What’s worse than Friday the 13th? The sequels.
Okay, that was a cheap shot, but now that I have your attention, what’s really worse than Friday the 13th—even worse than having a black cat cross your path under a ladder? Falling prey to superstitious assumptions when we should know better.
Before you think we’re talking about tossing salt over your shoulder or staying away from cracked mirrors, we’re not. We’re talking about the assumptions that affect your writing.
Sure, they may not be fully recognized superstitions yet, but they’re definitely myths that sneak into attitudes about the communication process for many writers, editors, presenters and instructors. They lurk around the corners of our minds and are always looking for ways to creep in and kill our effectiveness when it comes to communication projects.
So, what are some of these “Friday the 13th” project killers we need to look out for?
Project Killer #1
I’ve done this course dozens of times. I don’t really need an instructional designer to fix it. It’s fine like it is.
There’s a lot of truth to the cliché “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But in many cases, something that “ain’t broke” can be made more effective with tweaking, especially when it’s going from one format (i.e., PowerPoint slides and a live presenter) to another (computer-based training). Think of it this way—even a best-selling novel has to be changed into a script before it can dominate the box office as a movie. So why shouldn’t your already successful course be adapted into an elearning format so it can further engage the minds of your learners?
Project Killer #2
Project managers are just an unnecessary step to slow us down. I can oversee this project just fine.
You’re already in charge of so much. Do you really want to add another hoop to jump through? A project manager can take care of the day-to-day details of keeping a project on track without the distractions that already take up so much of your time. Then you get to come in and deal with content when it’s ready to be seen instead of being bombarded by the trifling minutiae that can bog you and the project down.
Project Killer #3
Why should I send this out to an editor? I ran it through spelling and grammar check.
Spell check is only as good as its dictionary. (Spell check actually flagged “its” as incorrect in the previous sentence in favor of the conjunction “it’s.”) It only recognizes misspellings, so words that can be spelled different ways (i.e., they’re, there, their) don’t get any help from spell check. Neither do words that are commonly mistyped (such as “up” for “us” or “of” for “off”). Furthermore, neither spell check nor grammar check helps you communicate better by tightening your writing, making better word choices, shifting from passive to active sentences, or replacing jargon with regular human speech.
Why is it so important to be careful with these project killers lurking about in the shadows? Well, unlike summer blockbusters or the latest action thriller, not all of your projects get a sequel. If you don’t get them right the first time, there might not be a handy black cat or convenient Friday the 13th to blame.