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The question Business etiquette

A report has revealed that bad business etiquette and 'persistent sloppiness' is costing companies up to £2bn a year in lost contracts.

Which sloppy practices get you really annoyed?

People getting your name wrong on letters really bugs me. It is not as if my name is particularly difficult to hear or decipher. Amazingly, I once received a letter addressed to 'Annoy Walker'. The letter even began: 'Dear Annoy'!

Obviously I was really, well, annoyed!

Andy Walker, 36, communications director, London

Office answer phone messages that say 'I'm not available to take your call' but do not say whether they have gone for a meeting, a day, a week, left the business or died.

Dudley Swain, 53, performance manager, Devon

My greatest criticism is levelled at typographic errors which inadvertently change the meaning of a document. This demonstrates an appalling lack of attention to detail and may have serious financial or contractual consequences.

These failings are not restricted to junior staff.

Senior personnel have demonstrated themselves to be more than capable of these offences as well.

Simon Allan Lawrence, 27, highways and bridges engineer, Cardiff

Using e-mail as an alternative to telephoning people - it is good to talk. And putting things in e-mails that you would not write in a letter or memo - it is very easy to send an e-mail and easier still to be lazy about checking it before sending it.

Matthew Young, 32, innovation manager, Hants

I believe in agreeing completion dates with the contractor and client, rather than dictating them, so that both parties own the timescales. I then get very annoyed with parties who miss these dates, unless there is a genuinely good reason. But in my experience these are few and far between, with lack of resources the main culprit.

Dave Hooper, 39, principal engineer, Somerset

Working for Mouchel I am used to seeing weird and wacky misspellings on correspondence.

So much so that it is habitual to spell out my own and the company name on the telephone on each occasion.

The biggest mistakes in correspondence are usually found in large bold titles Andrew Powell, assistant project manager, Manchester

Mistakes are inevitable, but the key is to service your clients well so they can see that the odd mistake is just that, and not the indicator of an impending business collapse on your part. Most annoying modern mistake - an e-mail indicating a file is attached but where the sender has forgotten to actually attach it!

Gary A Kent, 35, principal engineer, Sheffield

Re-use of letters on word processing files, when the alterations for the new purpose are incomplete. Such errors are often both amusing and revealing.

Malcolm McKemey, 50, director, West Sussex

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