Since the dawn of the Internet age and the rise of social media, dramatic changes in communication have occurred that have blurred the lines between formal and casual writing. Nowadays, more and more people are beginning to send formal communications stylized in a format that would be more appropriate in a text message to a friend or a post on social media. In order to effectively communicate with a boss, coworker, or client, keep in mind a few simple rules:
• Use proper punctuation – Your email communication should not be a series of run-on thoughts without regard to commas, periods, and other formal punctuation marks. Remember to write in complete sentences correctly separated with periods and commas and with properly capitalized letters.
Also, the text message has made the use of the exclamation point much more common than it needs to be. Is what you’re trying to communicate really that exciting? If so, use exclamation points sparingly; one is always enough. Similarly, remember to cut back on question marks and ellipses (which should only have three dots).
• Avoid abbreviations and texting shorthand – Always spell out words and phrases fully. You might know what “IMO” and “TBH” stand for, but does your boss or potential client? If not, you run the risk of confusing them or seeming unprofessional.
• Don’t be too conversational – While it isn’t good to be too stiff and impersonal, being too familiar and conversational isn’t good either. If you’ve never met the person with whom you’re corresponding, always be polite and don’t become too informal too quickly. This might come across as disrespectful and reflect a lack of professionalism.
• Explain your thoughts fully – In the age of social media, you might be used to clicking “reply” and sending a response as fast as possible without giving much thought to your message. Not every idea can be communicated in 140 characters. Take time to write out a carefully thought out response that addresses all of the issues relevant to the topic at hand.
• Proofread, proofread, proofread – Always take time to look over and proofread your email line by line before sending it. Make sure the message is clear and free from typographical errors that would appear unprofessional to the recipient. Mistakes won’t go unnoticed.
Being too familiar with a coworker or client you’ve never met can be off-putting. All those with whom you correspond in a business setting merit some level of formality in communications—your supervisors likely expect it and your clients deserve it.