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Build Your Skills: Take care when creating e-mail correspondence

Use proper grammar in e-mail correspondence


E-mail has revolutionized the way we do business. It has made it easy for people all over the world to stay in touch. But it’s ruining the way we use the English language. I’m calling for everyone in IT to set a better example for the rest of the English-speaking world. Let us all resolve to pay better attention to the way we write in e-mail correspondence.

The right way is the only way
I am positively sick and tired of getting e-mail with spelling errors, grammatical errors, and Web shorthand. I have a friend who has a Master’s degree in biology and has written or co-written dozens of scientific papers. Yet his e-mail notes are littered with phrases like “Can U believe it? Sounds Kewl! CU L8r.”

I hate that crap. It’s juvenile. It hurts to read. It makes my friend sound like a complete idiot.

Over the years, I’ve received thousands of e-mail messages from colleagues, potential contributing writers, and technical people who don’t correctly use the words its, it’s, your, you’re, their, and they’re. I just want to shake these people and say, “Hey, what’s so hard about using proper English?”

Here’s the thing. Nobody ever received an error-free e-mail note and thought, “Gee, what an idiot this person is for using spell-check.” But when you send out a note that contains errors, your credibility suffers, plain and simple.

And you never know when something you’ve written will be forwarded to someone outside your department or outside your company. What you write could be read by anyone.

Slow down and check it
There are many techniques you can use to clean up your e-mail. Here are some suggestions.
  • Do long notes in your word processor. If you’re writing a long note, do it in your word processing program first. Run spelling and grammar checks, and then copy that clean text into the e-mail message.
  • Use spell check. Most e-mail applications have spell-check utilities built into them. You can either run the check manually or configure your e-mail program to automatically check your spelling when you click the send button.
  • Re-read. The most important thing you can do is re-read what you’ve written before you send it. You can spare the precious few seconds it takes to re-read your note, from top to bottom. In addition to catching and fixing spelling or grammatical errors, the second pass will help you remember something you need to add, or spot something you should change or delete.

Nobody writes a perfect first draft every time. Don’t let your ego convince you that anything you write is above review.
Is it just me? If you’d like to share your opinion about the state of spelling and grammar in e-mail messages, please post a comment below.

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