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Email Professionalism…not a text too late

Email Professionalism…not a text too late

Hey! R u der? OMG did you read Ken’s memo? LOL  – LOL in Business Email? Not So Fast.  An article worth reading.

This article directly relates to side 2 – Sending the ‘Killer’ email, as mentioned in the first part of this series.  I will elaborate more as I continue the series, but I thought it would be a good read and share in the meantime.

Titled: LOL in Business Email? Not So Fast.
By: Elizabeth Danzinger from WorkTalk

Hey! R u der? OMG did you read Ken’s memo? LOL

At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I protest the incursion of “textisms” into business email.  Acronyms like “OMG” and “LOL”, short forms like “u” and “thru” and “r” do not belong in professional discourse.  Moreover, email provides other elements that make it superior to text-messaging as a medium of business communication.

On December 21, 2010, The New York Timesran a front-page article titled “In Youthful World of Messaging, E-Mail Gets Instant Makeover”.  According to the newspaper, teens and 20-somethings find email more cumbersome than texting, involving, as it does, the agonizing process of logging on to an email account, reading a subject line and clicking to open a message.  Add to that the unendurable problem that emails might sit unopened for many minutes or even – horrors – hours, before being opened.  I know I’m betraying my age here, but does anyone else remember when one wrote letters on paper, dropped them into mailboxes and actually waited days before the message arrived, then more days until receiving a reply?

To some extent, those days are gone.  However, as a form of communication between snail mail and texting, email provides some of the key benefits that old-fashioned letter writing offered: It gives the opportunity (even if most people don’t use it) of thinking out and composing a careful message. It provides a permanent record (even if most people forget this).  In today’s business environment, it has the status of legally binding communication.

If you’re a teenager, or even an adult, whose message concerns when and where to meet for lunch, what you thought of a popular movie, or what you are doing at the moment, okay, so text.  There’s no need to document the interaction and no cost if you express yourself poorly.  But if you are in the business world, even if all you are doing is setting up an appointment, don’t rush to jettison email.  The subject line, the paper trail and the use of correct language all make the difference between sounding like a credible professional or sounding like, well, a kid.

According to The Times, Facebook has disposed with the subject line and the cc and bcc lines in its messaging program.  They’d found that most people were leaving the subject line blank or filling it in with a helpful phrase like “Yo!” or “Hey!”.  This doesn’t say much for the Facebook crowd. If all 500 people on your Friends list really are your friends – and if all your communications are personal – then perhaps you don’t need a subject line.

But if you’re writing to propose a business deal, provide a status report, or create a trail of accountability within your organization, then subject lines still matter.  They should contain the essential point, or request, or piece of data that helps you fulfill the purpose of the email.  As I write in the Ten Principles of Effective Email online course offered at WorkTalk, the subject line is where you hook your reader’s attention, where the reader decides whether to read or delete your message.  Subject lines are valuable tools for giving an instant overview of your message.

Using real words also marks you as a grownup worth listening to.  Acronyms and textisms butcher the language and befuddle readers who are not hip to the lingo.  (Note to the text-crazed: Some of those befuddled readers might pay your salary or make decisions about whether to give you business.)  Spell out words and write complete sentences.  Think through your message before you send it and state it clearly; the extra time that it takes you to craft and proofread your message will pay off in increased credibility and ultimately, increased profitability.

Another reason to use email instead of texting is that email creates a permanent, binding record of your interchange.  Proposals are presented and accepted via email, obliging both parties to adhere to the emailed agreements.  Text is ephemeral.  Email has taken the place of much paper correspondence and now carries the weight of a written contract.  If you want to maintain a chain of agreement and accountability, use email.

In short, the texting revolution may be here to stay, but it should not dethrone email as a primary form of business communication.  Texting’s extreme informality and irritating shorthand make it inappropriate in situations that call for clarity and professionalism.

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