As an editor, I spend a disproportionate amount of time pouring over the communication of others. While one could argue that this makes me hypersensitive to the correct use of English, it is also true that I get to see the common errors of modern English repeated again and again.
The importance of solid business communication is too important to not obsess over. When I say obsess, I mean over small details like the grammatical error in the last sentence (too). For those who noticed the incorrect word, my credibility went down a few notches. For me in particular, poor grammar is a sure sign of either carelessness or stupidity – two characteristics you do not want associated with you or your business. Digital communication means that there are even more avenues where our messages can get derailed. Here are some particularly common communication errors to be on the lookout for.
This is a personal pet peeve of mine. The most common that I see are “your” used instead of “you’re” and “then” used instead of “than.” Even more alarming is something like “there” vs. “their” vs. “they’re.” I consider these various uses to be more clearly understood, as opposed to immigrate vs. emigrate. When I am writing an email or creating a document, I often find myself turning to a dictionary or typing a grammar question into Google. The great thing about the Internet is that pretty much every question has already been asked and answered.
Not Spelling Ur Wrds Completely
Really? You are so busy that you do not have time 2 add vowels or write the word instead of a number? Gr8, please take your text-speak to someone else. This is an immature form of communication and has no place in business. Hard to believe but, yes, I have received articles that have had this problem. I am left to assume it was shorthand that the writer forgot to replace.
In a world where there is a computer essentially always looking over your shoulder at your spelling, there is no excuse for this error anymore. Nothing screams laziness louder than poor spelling in emails or other documents.
Apologies for Spelling Mistakes
I used to have the “apology for any typos” written in to the signature on emails originating from my phone because, as has happened to all of us, autocorrect forced itself upon me or my fat thumb hit an incorrect letter a few times. What I realized, though, is that this was already setting up a communication scenario that I did not like. All my messages came with an apology baked into them; I was asking my recipients to accept my mistakes and was overcompensating. It also suggested that I was careless and expected others to just deal with my errors, rather than take the requisite time to fix them myself.
Not Picking Up the Phone
No, writing is not the only format where communication goes afoul. Despite my love of the written word, often it does not cut it and, worse, I feel like we are actually actively avoiding phone use. I often have to exchange several emails just to schedule a phone call. What?! Therefore, too much writing can be a communication error in itself. Something like the Syn248 business phone system from AT&T is an invaluable tool for small businesses to facilitate a more direct communication format. Even between writers and editors, a phone call is often the better way to communicate about our work.
i.e. vs. e.g.
This could have technically been slotted under the first category, but its importance and frequency earned it its own place on this list. These two abbreviations are short for the Latin phrases id est (“that is”) and exempli gratia (“for the sake of example”), respectively. Therefore, i.e. should be used to say “in other words,” and e.g. should be used to precede a list of examples.
Written communication seems to be much more emphatic these days. More and more writers feel the need to really emphasize what they are saying, perhaps to stand out from the sea of content and other easily accessible viewpoints… I’m not sure. But before you CAPITALIZE ALL OF YOUR LETTERS or resort to excessive exclamation marks, consider more subtle highlighting techniques such as italics. One exclamation point is sufficient 99 percent of the time, and if your message actually requires more, two will suffice. And while we’re on the topic of excessive punctuation, an ellipsis is only three periods (…), not more.
You want people to focus on the content of your message and not the sloppy way in which it was delivered. Grammar and usage errors are distracting and can actually harm your reputation.