3rd January 2021

Getting 2021 right

2021 is a far cry from 2012. In this short article, we explore how two transposed digits make the world of difference to a year.  Accuracy matters whatever year we’re in, and whatever the mood of the nation. And this year it’s particularly tricky.

2-minute read

A long time ago, when teachers wrote the date in chalk on blackboards and children wrote the date at the top of each piece of work in their exercise books, the start of a new year was quickly assimilated. The new numerals were hardly ever incorrectly written. Nowadays, with digital devices at our fingertips we see the date in an instant and don’t write it so often. And that can lead to problems.

As we move into 2021, it will be all too easy to type the year as 2012. Known as a ‘transposition error’, this unconscious twisting of a couple of digits or characters can lead to all sorts of problems.  And it’s very easy to do, especially when the resulting date ‘looks’ right. In fact, 2012 may well look more familiar to us than 2021 because 2012 is not so long ago as to seem alien to our eyes.  And the numbers are next to each other on the keyboard. It takes a fraction of a second to type them in the wrong order. We are not likely to notice our mistake because our brains see what we expect to see.

Dating a legal document, payment, policy, or letter as 2012 instead of 2021 is likely to have serious repercussions. Those two little digits not only date the document nine years older than it really is, but also have the potential to invalidate it. At the very least they make the writer look silly. And inevitably, the necessary corrections will waste time because the work has to be done again. A simple transposition error which took no time at all to make, will damage both productivity and reputation.

I’m tempted to think that there might even be a psychological preference for typing 2012 rather than 2021!  2012 was the year of the London Olympics. It brings back fond memories of a time when the nation was united in cheering its many golden athletes to glory and of widely shared joy and celebration. What a contrast between the moods of the nation then in 2012 and how it feels now in 2021!

Whatever 2021 holds for us all – and let us hope that as the year unfolds the vaccine brings much-needed recovery and relief – it’s important that we get the year correct.

Here’s how not to make a mistake with the date:

if you are typing the date on anything this month, ask yourself, ‘what could be wrong with the date?’ before you click submit, or send. And proactively look for mistakes throughout the date, not just the year!

A date is an example of what we call an ‘Essential’ piece of information. Other examples include names, amounts, currencies, product codes and anything which is vitally important to the accuracy of your work. You should always check your work looking for these essential items first, as part of a three-stage structured checking technique. Please contact us if you’d like to know more.

Wishing you a happy, accurate and healthy new year from us all at Scott Bradbury.

www.accuracyprogramme.co.uk  accuracy@scottbradbury.co.uk

Getting 2021 right

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Accuracy Asides is the name of our accuracy blog

You get to hear about our latest accuracy course results, the real-life 'bloomers' which come to our attention and all the latest news and juicy gossip about errors! We share accuracy tips and advice too.

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