Stop. Think. Communicate.

You would probably agree that much of the communication we do now is in written form whether it be email, text, on social media or even in a letter. When you write a letter, you probably take the time to check it through for mistakes or ask someone else to check it for you but can the same be said of the rest of your communications?

In our fast paced society, many people are expected to send between 50 and 100 emails per day so they are typed out as fast as possible. This is where I want you to refer back to the headline and — Stop. Think. Communicate. Before you press ‘send’ take the time to proofread your work. Bad spelling, poor punctuation, grammatical mistakes and inappropriate informal language all send a message to your audience and it’s not a good one.

The impression you are giving your reader might be that you don’t care, that you don’t have enough knowledge to use English correctly or that you are just lazy. None of these are the impression you want to give in business.

Feeling confused and frustrated with communicating?

Consider the following email:

hi stuart

thanks for your email. i would like to confirm the meeting for next tuesday at 10am.

regards

mike

If I received an email like the one above, I would think it lazy and would question the professionalism of the sender. You may disagree with me. You may feel that it doesn’t really matter because the email above is probably between two people who are friends, or at least close colleagues, but to me this is dangerous territory. How do you decide who is important enough to receive an email you have put your best effort into? Are you sure the email won’t be forwarded to someone else? Do you really know what judgement Stuart will make when he receives it?

It may sound obvious, but do check your professional correspondence before you send it to make sure you have used a capital to start each sentence and for individual names. A further tip I suggest for emailing is to wait to put in the recipient’s address until you have proofread your email. This gives you another chance to Stop. Think. Communicate and helps you avoid the ‘accidental send’ when you haven’t quite finished or checked your email through properly. I’m sure we’ve all shouted in frustration at our phones/computers/laptops/tablets after we’ve pressed ‘send’ and then spotted a mistake and wished we could go back to correct it.

The other issue I see all the time is mistakes with apostrophes. You probably fall into one of three categories here: you either avoid apostrophes altogether, put them everywhere just in case or you know exactly how to use them. If you are in the last category, congratulate yourself and move on to the next point.

Putting the apostrophe in the wrong place can alter the meaning of a sentence or distract the reader from what you are really trying to say. An incorrect apostrophe in the public domain can be extremely embarrassing to a business. If you need some guidance with using apostrophes correctly, see my factsheet on punctuation attached to this blog.

Finally, it is important to find the right level of formality for your correspondence. Nowadays it is common to communicate with customers and colleagues via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin or by text. This blurs the lines of formality and leaves people a little confused over how to communicate in the most effective way. As a general rule, I would say don’t type anything that you wouldn’t be happy saying to the person over the phone or in person. Also think about who is in charge of your company’s social media postings. Do you have rules or a policy in place? Do you need someone to approve all posts or do you trust the person with your company’s reputation? If you aren’t sure about the answers to the above, then I invite your for a final time to Stop. Think. Communicate.

Don’t forget that if you, or someone you know, would like some help with commas, capitals or apostrophes please see my free factsheet with four ways you can improve your use of punctuation.

Four Steps to Improve Your Punctuation