When your thumbs do the talking, take extra care

Thx, C U soon, Same 2 U, Lv and miss u, R u kidding?, LOL 🙂

Text talk. It’s such an efficient way to communicate with friends and family when we’re on the go. The list above comes from a quick scan through my recent iPhone messages from family, friends, and co-workers. If you’ve ever seen me on Locust Walk, you’ve probably seen me fiddling with my phone, writing texts, talking to my dad, and checking email.

I’ve come to realize this technology is a blessing and a curse. My smartphone makes it easy to keep up with current events and what’s going on with work when I’m not at my desk. And sending “miss u, love u” messages and photos of my three year-old to my parents, siblings, and in-laws takes much less time than calling everyone. But do I need to be so obsessive about checking email? Probably not. And an emoticon could never replace my daughter’s smile when she hears the voice of a loved one who is miles away.  But enough of my musings about my own bad habits…

At work I recently received an email that simply said “+ Jennifer”. For a moment I thought this was a weird reference to Orwell’s double-plus type Newspeak from 1984.  But after rereading the email I came to the conclusion that since Jennifer (not my colleagues real name) had been left out of the previous email  “+ Jennifer” meant ‘Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t include you in my previous email. Please join us at the meeting tomorrow. I look forward seeing you then.” Or something like that.

Then I thought, wow, that’s really unprofessional. And then I remembered how just a few days earlier I nearly sent a co-worker an email from my phone that read, “Thx c u tomorrow.”  But before I hit send I (thankfully) realized I was in email NOT messages so I thumbed my way back and typed out a more coherent response.

For years I have groused with colleagues about the increasing number of students who are too informal and unprofessional in their email tone, often neglecting to use capitalization or proper punctuation. I frequently remind students that even if they write informally when emailing me with questions, they should use a more professional tone and take care with their grammar when writing to professors, prospective employers, alumni, and other networking contacts.

But my near miss made me realize how easy it can be to stick with the informal texting language when we’re switching so quickly between texting, email, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. on our smartphones. But my advice to students, and myself, remains the same. When corresponding via email in any type of professional context, take the time to write a thoughtful, well written, grammatically correct message with a professional tone. (Note, professional can still be friendly and shouldn’t be stodgy).  The recipient may or may not be a stickler for this kind of thing, but if he or she is, you might not receive the response you were hoping for, or you might not receive a response at all.

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.