Professional Communication Advice From a Millennial

Let’s face it, millennials have a terrible rap for communication skills. Television shows, movies, etc. portray millennials as having their noses in their phones, refusing to interact with the world around them (think Karen Gillian in Selfie). Whether they’re texting, tweeting, posting or emailing they appear to be incapable of real communication. But appearances can be deceiving. All those forms of communication have actually made some of us pretty good at saying what we want to say, the way we want to say it, to the people who need to hear it, especially in a workplace setting. In fact, I challenge professionals of all ages to continue reading to see if they can relate to any of the following advice on how to communicate effectively in a digital work world.

1. Do keep it short & sweet

Twitter had a brilliant idea with limiting tweets to 140 characters. No one wants to read an entire page of text, and honestly, they probably won’t read all of it, especially if it’s not relevant.

2. Don’t use ellipses…

Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever… EVER! Though it’s common practice to use them in text messages, don’t use them in professional emails. Your friends know your personality and your tone well enough to probably gauge what you mean when you… But co-workers don’t and it’s just too easy to misinterpret what’s really meant.

3. Do use emojis

This comes with a caveat. Use smiling emojis. Just smiling emojis. Though a well placed smiley face in an email can make a co-worker also smile or at least feel better about a message littered with bad news, using winking or devil emojis are easily misconstrued. So keep it positive. And if you aren’t sure, don’t use it.

4. Don’t use all caps

In text, all caps is the equivalent of yelling. If you’re going to yell, do it into a pillow when you get home. Otherwise, email ‘yelling’ is passive aggressive and probably won’t get you the response you want from your recipient. A little addition for managers, using all caps in an email to your subordinates can come off as being passive aggressive and condescending. Even if they deserve to be yelled at, you’re not going to get a positive response and you may lose a little respect from the employees who want to impress you.

5. Do format your email

If you absolutely have to send out an email that’s a page or more, take a minute and format it into chunks of relevant information that’s easy for people to digest. People are more likely to read things that are visually appealing and well organized. If you don’t believe me, take a look at newspapers, magazines, blogs and even social media sites- they are all formatted the way they are for a reason (like decades of research by companies like Nielson)

6. Do be respectful

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this one. Keep all of your professional communication respectful. Assume your co-workers and managers know how to do their jobs (they did get hired for that position after all) and speak to them with the level of respect that you would want. Even if someone sends a nasty-gram, respond in a respectful manner, if you have to respond at all. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day, you’ll look more professional than if you engage in an email argument.

Truth is, even if we know all the do’s and don’ts of communication, there would still be miscommunications. It’s just human nature. But as professionals, it’s both the sender’s and the recipient’s responsibility to recognize that and respond accordingly. Hopefully, these few tips can help make your work emails and messages a little more effective in the digitally driven era we live in!