Perhaps it all started with the telegraph. (Hey, they were charging by the word.) Or, was it the CB radio? Somewhere along the line we have all come to believe that brevity, even when not entirely correct, is somehow okay.
Today’s communication formats such as the various smart phones don’t lend themselves to being complete or correct. There is even an available statement you can add to your outgoing messages from these devices that highlights the fact that it wasn’t sent from a regular computer. (I guess the expectation is that folks on the receiving end will therefore be more forgiving.)
I won’t even get into Twitter. (140 characters is really constraining.)
It is sad, really, that we allow these things to affect our common sense. While I applaud the fact that I can send messages by email from my telephone, and while it is painstakingly slow compared to my regular keyboard where I can type 90 words per minute, I still take the time to get everything right.
The problem is that everything you send out from your desk (even that small one on your phone) is a statement about you. If it is sloppy or contains errors, your little excuse about the tiny keyboard really doesn’t change the impression you leave.
While you are primarily communicating with those you know from these little devices, I would suggest to everyone that the shortcuts you take shouldn’t be allowed to carry over to your regular correspondence.
Just as a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, the existence of careless mistakes in your written communications speaks to a certain lack of precision in your thinking and/or writing style.
I would be the first to admit that I use a lot of boilerplate in my communications. I get a lot of email, but that is not why. The primary reason is that I have taken great care to make sure the greater portion of my messages are entirely correct. Just as a lawyer uses boilerplate contracts because he knows what is in them, I use my frameworks for the same reason. This gives me the freedom to be creative in the balance of my message and to focus more heavily on the variable portion.
If you look at the formats in our membership directories you will notice that we have a basic style sheet. Our administrative staff goes to great lengths to eliminate most abbreviations and to tidy things up on your listing as best they can. In this way, each listing is as readable as it can be.
In your outbound communications, take the time to really think through what you are going to say, and don’t hesitate to write and rewrite before you hit send. Unlike verbal communication where you can say you misspoke, written errors in email last basically forever.
Now there’s a scary thought.