In a world with increasingly impatient people who prefer getting their news in short 140-character bursts, it’s clear that communication is no longer a laid-back process in which ideas are lovingly crafted and meticulously planned, drafted, and edited before being sent on their way. The merits of this decrease in our cultural attention span could be argued, but like it or not, today’s average Joe/Jane seems firmly locked in to the idea that communication is a casual thing that does not reflect on the sender.
In truth, not only is this faulty thinking, but following poor communication practices can have adverse effects on one’s career path, as well as one’s standing with others. Someone who can communicate intelligently can make a good impression on a potential employer, or an existing supervisor.
Today’s most common medium of written communication is E-mail, and because of its wide availability and ease of use, E-mail has become one of the sloppiest forms of communication. Here are a few common E-mail blunders you should avoid, particularly in professional correspondence.
Blunder #1: Putting the entire content of the E-mail in the Subject line. Few things can be more annoying to a business professional than to get an E-mail with an empty body and a subject line that spans the width of the computer monitor. Even if your communication is short, putting all of it in the subject line is like sending a blank piece of paper in an envelope that has a question written on the outside of it. The subject line is just that – a subject. It should summarize the communication, not contain it.
Blunder #2: No greeting/closing. Because E-mail is so much faster than postal mail, it is viewed as less formal, and so many common letter-writing techniques have fallen by the wayside. However, courtesy never goes out of style, and a simple greeting line of the recipient’s name followed by a comma, or even a dash, goes a long way. Similarly, a closing “Regards” or even a simple “Thanks” should not be omitted.
Blunder #3a: No signature. Just as hanging up a phone without saying goodbye leaves the person on the other end hanging, wondering if there was a premature disconnect, an abrupt ending to an E-mail gives a feeling of incompleteness. If nothing else, at least append your name or initials.
Blunder #3b: A signature that is too long. On the other hand, don’t go overboard. If your signature is longer than the E-mail, there might be a problem. A proper signature should contain your name, job title, and contact information. Don’t be afraid to include a short quote, but it shouldn’t be a paragraph.
Blunder #4: No punctuation. We learn punctuation in elementary school. Sending an E-mail with no periods, commas, or any other kind of punctuation sends a message that you might not have learned those early lessons. At the very least, it could send the message that the recipient isn’t worth the extra fraction of a second it takes to press a period or comma key. Avoid the appearance of laziness.