Measure twice, but only cut once

Checking twice works for tailors, but three times is a charm for important emails and business communication. Doing this may also just save a career or two.

I’ve been writing this column for almost 20 years, and many have said I’m a pretty decent writer. But those who know me have noted occasionally I might be the world’s worst proofreader. It’s astounding what damage an extra digit or a missing comma could cause in a document or email.

This wake-up call is to me and even to my otherwise thorough and aware readers who think that a typo is not a huge problem. Here are just a few that proved otherwise.

In February 2024, the ride-hailing company LYFT issued an earnings press release that had a single one-stroke typo that in minutes rocked the company’s stock price. The release boasted that its profit margin jumped five hundred basis points, which is equal to 5 percent, but that should have read fifty basis points, a mere half a percent or ten times lower than the erroneous triple-digit jump. Its stock value tanked 60 percent after the company corrected this amateurish blunder. Not only was its remarkable gain lost, but so was its credibility.

My first thought was that some poor typist’s next stop would be the unemployment line, but not so, as it turned out. The company said at least “a thousand eyes” proofread this press release. The reality was that instead of the typist heading alone by bus to the unemployment office, a double-decker vehicle was likely needed to take a bunch of attorneys and financial types who typically sign off on public reports to that same infamous dreary place where careers end.

Further research discovered these fool’s errands of omission were not that uncommon. Just think if you had signed off on the communications in which one transcriber’s wrong poke on a keyboard turned scores of management types into knuckleheads for being asleep at the switch.

Here are similar mind-numbing indiscretions that ended the climb up the corporate ladder for some.

In 2020, Citibank accidentally processed an interest payment, transferring a whopping $900 million to lenders that was supposed to be only $8 million.

*  Samsung Securities, not to be outdone by Citi, the third-largest bank in the U.S., topped the bank’s debacle with an erroneous $105 billion payout, thirty-three times higher than intended.

*  Alitalia Airlines omitted two extra digits when pricing business-class airfare from Toronto to Cyprus, resulting in posting a price of about $33 instead of $2,558. The company did the right thing and honored the price but neglected to mention the punishment for the lamentable employees involved.

*  Finally, to show I don’t discriminate against one ride-hailing service vs another, Uber lost $45 million due to a miscalculation and entry in drivers’ commissions. That caused Uber to fill a few buses heading to extra-long lines at the job loss bureau.

Learn from these near-heart-stopping fumbles and always proofread three times, the last time aloud before pressing the send key.

I damn sure as hell will.

Serving on a number of boards, Michael is a frequent national speaker, and author of the business books “The Benevolent Dictator” and ”Tips from the Top.” 

Michael Feuer

Founder and CEO