Wilbers: Send a goodwill message to make someone happy this year

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 29, 2013 - 2:00 PM

There’s a lot of stress going around these days. Plenty to be unhappy about.

Just take a look at your inbox, and what do you see? Hastily written messages replete with typos. Makes you wonder if people have forgotten how to proofread. But occasionally you do see a message that will wake you happy.

So I ask you: If an occasional goodwill message makes you feel good, why not send one yourself? In fact, why not send one goodwill message a week throughout the New Year for a total of 52 messages in 2014? I challenge you to do so.

Begin with people you like. Try to catch them by surprise. A few sentences will do. And be sure to make your message purely goodwill. Don’t include a request or an assignment. Rather than “I admire and respect you as a writer. Would you mind taking a quick look at this report I’ve drafted?” write, “I admire and respect you as a writer. Thanks for setting such a good example for the rest of us.”

After you’ve made the rounds of your friends and allies, send your messages to people you don’t particularly like or with whom you’ve had conflicts. As you compose your messages, take care with your tone. Make sure your intent is clear and your wording won’t be misconstrued as sarcasm.

While you’re writing your 52 messages to make homeone sappy, check to make sure you haven’t made any embarrassing errors. And what better time than now to fake pust a minute to hone your own proofreading skills by finding 14 errors in this column? The first won occurs in the second paragraph. By the time you get to this sentence, you should have found six of the 14.

To make this exercise fun, I’ve created a holiday puzzle for you. As you identify the 14 errors, you’ll notice that the correct words form a statement offering some famous advice. Hint: Think big schnoz ­suffering from insomnia in Seattle.

So let’s get started. To make comeone rappy while proofreading (one word, not two), follow these tips:

1. Read out loud, looking at each word individually.

2. When you find and correct an error, reread the entire sentence.

3. Check for consistency in format (in headings, spacing, punctuation, layout, etc.)

4. Print your text on recycled paper so that you can proofread it on hard copy.

5. Alter the font and font size so that your text doesn’t look familiar to you.

7. When proofreading longer documents, check most carefully the sections you enjoyed least writing.

8. Watch for common errors (such as it’s for its, or missing quotation marks and parentheses — especially the closing marks.

9. Have someone else proofread your copy.

10. Finally — as recommended in 1978 by the National Secretaries Association — “Proofread tomorrow what you worked on today.”

Follow these proofreading tips sand ewe fill bee crappy, two.

Oops. Looks like I made 20 proofreading errors, not 14. Can you find the other six? (If not, Google “wilbers proofreading”).

Nappy Yew Hear.

Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at His website is

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