is reliable and if they find it otherwise, you lose your credibility.

The correctness of your messages depends on your proofreading skills. Good proofreaders use reference tools to check message content and to evaluate message appearance. The following four reference tools will help you produce correct messages:

  1. A dictionary
  2. A thesaurus (either printed or electronic version)
  3. A word division manual
  4. A format guide

Use a dictionary as a general reference to check spelling and word meaning. Consult a thesaurus for acceptable word choices. Verify preferable word division points in a word division manual. Refer to the Format Guide for acceptable message layouts.

Sending correct messages builds your credibility. In the workplace, a reputation for accuracy enhances your competence and helps you build a successful career. After you have written a draft of your message, complete the following tasks to ensure message correctness:

  • Verify spelling.
  • Select correct appropriate punctuation.
  • Check names, places, dates, times, and amounts.
  • Evaluate message appearance.
Verify Spelling

Misspellings of frequently used words may be difficult to locate if you give your message just a quick once-over. However, a misspelled word may change the meaning of a sentence or may create a negative impression about you and your organization. Make sure every word is correct before you transmit your message.

In addition to a standard dictionary, you may need a trade or professional dictionary to check the spelling of technical or specialized terms. When you key a document in a word processing program, use the spell checker. However, do not rely on an electronic spell checker to detect errors in word usage. Spell checkers cannot determine whether you have used a word properly in the context of your message. Recheck spelling when you add new text or change word endings during the writing process.

Select Correct Words and Phrases

Selecting the wordOpens in new window or phraseOpens in new window that correctly communicates your meaning can be challenging. The English language has borrowed words and expressions from many languages. As a result, English contains many homonymsOpens in new window and homophonesOpens in new window.

Select correct words and phrases for accurate messages. Be especially alert for words and phrases that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. These examples illustrate how Word Choice affects meaning:

    Word Choice
  • Answering e-mail messages is an everyday activity for me.
  • Discussion: Everyday as one word means “usual” or “routine.”
    Word Choice
  • Every day provides you with opportunities to develop new skills.
  • Discussion: Every day indicates each new day.
    Word Choice
  • Please join me for tea sometime.
  • Discussion: Sometime as one word means “at one time or another.”
    Word Choice
  • Conducting the interviews will take some time.
  • Discussion: Some time as two words means “an undetermined length of time.”

Selecting correct words and phrasesOpens in new window also involves checking your messages for subject and verb agreementOpens in new window and for parallel structure.

Parallel structureOpens in new window means using the same grammatical form throughout a list or within a sentence. These examples illustrate nonparallel structures and show how to make the statements parallel:

    Nonparallel Structure
  • Minimum maintenance should include the following:
    1. Check oil and water levels
    2. Balancing tires
    3. Check air pressure.
  • Parallel Structure
  • Minimum maintenance should include the following:
    1. Checking oil and water levels
    2. Balancing tires
    3.Checking air pressure
    Nonparallel Structure
  • The office manager’s duties are to monitor employee attendance, verifying time cards, and prepare payroll.
  • Parallel Structure
  • The office manager’s duties are monitoring employee attendance, verifying time cards, and preparing payroll.
What's this?
Insert Appropriate Punctuation

Punctuation marks serve as traffic signs for readers.

  • Commas indicate caution—slow down or pause to comprehend the meaning.
  • Semicolons tell readers to yield for the next thought.
  • Periods and question marks mean readers should come to a complete stop before they proceed to the next sentence.

Punctuate messages according to punctuation rules. When you insert appropriate punctuation in the correct locations, you maintain clarity for readers.

Punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Compare the following examples:

    Punctuation Effect
  • “Sprouted grain bread,” said the nutritionist, “can be traced to ancient times.”
  • Discussion: This example indicates that a certain type of bread can be traced to ancient times.
    Punctuation Effect
  • Sprouted grain bread said the nutritionist can be traced to ancient times.
  • Discussion: This example implies not only that bread is speaking but also that a certain nutritionist can be traced to ancient times.
    Punctuation Effect
  • Celia consulted with the architect; Corrine; Mr. Jeffries; the builder; and Stacy, the interior designer.
  • Discussion: This example lists five people.
    Punctuation Effect
  • Celia consulted with the architect; Corrine; Mr. Jeffries, the builder; and Stacy, the interior designer.
  • Discussion: This example lists four people.
    Punctuation Effect
  • For her research, Celia consulted with the architect, Corrine; Mr. Jeffries, the builder; and Stacy, the interior designer.
  • Discussion: This example lists three people.
Check Names, Places, Dates, Times, and Amounts

Effective messages contain complete and correct names, places, dates, times, and amounts. Avoid confusion, lost time, effort, and money for your receivers. Check names, places, dates, times, and amounts twice for accuracy.

Evaluate Message Appearance

After verifying content correctness, evaluate the message for correct appearance. Correct appearance included the style and placement of the message.

Most business communicationsOpens in new window follow standard company guidelines and practices. The message placement on a page, form, screen, or letterhead produces an image in the reader’s mind. To make a good impression, the message should be formatted correctly and attractively, as well as be free of keying errors.