Happy National Punctuation Day, grammar nerds!
As a self-proclaimed grammar geek myself, I hold today in high regard. Grammar’s not easy; the English language is filled with strange rules, weird symbols, and a vast array of vernacular that is slowly creeping its way into everyday, accepted use.
National Punctuation Day may be about celebrating the correct usage of our grammatical symbols, but it also brings to mind several questions about communication in today’s world. Digital communication allows us to be fast; we have the capability to connect with anyone in any location around the globe. This has opened up immense doors for our civilization, but like any good thing, it doesn’t come without its consequences.
Slow Down There, Speedy
It’s always been difficult to remember to call your mother, but with the advent of digital communication, such as text messaging, it makes it even harder. Why call her when you can just ask a question with a quick text? And there’s simply no use spending time writing your loved one a handwritten note when you can shoot a quick “I love you” text or email in the morning. Communication took longer back then. Things that take longer require more effort and, because of that, more thought is generally put into it. Because digital communication is so much faster, texts and emails tend to be sent without taking time to think about how the message may be perceived on the other end.
What’s That Supposed to Mean?
Often, it’s simply impossible to decipher true intention from a text message or email. You send a carefully thought- (and typed-) out email to your most important client, boss, or even significant other. You’ve rewritten it multiple times, made sure all points were made, all t’s crossed and all i’s dotted. The response? “Sounds good.” “Ok.” “Thanks.” Or maybe you don’t even receive a response at all.
Regardless of intent, this type of response comes off as undeniably curt, basically screaming, “I did not read this because I do not have time for you.” Because we’ve gotten used to the rapidity of digital communication, it’s easy for us to overlook common niceties, sending messages without considering how the other person will read them.
You Don’t Know Me Like That
Digital communication has also introduced a completely new dialect: emojis and “text-speak.” Using emojis isn’t just for your teenage daughter. I’ve seen businesspeople (including myself!) use these to help infer inflection in both text message and email. Inserting a “ 🙂 “ or a “haha” after asking a tough question or giving an undesirable answer has a great way of softening the blow. It’s almost like a digital eyelash-bat, helping you not feel so crappy about what you’re saying.
But I ask you, dear Reader, where is the line? Is it appropriate to use emoticons and abbreviated language (such as “lol,” “imo,” or even a “haha”) in professional communication? This is a question that has yet to be answered by scholars, but should be examined carefully and on a case-by-case basis. The key is to know your audience before you let that “lol” fly.
And Who Are You Again?
Because digital communication is so fast, so short, and so questionable, it comes off as impersonal. Everyone is capable of shooting over a quick email before heading off to lunch with often little to no effort put into this type of exchange. It takes a lot more effort to send a handwritten note of appreciation or take your client out for coffee. And with business in particular, this kind of personal attention can yield great results.
Since it is National Punctuation Day and all, this blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how, just by using our own personal punctuation styles, digital communication has made some of us look like sassy drama queens, over-caffeinated teenagers, or silly fools. Consider the following:
“Thank you for sending this over! We can’t wait to get started on this project with you! Everything looks great! We make a great team! AWESOME!”
Sometimes, people are tempted to use an exclamation point at the end of every sentence because they are nervous about sounding uninterested or rude. Don’t be that person.
“I thought that this was supposed to be red????”
When we speak, our voices tend to have an upward inflection at the end of a particularly annoyed statement. Some people think that it is appropriate to use a question mark (or 5) to convey annoyance in an email. Don’t be that person.
“thx for sending will review as soon as im back at my desk”
Even if you are away from your desk, using your smartphone or tablet, or typing while driving (please don’t do this), it looks unprofessional when you send a message that uses no punctuation, capitalization, or basic grammar rules. Don’t be that person.
Don’t Take Grammar for Granted
Though today specifically celebrates the periods, commas, semicolons, and apostrophes of the world, we thought that it created a great excuse to ask some of the bigger questions about communication as a whole in our digital age. Digital communication is great, there’s no question. But the important thing is to be cognizant of how you are communicating online. Think about the person on the other end and how they will perceive your message, and do another quick read-through before hitting “send.” If you think you are losing touch with a loved one or client, send them a handwritten note or invite them out for lunch. A little effort goes a long way.
Happy National Punctuation Day!