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Written Communication
By Kimberly Wybenga, CPSM
We communicate in writing everyday and maybe now more than ever. We communicate via email, texts, social media, collaboration tools, chats, and so on. We all know written communication can be misunderstood, taken the wrong way, or be confusing. You may never have meant something to sound bad, but it came across to the recipient as you are being angry, annoyed, or impatient with them. Here are some tips and tricks for things to avoid.
1. Beginning and Ending: Sometimes we are in a hurry to get a point across. We type out a message and press send. Did you remember to say, “good morning” or “hi Jan?” Did you finish your message with “thank you” or “sincerely?” I often will type out a message so I don’t forget the point I’m trying to make, then go back through and add these items. Without these, people can think you are being aggressive toward them. Good morning can go a long way and show that you care about the person.
2. Know Your Audience: Are you typing an email to your boss that just needs to hear the facts? If he or she is more hyper-efficient, be direct and avoid small talk. If you drag on about details, they are going to lose interest and possibly quit reading all together. On the other hand, if you are talking to a person who is bubbly and enjoys fun conversations, be sure to ask how their day is going and keep it friendly. Being direct can come across as dismissive to these recipients.
3. Highlighting: Highlighting can be useful to call out certain due dates, meeting places, or other pertinent data you want the recipient to pay attention to. When highlighting becomes hurtful is when you highlight too much or the wrong notes. I recently saw someone highlight multiple lines where the person called out that they didn’t see where something was ordered or why it was ordered. These are not statements you need to highlight. Keep calm and keep from busting out that highlighter in these situations.
4. Capitalization: Most of us are aware that when you use capitalization unnecessarily, it comes across as yelling at the recipient. You may actually be yelling at someone in your head, but that is the best place for your yelling to be… in your head and not spewed at others.
5. Fillers: Often we hear people talk with fillers when they tell stories such as: “um, I just think this is important; it was like awesome; well, ah he told me to get this proposal err done today.” Can you pick out the fillers? The most obvious one that you hear when people speak in public is “um.” When you write with what is coming out of your head, these words might make it to the paper. When you see a note that says “um, where is this item,” what comes to mind? That the person is annoyed? Yes, it doesn’t come across well. An alternative would be “could you please tell me where this item is?” When you use written fillers, it also sounds like your IQ is a little lower than it possibly is.
6. Exclamation Points: You may be excited about a certain topic but filling a paragraph with a ton of exclamation points can have the opposite effect, meaning nothing is exciting. One exclamation mark per professional email is a good rule of thumb.
7. Sarcasm: Sarcasm can always be taken the wrong way. This is not just in written language, but more often misunderstood in writing. When you use verbal sarcasm, the person listening usually gets cues by tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. These are all void when someone is reading a text you wrote. It goes back to know your audience. If you choose to be sarcastic, make sure the recipient will know that. In a professional environment, you should generally not use written sarcasm.
Bottom line, always reread your written notes, texts, emails, and cards so passive aggressive behavior doesn’t shine through. You may be pleasantly surprised how a situation can easily be fixed or avoided when we avert certain negative written behaviors.
Kimberly Wybenga, CPSM is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Mark Young Construction, LLC.
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