Slow down, you move too fast

Yes, that’s Ludwig van Beethoven over there, but I’m channelling Simon & Garfunkel. So what does “feelin groovy” have to do with writing for business or educational purposes?

Bust of Beethoven

Back in 66, the groovy pair sang:
“Slow down, you move too fast You got to make the morning last.”

You, the writer, have to make everything you write last – not, perhaps, deathless prose, but clear and making sense – so that your message lasts and stays in your reader’s mind.

This week I followed a link to a contender for best typo of 2017. Despite being a highly reputable new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven, a crucial typo changed the composer’s life story dramatically. Referring to his struggles with increasing deafness, the author wrote “Despite being dead [my emphasis], he continued to write music . . .” Amazingly brave and persistent of Beethoven–his music literally living after him.

This possible Typo of the Year highlights the vital importance of proofreading everything you write. Proofreading, like any worthwhile activity, takes time. It cannot be done in a rush to meet a deadline.

Festina lente  –‘make haste slowly’– is a piece of advice that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans, and re-echoed by many great writers. A paraphrase of it is ‘More haste, less speed’.The 17th century French poet and critic Nicolas Boileau applied this maxim to writing, especially poetry.A translation of his poem reads:

Slowly make haste, and without losing courage;
Twenty times redo your work;
Polish and re-polish endlessly,
And sometimes add, but often take away

Now, you might well be writing poetry (I do), but generally your writing is intended to informative, educative, or promotional. In all these cases, the last thing you want is a typo or an inappropriately chosen word to kill your message stone-deaf dead.

Another typo example from the web, this time an Australian university’s online newsletter, describing their art gallery function space as “the perfect sitting for your next event.” Just one wrong letter making their intention fuzzy. You have to hope they have enough chairs in the gallery, if patrons at all events must be sitting.

Festina lente; Make haste slowly; Slow down, you move too fast; can all be summed up in the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, cut once.” Taking it slowly, taking time to read through several times (and get someone else to read it through, too) to make sure everything is correct and as intended, will save you time and embarrassment later having to fix unforced errors.’

You can read more about the necessity of proofreading at Reasons not to trust your spellchecker

Until next time,



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