Business Writing: It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
Nowadays, it often seems to me that it’s trendy to be “incorrect”: the grammar and spelling in emails, Tweets, and chats have become less important than the real meaning behind them. And really, that’s the whole premise of communication. All too often in my role as an editor, though, I come across business writers trying to follow that lead—and that can be risky. Personal messages may allow some creative license, but getting too careless or casual with business messages—emails in particular—can damage your brand.
For instance, what should recipients make of messages like this?
- YEP THATS GREAT THANKS
- good to go thanks i sent over the info did u rec it?
- thanx for the pic’s I have to check with the com so Ill get back to you tomo
Granted, I’m a writer, both as a profession and as a hobby, which means I probably pay a much greater attention to technical details than most people do. And of course, everyone makes the occasional goof in their business correspondence, especially when it’s a relaxed exchange. When I receive an email like the ones above, though, I can’t help but jump to one of several conclusions:
- The author is replying in a hurry and making careless errors.
- The author is using a mobile device and some variation of “textspeak.”
- (scariest of all): The author doesn’t have a strong grasp of basic grammar and writing skills—let alone those appropriate for business communication.
Any or all of these theories might be true for each email – and none of them are particularly flattering. Many would argue that the traditional rules of written language are rapidly becoming obsolete—that we live in a digital world where abbreviated messaging is becoming the norm for faster, easier communication. Given that evolving trend, why should it matter how much precision businesses put into their everyday email correspondence?
The answer is simple: the care you put into ANY correspondence, however large or small, reflects on your image as a reliable, professional brand. And if your email readers are puzzled, confused, or turned off by the quality of your message, even a casual chat can make a big dent in your business reputation.
When careless errors make their way into your email correspondence, they reinforce a negative impression of your brand, at a subtle, fundamental level. An email that looks hurriedly typed, for instance (with misspellings or careless mistakes) signals to me that I’m not a high priority for the sender, since he or she didn’t take the time or care to write more thoughtfully. Similarly, a “mobile” message (in textspeak, all caps or all lowercase, or without any punctuation) suggests that the sender is getting back to me as just another item on a list, whenever it’s convenient for them. And an email that’s just poorly written in general only makes me cringe and question the sender’s knowledge, expertise, and sincerity.
If emails can say so much about individual authors, what do they reveal about the company’s competence and reliability on a larger scale? Because emails are often one-on-one, any unfavorable impressions formed by the reader will be personal ones – which means they’ll most likely stick, even if your product or service is top-notch. The same idea applies to internal communications as well. Poor quality emails or memos set a precedent for the same standards in your employees’ own work, and prompts a lack of respect for their superiors and the company as a whole.
Remember: even in casual business correspondence, you’re always representing your brand. It only takes a few seconds to re-read your message, fix a spelling error, or add some punctuation – so take the time to polish your email before you hit “Send.”