Many business conversations take place over email. Instead of calling someone up or visiting in person, you whip up a quick email, copy whoever is involved, and send it off. Quick and easy. However, when communication takes place in writing, you must be very careful of the message you are sending and how it is being interpreted. You want your writing to be clear, concise, and – most importantly – professional.
Sending off emails (or reports, projects, etc.) that are littered with mistakes or poorly crafted can make an otherwise top-notch employee appear unprofessional. Here are some common errors to be aware of and keep out of your communications:
You may be incredibly excited that your team met their sales goals this quarter, or extremely upset that someone keeps jamming the printer, but that doesn’t mean you need to abuse the use of exclamation points. The same applies to question marks. One is enough. When you send out emails that scream, “We did it!!!!!!!!” or “Who has the Smith file?????”, it can make you look annoying and unprofessional. A little bit goes a long way; let your words communicate your message instead of abusing punctuation marks.
There is an art to using commas effectively. Too few and your sentences can become run-ons or lose clarity; too many and you have dramatic pauses and choppy sentences that are equally as hard to read. Use commas to set off nonessential clauses and phrases or separate items in a series. Be cautious about using them to insert unnecessary pauses. Keep your message short and to the point.
Apostrophes are highly abused and misused in writing. Remember – apostrophes make words possessive or turn them into contractions. If you simply want to make something plural, you do not need an apostrophe. For example, “Fridays are when payroll is submitted” is correct without an apostrophe, whereas “Mrs. Smith’s report is due today” needs an apostrophe. When you start adding incorrect punctuation marks, it can make others question your professionalism and grasp of the English language.
Before you hit “send,” make sure you check and double-check what you wrote to ensure that it is free from spelling or grammatical errors. It can be easy to hit the wrong key or get ahead of yourself when you’re writing and mix up letters or words. But even if you didn’t mean it and it’s clear what you were trying to say, careless errors make you look sloppy. Plus, a wrong letter, word, or number can totally change what you were trying to say, and that can cause a lot of problems. Take the time to proofread now to avoid headaches later.
Spelling and punctuation matter and they can say a lot about you as a professional. Strong written communication skills are important in many industries, so make sure you’re following proper etiquette and grammar rules.
This is true not only for workplace communications but for your resume and cover letter as well. These documents are often the first impression you make on a potential employer, so you want it to be a good one.