Blog in 06 2012.
We’ve been doing lots of training in Europe recently, trying to get a big professional services firm to make their documents easier (and quicker) to read.
One aspect of it, as you might expect from us, is using more everyday language, rather than the rather formal style they default to. And while most people agree with the approach themselves, they worry about how it’ll go down with other people. Will they think it’s ‘proper’? Is it ‘professional’ enough?
Now, these are worries we hear a lot, even in the UK. But working with so many non-native speakers has thrown up another challenge. One chap in Madrid summed it up nicely: ‘If a Spanish client of ours got this new document from our London office, they would think it was cool and modern. If they got it from our Madrid office, they might think we couldn’t speak English.’
It made me think of a problem the EU now has. When translating documents into English, they have to decide whether to use British English, or a more ‘international English’ – not one native speakers really use, but one that’s easier to understand as a business lingua franca for people who’ve learned English as a second language.
It gives us natives an interesting dilemma. Being brought up Anglophone gives us an amazing competitive advantage, without even trying. But the success of English also means we’re having to accept that it’s not ‘ours’ any more, and that the perceptions of an army of converts might be more important than our own intuition.
In our workshops, we encourage people to put their personality into everything they write. And as our Ed was saying at the Royal College of Art the other week, that includes your CV.
But it seems you can take a good bit of advice too far, as these unintentionally funny extracts show.
The three secrets of great CVs are: be honest, be simple and be yourself. Don’t go overboard. And whatever you do, don’t just rely on your spellchecker. It may pick up the sorts of errors that make our eyes hurt (‘profreader’; ‘My qulifications include close attention to detail’), but it wouldn’t see anything wrong with ‘I’m a rabid typist’, ‘Sorry for any incontinence’ or ‘I have six years’ sock-control experience’. So get someone else to read it for you.
Preferably someone who wants you to get a job.
We’re all warned that there are people trying to steal our information, and we’re scared. And then a new email pops up in your inbox. Is it legit or is it a phishing scam? And is that attachment safe?
How to tell if it’s a fake
Here are ten things to ask yourself before you reach for the ‘spam’ button.
- Is there a link? Check it’s actually sending you where it says. (Hover over it – if the address is different, it’s probably dodgy.)
- Are they asking for details they should already know?
- Does it look too good to be true? Then it probably is.
- Does it look like it was written by a machine? If it looks like a robot, assume it is.
- Are they using capitals or exclamation marks? THAT DOESN’T LOOK VERY PROFESSIONAL!
- Do the fonts keep changing? It’s probably been copied (and pasted). Lazy scammers.
- Are there silly mistakes? They shouldn’t make spelling mistakes or use apostrophes wrongly. Big businesses can afford proofreaders.
- Are they rambling? They should be saying what’s important. If they’re asking you to change your password, they should just tell you that.
- Are they hiding information? If you have to go somewhere else to find out what they could have said, be suspicious.
- Are they consistent? It’s not just the logo, everything should look the same. The words, the design, the spelling. Everything.
If in doubt, just delete it. Don’t risk your credit card details. That free tablet could turn out to be rather expensive.