Why do we Subtract when we could be Adding?

add or subtract

Do I subtract or can I add?

On a gorgeous sunny day recently I sent out a tweet – “Make hay when the sun shines – it’s a great time to close those deals #Positivity

Well, that’s what I meant to say …. With the predictive typing on my iPhone the intended message went out as “May hay when the sun shines ….” Oopps!

I didn’t realise my error until I received a message on LinkedIn by a connection letting me know in no uncertain terms “the expression is make hay….“.

I was really annoyed to see the comment – ok it was a mistake, but surely anyone who read it would have seen the positive intent behind the post instead of being pedantic and motivated to just point out my error.

As annoyed as I was feeling I reflected on this criticism and realised that at times I do exactly the same myself. Recently I was at an event where we spotted a few grave “errors“.

We read through the event brochure and spotted a poem as part of the literature – initially I thought this was a novel idea and when I read it I spotted a “typo“. Surely a crime worth at least 1,000 lashes!

They had used the word “there” when they should have used the word “their” …. Tut tut! Of course I enjoyed my discovery and shared the error with the person sitting next to me.

At the same event we spotted the careless use of logos on the large screens – low resolution, poor placement and white border that could easily have been removed ….. Tut tut! Once again it was worthy of a little conversation and maybe another 1,000 lashes?

Did these errors reduce our enjoyment of the evening .. Of course not!

Why do we take pleasure at spotting mistakes? In this scenario we were in effect criticising a voluntary committee who clearly had gone to a lot of work for the night and instead of acknowledging the positives we were busy taking a little pleasure in how sharp we were in spotting someone’s errors.

Just like my critic that felt obliged to comment on my error instead of complimenting me on the sentiment …

Why do we subtract when we could be adding ?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

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12 Responses to “Why do we Subtract when we could be Adding?”

  1. Michael Brennan Says:

    As a former printer, proofreading was part of my workload, so I am constantly on the watch for spelling errors. It bugs me to see them (spelling errors) on course presentations where the trainee has paid a large sum of money for a high quality, possibly week long course, that will lead to future employment. It shows a lack of preparation by the person doing the training, for not having spotted them and gives the impression that the course provider is in for a quick buck.

    Never be afraid to set your standards high, people will respect you more for it. I attended a lecture in UCC a number of years ago on statistics and information gathering. As the lecturer was working it out on the board, I drew her attention to the fact that what she had put on the board was different to what was on our course notes. When she looked at it, she congratulated me as she said that the notes had gone through 15 years of lectures and no one had spotted the error.

    By advising her in this instance I feel I was adding and not subtracting, a form of constructive criticism. I will carry on the crusade for perfection in spelling and make no apologies for it.

    Better proof read this before I send it!

    Keep up the good work Greg!

  2. Chris Says:

    At a seminar I oganised with Tony Buzan, he of the mind mapping technique, the same message was applied to essay correction. We mark the 10 spelling mistakes in a 500 word essay in RED ink write in the margins tut tutting about falling standards of literacy, would never have been accepted in my day etc. etc, INSTEAD we should be saying congratulations, well done 98% spellings correct. – great story. Someone is bound to correct me but wasnt it Johnny Mercer who told us to ” Accentuate the positive- eliminate the negative”

  3. macsfieldimages Says:

    I have been told recently, that spelling tests in primary and secondary school no longer takes place – and then we wunder why peeple kant spell, let alone tawlk proper english, like! It seems that text-speak has become the norm for the new generation, and it is soo not kewl! Mind you, texting, while seated on one’s bottom on the floor, while enjoying a state of slight inebriation, is bound to cause errors – but I do agree, poor spelling is annoying particularly when ‘spell-check’ is available. I kan spell purfectly well, its my keebord wot kant geit it rite!!

  4. Ron Ainsbury Says:

    By now we should all be familiar with the horrors caused by predictive text … haven’t we all been a victim of this? But, I feel the context is all important. Marking student papers in Asia I gloss over obvious English errors (although when there is spellcheck I am less than pleased) and focus on the intent. But, when someone has taken the trouble to prepare a glossy advertisement (in English) in a magazine or billboard, my thought isn’t about the intent but rather – if you have spent so many $ to produce the concept and the Ad couldn’t you have spent a few $ more to make sure the English was correct? Cheers!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      thanks for putting it in context ….. you are so right. We always say to clients …. never write cheques to make yourself look bad! (poorly designed adverts with errors etc). Its just at times it is appropriate to look at the intent , definitely but not always!

  5. Artur Says:

    Just to add to this, that most of those come from the fact, that people simply do not write anymore, they type instead. Let’s ask ourselves what was the last thing we hand wrote? Christmas Cards? anything else?

  6. Sean Mahon Says:

    Greg, expanding upon the ‘why subtract when we could add’ theme have you ever read ‘How full is your bucket?’ (Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton) – all about the importance of positivity rather than negativity in all aspects of life and workplace…great book, worth a read
    Sean Mahon, Southern Star

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