Alton was amused to hear that 22 October is International Caps-Lock Day. This made him think about the many frustrations of electronic communication.
International Caps-Lock Day was dreamt up by an American guy called Derek Arnold who was irritated by people using ‘all caps’ to highlight their opinions on the internet. We have all witnessed this phenomenon. Capital letters DON’T HELP EMPHASISE A POINT, THEY JUST MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THE CULPRIT IS SHOUTING AND RUDE!. On a more serious note, capital letters are also more difficult for the brain to process and for people to read.
Electronic communication has revolutionised the world since the 1990s. We can now instantly communicate with people anywhere in the world, whether in business or socially. However, it has also brought with it some strange and exasperating habits that I’m sure we wouldn’t accept if we were communicating face-to-face or in a more traditional letter. Here are my top 5:
1. Lack of punctuation
Ok, I will fess-up. My punctuation isn’t always perfect! I think I missed that day at school but I do try to use punctuation whether in a text, email or on social media. For some reason, not everyone thinks this way. Punctuation ensures your communication makes sense and avoids unintentional misunderstandings. A book we recommend at Rambutan is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss which has really useful stuff on this subject.
2. Rude emails
Email has lots to offer in terms of quick communication, but quick shouldn’t be rude. In previous organisations, I have often received emails that come across as impolite or abrupt, though I am (mostly) sure that wasn’t the intention of the writer. It doesn’t take much to make an email friendly. Just read it back to yourself before hitting send. Can you imagine saying that to someone face-to-face?
3. Excessive use of acronyms
This might be a bit controversial and perhaps I am showing my age, but acronyms can be really confusing. There are some standard ones that I think are ok, such as etc., ASAP, and FYI. I might even allow the odd LOL. However, acronyms like ROFL, WUU2 and LMAO aren’t known to everyone and probably shouldn’t feature in a business email. Others to avoid, especially if communicating to external partners, are business jargon acronyms specific to your organisation. I am sure you can make a list of these yourself.
4. Lack of clarity
One thing I think we can all agree is that the volume of communication we receive these days has increased dramatically. I have worked in organisations where receiving several hundred emails a day was a regular occurrence. When managing this volume you need to quickly ascertain what’s needed from you, by the writer, and anything that helps prioritise your inbox is always welcome. Emails need to be clear about what they want whilst being polite and friendly; nobody wants to read a 1000-word email! At Rambutan we use a simple method to help us prioritise; in the subject line of each email we include one or more of the following: [action], [info], [social] or [urgent].
Originally the hashtag (#) was a simple way of linking a post on social media to other similar postings. This seemed quite useful. However, hashtags seem to have crept into everyday communications without adding anything to clarity or understanding. #justsaying #stopnowplease #imbeingironic
So, that’s my top 5 bugbears. What would you add to the list? HAVE A GREAT DAY! LOL. #AMIJUSTGETTINGOLD?