What Are You Communicating?

We’ve all done it: used a text acronym/lingo or emoticon. Efficient? Maybe. Professional? Not so much.

In today’s world of texting, emailing, and instant messaging (is that term even used anymore?), it’s pertinent that our messages are carefully constructed to say what they really need to say and are said professionally.

I think we can all agree that tone can easily be misconstrued in written communication. I tend to write as if I were conversing with another person, but in a written setting, my tone can come across completely different than if I were speaking to someone. People who know me on a more personal level could probably pick up my tone in a written message. Those who don’t know me could interpret my tone completely differently. This is why when I have to write, no, craft an email, I will spend extra time ensuring my verbiage is appropriate for the intended audience. I will fret over a two-sentence email for way longer than necessary because I know who will be reading it. Even though this may take more time out of our day, we should all take the time to read and reread our written communication before we hit “send.”

I once received an email from a student who was upset about her grade in our online course. The tone of her email came off as rude, disrespectful, and accusatory. Being a novice instructor, I took it very personally. My natural response was to write back with the same kind of tone because her email had infuriated me; then, I thought better of it. As an instructor and someone in a professional position, I took a deep breath, wrote and rewrote my response several times until I felt it was an appropriate, professional response. Before sending it, I had a colleague read both the student email and my response to ensure I was not sending the same kind of tone the student had sent to me.

For some tips on tone and emails, Psychology Today and The Writing Center at UNC have some great articles on the subject.

Oh, BTW, some of the acronyms listed in the link at the beginning stand for NSFW (Not Safe for Work) terms. Proceed with caution. 😉


One comment

  1. Again, a timely and relevant article that I feel was written specifically for me (it may have been :). I never saw the point of an opening greeting and a colleague recently told me….can’t you say hello before you start writing? I thought, well…I’m in a hurry and need to get my message across, no time for chit-chat. However, looking back I can see a quick, “Hello” is what I would have said in person, so why not open a written message with a little bit more friendliness. Thanks again for your extremely applicable message.


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