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OMG! It’s Time to Communicate Better

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By J. Thompson
Online Career Tips Staff

One can only imagine that the dawn of writing came when a caveman used a stick to write a message to his spouse in the dirt, “Gone hunting for Brontosaurus, be back for dinner.” This of course gave way to the chisel and stone, followed by pencil to paper, typewriters, computers and now mobile media.

So, why is it that as technology advances, the quality of our communications diminishes?

Many theories abound, but more likely, it’s caused by our dependence on spellcheckers and voice dictation software, combined with the fast and casual nature of online communications. Writing should be quick and relaxed in our day-to-day environment. However, in the workplace, the quality of our communications can directly impact our reputation. Don’t think so? Ask people what they remember most about Dan Quayle and the answer is often, “P.O.T.A.T.O.E.”

Everyone has experienced that split-second of panic. You just finished hammering out an e-mail, clicked spellchecker and instantly hit Send. Suddenly, you see words changed to “sails” when you meant “sales,” or “threw” versus “through,” or a name suddenly misspelled. Worst part is you used ALL CAPS to emphasize an important point. Now, it not only looks like you know the least, but that you know it the LOUDEST too! It’s not the end of the world; it wasn’t a tattoo you misspelled. But, if you’re consistently sloppy, so too will become your reputation.

[Let Your Value Shine]

Refine your E-mails

Remember that anything you write is documented and saved. It’s a living record of your thoughts and directives, so proofread and mean exactly what you write. Check to make sure you’ve spelled all names correctly. A typo here or there is not uncommon, but a misspelled name can offend recipients. If you do need to emphasize a point, underline, italicize or bold it. Stop using ALL CAPS and exclamation points, especially in the Subject line. There’s better ways to get your point across without giving the impression you need anger management.

Avoid Sore Thumbs Syndrome

Thumbs were meant for spacebars and hitchhiking, not texting. Give your sore thumbs a break when you’re in the office and switch the tone of your messages from abbreviated texting mode back to working professional. It’s important to remember that you’re communicating with a peer, not a high school friend. And you might be surprised with how far a simple “hello,” “thank you,” or a traditional salutation or signoff goes in getting what you need.

Don’t Get Acronym Happy

Either some people need an acronym intervention or there should be an acronym-overuse society to curb our tendency to truncate a great language to the point if feels like Orwellian Newspeak. So relax on the acronyms. Also, there may be people reading your communications who are not familiar with your acronyms and abbreviations so know your audience.

Distrust Spellchecker

Spellchecker is a fickle genie. Take for example homonyms a word that sounds like another word, but the two are spelled differently and have entirely different meanings. Spellchecker can give you a false sense of security that it will catch all typos, but is actually lazy when it comes to homonyms. Take a second to read back through everything you write, especially after using spellchecker. If you focus on refining your communications, with consistency, you’ll be regarded as organized and well-informed, rather than lacking attention to detail. It’s important that we take advantage of technology when writing, let’s just not have the quality of our communications revert us back to the stone ages.


J. Thompson is the Vice President of the Content team at American Public University. He earned an M.F.A in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and performed his undergraduate studies in English literature, political science and business management between the University of New Mexico and East Carolina University. His career insights draw upon experience as a communications vice president supporting learning management, applicant tracking, and talent and leadership development for Bank of America and other Fortune 500 firms.

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