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Losing the Public’s Trust in 15 Seconds

On the evening of a recent Election Day, I went to a government website to look for local returns. On the site’s home page was this announcement in large letters: BE SURE TO VOTE TOMMORROW.

Tomorrow is a difficult word for many people to spell. I, myself, lost a fifth-grade spelling bee with precisely this error. It would help if we remembered the word’s roots and that it used to have a hyphen. The word was once to-morrow, meaning on the morrow, or on the next day: “I will see you to-morrow.” The useful hyphen that separated the parts of the compound helped to prevent extra m’s. Now we just have to remember: one m, two r’s.

In addition to the spelling problem, by the time I saw the message it was a day late. It should have been updated at 12:01 a.m. that Tuesday: BE SURE TO VOTE TODAY. Further, it should have been removed from the site the day after the election, but it continued to blaze forth for the next five days.

A disclaimer at the bottom of the page told readers not to trust the accuracy and timeliness of the website. Someone gets points for honesty, but a notice such as this, in addition to rank errors, quickly teaches people that you and your organization cannot be relied upon for even the simplest of things.

Having a website is not a fix-it-and-forget-it proposition, especially if you post timely notices. These will not be timely after a certain hour, and you risk losing the public’s trust if you do not delete the old and update with the new. Just as you wouldn’t leave posters about last week’s sale in your store windows, so you cannot leave outdated information on your virtual storefront — whether you run a for-profit business or some other enterprise.

Cannon Words can help you avoid these problems. Contact me today at writer@cannonwords.com.