Is “Text Message Grammar” Sabotaging Your Career?

subject: oops 🙂
hi, ted! could u send me a copy of that doc that anderson sent to every1 yesterday? deleted mine 🙁 thanx

Smartphones have given us the convenient ability to send emails as easily as text messages. Although this seems like a blessing for the business person on-the-go, many users have a hard time distinguishing between the tone of a casual text message and a business email.

About I week ago, I inquired about a car through Ohio dealership’s website. The salesman who responded via email wrote that I should click on the URL he provided in order to “see more pic of the car”. This responses surprised me, because I expected to be bombarded by dozens of professional and pushy emails from a super-slick, car salesman. I continued to correspond with him for a few emails, but the more emails I received from this salesman, the more I began to realize he was sending emails through a phone, using “text message grammar.” I was put off by his lack of professionalism, but because I was still interested in the car, I contact the dealership by phone and asked to speak to a different salesman.

Treating email recipients as if you are having a casual text message conversation could be loosing you both business and respect. Here are a few reminders to help you re-learn Smartphone, email professionalism.

Recognize that sending a business email from a phone is different than a text message

While this seems obvious, many people make this mistake everyday. Just think about it: when you are typing on the keypad of your phone, there is no real sensual difference between sending a text message or an email. Try to mentally remind yourself when you are sending an email that your recipient will most likely read your email on a computer, not a phone, and because of this, your grammatical errors will be magnified. Try to always follow the typical format of a letter or memo.

Use correct spelling and grammar

In my personal example, the style of the car salesman’s emails lost him a sale. If you are not careful with the impressions you are making through electronic communication, customers may get the impression that you are not taking them seriously. In business, everyone should be treated as a customer (someone who has influence over your ultimate success). As a potential influence over the success of your career, everything in your work sphere should be professional. In this world of ever-lessening standards in and out of the workplace, consistent professional poise and confidence will not go unnoticed. Professionalism will increase the level of trust your employer or customers have in you. One thoughtless, unprofessional email could remain in your superiors’ and coworkers’ heads until the next time you are up for a raise or promotion. Don’t sabotage yourself for the sake a quick email.

Avoid abbreviations and text message slang. Write “Thank you!” or “I appreciate your help!” instead of “Thanks” or “thanx,” or “pictures,” “photographs” or “images” instead of “pics”. Never type “u” or “@”.

Communicate clearly

In addition, in an email you do not have the luxury of vocal tone, facial expressions and body language – most people merely assume that the person “gets” what they are trying to communicate. A short email stating “ok” might be perceived by the recipient as rude, curt or make them feel like they have annoyed you. Recognize the way your words could be perceived and take steps to communicate with clarity.

Although it may take an extra few seconds on your Smartphone, use full sentences and even refer to the past email your recipient sent in order to be as clear as possible. Use proper sentence structure – capital letters and punctuation – in order to convey your sentiments. Never assume that your recipient will simply understand your attitude or tone. Never use emoticons, like 🙂 on every occasion and try to avoid capitalizing whole words or surrounding words in asterisks (*) for emphasis. Instead use more precise verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs to convey an accurate portrait of the way your are feeling.

Do not forget to use line breaks

Frequently Smartphone users will send emails in this format:

hi, thanx for contacting about the car. i think we could prob meet @ noon tomorrow @ the coffee shop. do u need directions? thanx.

Aside from the obvious spelling and grammar issues, if this email were sent from a computer, there would be line breaks between the greeting, body and closing. In this example, everything runs together in one paragraph. Think back to the style of a letter or memo and make sure there is a space between each paragraph.

Activate your Smartphone email signature

As a last resort, if it is imperative to send a short response, be sure that your Smartphone signature line is activated. You may have seen in the emails you’ve received from other Smartphone users: “Sent from my iPhone” or “Sent from my Verizon Blackberry”. This will alert the recipient that you sent the communication through a mobile device rather than a formal computer setting. You can’t guarantee that the person will not be confused or offended by your short, casual response, rather it is an extra step of security if you are in a bind to send an email.

Finally, keep in mind that emails are an inevitable part of your job. Business emails are not just another text message, they are the method through with you communicate indispensable information between employers, customers and coworkers. Get back into the habit of treating emails with the same importance as official letters or memos – because, honestly, that’s what they are! You are not entitled to your job and in this economic climate you are lucky to have it. Honor your employers and customers by being professional in all aspects of the job.