Reader Q&A: Improving Attention to Detail

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I just had my semi-annual review. My feedback was generally good, but I was instructed to work on my attention to detail in my written work. Any suggestions?


I’m so glad your review went well! Attention to detail is extremely important for many jobs.  At the same time, it’s an area where a lot of people struggle and a very common note for improvement during review time, especially if your job requires a lot of writing.  When you are instructed to improve your attention to detail, you’re really being told to stop making little mistakes. This applies to both the substance and formatting of your work product.  Some tips:

1) Proofread everything: memos, document mark-ups, emails, etc. Figure out a foolproof way to catch errors. That could mean printing out the document and reviewing in hard copy. Or read it from the bottom up, starting with the last sentence. Reading out of context sometimes makes it easier to catch errors. Try out different methods until you hit on one that works for you.

2) Pay attention to formatting: Your memo may include a killer argument, but if you use multiple fonts or font sizes, inconsistent spacing, weird margins, or present a multi-page wall of text without headers, the reader’s eye is going to be drawn to that stuff, not the substance. Ask for sample work product from your supervisor to get a sense for their preferred style and mimic it. Also, your company might have style guidelines you should use for certain communications like newsletters or client proposals. Make sure you follow those.

4) Review markups without tracked changes: If you are asked to turn edits on a document and to make your edits in tracked changes, look at the document without tracked changes showing before returning it to your supervisor.  This will help you catch any typos, formatting problems, or substantive issues, which are easy to miss in a mark-up.

5) Before handing in an assignment: The last thing you should do before turning in an assignment is to look back at your notes from the initial request to make sure you answered the question asked. If you have received edits or feedback along the way, check those to make sure you incorporated all those comments into your final draft.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Reader Q&A: Avoiding Alcohol at Work

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Today, I answer a question from a junior employee concerned about turning down a drink at work.


I am working at my first job after college. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but so far it’s going great! I have noticed that my office tends to blow off steam and bond by going out for a drink after work. I don’t drink alcohol. Is this going to be a problem for me? What should I say if people notice I’m not drinking?


Congrats on your new job! Work events can tend to focus on drinking whether it’s a weekly happy hour or a big client dinners. But if you don’t drink – for whatever reason – it shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ve seen lots of people successfully handle this in a few ways:

Option 1: Order a beverage – like a glass of club soda with lime – and sip on that. You don’t need to call attention to the fact that it doesn’t contain alcohol if you don’t want to.

Option 2: Order an alcoholic beverage and just hold it all night.

Option 3: Turn down a drink with a simple, “No thanks.” Or with “No thanks, I’m good for now.” (Adding “for now…” might invite a second offer of a drink later, but it usually stops conversation in the moment.)

Option 4: Turn down a drink and explain that you don’t drink: “No thanks, I don’t drink.”

Whatever you decide to do on any given day, the key is to be casual and treat it like a non-issue. Usually everyone else will follow suit. But…sometimes, they don’t. Here’s how this can play out if you come across someone who tries to turn it into a big deal:

Boss: Hey employee, grab a beer!

Employee: I’m good, thanks.

Boss: Are you sure? We’ve got wine too, help yourself!

Employee: I’m fine, thanks. So, what do you think of tonight’s event? Great venue, huh?

Boss: Yeah, it’s cool. You sure you don’t want a drink?

Employee: Yeah, I’m good. I don’t really drink. So, I wanted to ask you about xyz file you’re working on…

Partner: You don’t drink? What? Why?

Employee: No, I don’t. (Or, No, I don’t, due to allergies/religion/never developed a taste/etc.) I am, however, basically responsible for keeping my favorite seltzer company in business! Anyway, what’s keeping you busy these days?

Boss: Actually, I’ve got this really great new project…

In short:

The easiest way to make this a non-issue is to: (1) have some kind of beverage in your hand, even water, making it easier to turn down a drink without explanation, (2) decline casually with a smile, and (3) appear to be having a good time at the event even if gasp, you’re not drinking alcohol. Abstaining around drinkers sometimes causes the drinkers to question their own alcohol consumption. This is a them issue, not a you issue, but you may find you have a better time at alcohol-soaked work events if you maintain a low-key approach.

In the vast majority of situations, I think you’ll find that abstaining is just not a big deal or even noticeable, so don’t worry about it, and keep rocking it at your new job!

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash