Monday, May 3, 2010

E-mail Ease or Language Dis-Ease

What is it about communicating in electronic form that makes people forget all the conventions of written language? I'm a great fan of e-mail as a wonderful way to stay in touch that might otherwise not happen. But I have some serious doubts about the way in which people use--or rather misuse this medium of communication. Two questions arise around the lack of form in sending e-mail messages: 1. Is the lack of written protocol a disguise for what is simply and inability to use form in writing? 2. Does this lack of protocol stem from one's use of this medium as a time-saver and thus, we dispense with the formalities of writing? I suspect that this lack of protocol lies in both.

Have you ever received an e-mail written in abbreviated words: "i am doing fine thanx. How r u? It was good 2 c u the other day. Let's get 2gether again soon." I find this difficult to read and very distracting. Perhaps the writer is saving time--their own time. Having to read and reread this message results in lost time.

How about lack of a subject line or just "Hello." This can be interpreted by your receiver as spam and not even opened. Be specific in your subject heading. Moreover, by dispensing with form in terms of a proper salutation such as "Dear" or "Hello", and a proper close and omitting to write your name at the end of the e-mail you are sending a powerful message to your reader. Although traditional letter writing uses a formality that appears stuffy and perhaps intimidating, the modern-day e-mail message sometimes lies at the other end of the spectrum.

Good manners in an e-mail message, do for you, the writer, what Mom said "please" and "thank you" do for how people perceive you--as polite! It also makes your message stand out as clean and courteous, reflecting its sender, much the same way a good resume make you stand out. Keep in mind that image still counts for something in electronic communication.

So how do you navigate form in electronic communication? If you are the former type of writer who has difficulty with writing and spelling, take advantage of the built-in spelling check feature of most e-mail software. Remember that the more you write, the better your writing will become. Don't let challenges scare you from sending off e-mail. However, if you are normally articulate in your writing, then why change into e-mail clothes? Keep doing what has traditionally worked for you in writing letters, papers and even in publishing.

Simple Rules to E-mail by:
  1. Capitalize at the beginning of sentences, especially the personal pronoun "I" and the first letter in your own name.
  2. Double-check for sentence fragments or incomplete sentences and run-on sentences that could be connected by the word "and."
  3. Remember to say "Hello" and Good-bye" and write your name at the end of your message.
  4. Before hitting "send," use the spelling check feature in your e-mail software. And proofread whether or not you have this function.

By following these simple actions, you will already be ahead in your writing. And you will achieve better results with your e-mails, definitely casting a professional image of yourself as a writer. Above all, keep writing. The more you write, the more polished your writing will be. What did you say your e-mail address was again?

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