The 2018 Almanac of Digital Communication; A User’s Guide to Sending Messages in a Fragmented World
This is not intended to be a pedantic pedagogical tool for etiquette. This is simply a guide, from my personal and professional experience, for streamlining information to make your life, and the lives of the people with whom you interact with, a little less bombarded by a seemingly constant stream of data.
With a growing number of modes of communication from email to Instagram messenger, it seems more simple to get in touch. Different dings categorize different modes of practical and social communication. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a purist; thinking certain messages belong on certain modes for maximum effectiveness. I might come across as a stickler on this but I’ve done a great deal of thinking and have concluded that a minor tweak on the sender’s end can greatly alter the success of information getting through on the receiving end.
You’re sitting at your laptop in the morning, you’re writing a business casual email to a colleague, client, agent, superior and you get to typing the address of the meeting location you remember you were given via Facebook messenger. You log into Facebook reluctantly, something you’re proud you’ve gotten yourself into the recent habit of avoiding until after breakfast. You log in, and you see the surprising results of last night evening’s award ceremony and a good friend of yours is the glowing recipient of a prestigious accolade. You go to text her immediately and see a text from your boyfriend reminding you to take a box out of the car before driving away with something he’ll need for work later. After writing her a ‘Congratulations’, she calls you to quickly fill you in on the night. Getting back to your desk, you log out of Facebook quickly to get back to your email, remembering the reason you were on Facebook initially was to retrieve an address. After logging in yet again, searching and being unable to find the address, you remember it was actually sent to you via text message. You slowly recall your friend writing you via Facebook about the meeting’s talking points, saying they’d text you the address later, likely because it was texted to them. You embark on your scroll to retrieve it there, skimming past the tens of memes you’ve passed back and forth since last’ week’s meeting, phew.
I’ve come to a breaking point with this path-of-least-resistance-method of sending information likely because, it’s my job to get people from point A to point B. As a result, I’ve noticed habitual patters from senders that further perpetuate my strife in wrangling information.
A large aspect of how I gain employment relies on my ability to effectively and efficiently communicate via multiple streams of communication regarding a myriad of topics for several projects on various dates corresponding to numerous spreadsheets involving different but somewhat overlapping groups of people. I send and receive hundreds (no hyperbole) of emails a day. If I refresh my inbox and don’t receive new mail after several minutes in the work-day, it’s time to check on my phone or the internet connection. This isn’t because I’m popular or particularly important. My job as a producer (read future article on comprehensive job description) requires me to be the main hub of communication between multiple departments. I need to know a little bit about what everyone is doing. Overtime, I’ve mastered using email as the main portal to all that a project requires to get made. I’ve also been witness to many communication blips, challenges, tuffs, and gaps. This is most often caused by of a lack of knowledge that most people have of what people like myself do with said presented information, and thus present it in a way that makes my job more difficult and more vulnerable to errors. This can pose large problems, so I’m writing this in an attempt to expel certain habits from the modern creative.
I’ve tried to amass this list specifically for these people; the non-administrative types that need to put on an administrative hat on to do that other thing they are valued for, in my world, most often, these are the so called ‘creatives’.
Email. Always indicate the subject line with the project and subtitle, example BAKE SALE~Cash Flow. If you begin writing about cash flow and continue to another major topic, such as Aprons Rental, send the email and start a NEW thread entitled BAKE SALE~ Aprons Rental cc’ing everyone that pertains to the subject line. People such as project managers, etc. should be cc’ed on EVERYTHING. This isn’t because they are about to micro-manage how you affix the Bake-Sale signage, it is because they are the ones that are going to fetch the staple gun, and remind Janice to buy new staples at the Home Depot. Also, even if you said previously that you’d get the staple gun from your garage at the meeting, the project manager needs to mentally check-off that this is actually happening and they don’t waste precious time (the only resource really in any sort of project managing) implementing a plan B.
And above all, REPLY ALL REPLY ALL REPLY ALL.
It not because Dave gets severe, debilitating FOMO if he isn’t in the loop on every correspondence. He just needs to know a task happened so he can leave the office by 8 o’clock.
Addresses. If you write an address, please qualify the kind of roadway in full. For example, 32 Apple should be typed as 32 Apple Avenue (or Ave). This, as well as remembering to include a comma, and the city (, Toronto) will make your address text automatically Hyperlink to maps thus avoiding forcing the recipient to re-type the address into a map app and will ensure no false destinations upon arrival, or typing while driving for that matter.
Passwords, PIN numbers, SIN numbers, Licence Plates or any numeric code you may need to refer to should be emailed with corresponding subject line of what is emails. For example, ‘4652’ should be in the body of an email with subject line ‘VISA PIN’. Whether you deem this to be safe is up to you, call in if you don’t, but if you are writing a pin down somewhere to refer to it, avoid texting it so you can avoid scrolling through your 100-text thread with your best friend before finding it again. I’m able to pull up our business Visa PIN in real time every time we’re cashing out and forget it, and I forget it every time. I joke that my life is already built for me to have Alzheimer’s in old-age. I may not notice for the first twenty years of having it because of how I keep my files.
Job Inquiries/Job Opportunities. DO NOT text or Facebook Messenger any job opportunities or job inquiries. I LOVE SCREENSHOTING Facebook messenger and emailing them to myself three glasses of wine in on a Friday night at 11pm while at a party. Most people don’t realize how truly mind-numbing it is to not be able to mark a text or Facebook message as UNREAD. I treat my email as my to-do, so if it’s not marked as unread, I likely won’t get back to it. Also, I find it personally invasive to receive a text about a pending invoice at 11pm on a Friday night. Email is fine, no doubt, as the sender wants nothing more than to responsibly following up on payment at a time that works for them, fair. However, if you have a phone number, you likely have an email so do the courtesy of sending through email. This way, it is in the hands of the recipient, to choose when to receive that piece of information and act upon it.
This point really boils down the main point of this article. The information sent, should be the most effective method for the recipient. This seems common sensical, however, it feels as though it’s a manner lost amongst my generation; much like allowing people to exit elevators before entering them. That’s another story for another day.
I can’t emphasize this more. Receiving work related texts when you’re off the clock, whether you realize it or not, is a water drip-on-the-forehead torture method of working. Tiny increments of work all the time- made illegal in some countries, can be just as stressful as having worked that entire time. Nothing is going to move faster if I receive the message at 11pm or check my email at 8:50am, as accounting, the post office and everywhere else is CLOSED.
Notice of death. This one hasn’t changed since long distance calling became widely accessible. Calling and asking ‘Where are you right now?’, ‘Can you talk?’ ‘Are you sitting?’ still applies. Imagine getting a text while in the middle of a presentation because you had to keep your phone off airplane mode because Suzie was running late with the coffee and needed to buzz in her in once the meeting has started.
Birthdays- You are distancing yourself from others if social media is your only means of sending Birthday wishes. A text is okay for an acquaintance, a phone call is most appropriate for anyone you’d offer a hug to upon seeing them in person.
Facebook Messenger- is for invites to social gatherings, links to events, chats, chatting with an acquaintance whose phone number you don’t have/want. Other than that, avoid it. Do not, inquire about payment, a job or offer a job to someone via messenger.
ALWAYS send invoices as PDFs, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.
Include your phone number in your email signature. Just do it. We’ll get on the phone the old fashioned way. Things will move along a lot faster.