From the workplace · Language


Yes, the title says “Introdution”, not “Introduction”. If you didn’t spot it, don’t worry. Neither did the graphic designers at a training company I worked at in the 1990s. And it was the sort of thing that they were paid to notice.

This piece touches on first impressions and attention to detail. It goes back to the days when people would pay to have a half-day training course called “Introduction to Windows”, the computer operating system (although, to be accurate, it was a Graphical User Interface, sitting on top of the real operating system). It was Windows 3.0 in those days, not 3.1 or NT or 95 or any of the later versions.

Back then many IT Training Companies were busy. They made money and they paid their staff reasonably well. A successful firm, in those far-off days, might find it hard to recruit experienced trainers quick enough to meet the demand for training courses. And the course notes were often written by the people who delivered the training. That’s why, one February night, after delivering training courses all day, a colleague and I sat down to write the manual for the following day’s course. It was a “Half-day Introduction to Windows” for our client Pepsi-Cola. (Ordinarily I would allude to the client, as something like “a globally recognized soft drinks company”, but the exact name is important for this story.) Pizzas and cola were provided. We worked till about midnight. The manual was finished, grammatically correct, screenshots all formatted correctly, proof-read to perfection. There was even a joke or two. And we went our separate ways, ready to deliver the training the following day, after the 12 to 15-hour working day that we had just enjoyed.

The manuals were to be copied, bound and delivered to the client by lunchtime the following day. The finishing touch was the fancy title page, created by people in the Graphics Department. The manuals arrived on time and I gave them out to the morning’s delegates. The title page read, over 3 lines:

Half-day Introdution
to Windows 3.0
for Pepsi Cola

The first delegate took a quick look at it and said “You can’t spell Introduction, and Pepsi-Cola should have a hyphen between the two words.”

There should have been seven words on the title page (two of them hyphenated) but there were eight. And there were two mistakes. Our efforts to make the contents of the manual error-free were severely devalued. I delivered the afternoon’s training (another Introdution, sorry, Introduction to Windows) and returned to my work-place. “How did it go?” asked one of the owners.

“Well, the training went fine but the title page had two errors: Introduction was misspelt and so was the client name.”

And her response to this? “They were very busy.”

Clearly too busy to proof-read seven or eight words of text, or to get the client’s name right. Some of us think that first impressions are important and that attention to detail is valued. Not everybody feels that way. Sometimes they are just very busy.



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