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Does your email make you look like a 3rd grader?

Posted by Vivian Wong on April 23, 2010


I love the convenience of modern technology – including text messaging and instant messaging.

While I still enjoy phone conversations, I tend to text people when my reason for contacting them is short and sweet, such as “C u in 5 @ XYZ”. I find texting wonderful because it is less intrusive than a phone call and I don’t need to beat around the bush especially with people I know very well.

But it’s one thing to use shorthand and abbreviations in a text message, it’s another when you to use them in official business emails.

Today I received an email from a candidate I interviewed last week. Let’s call him “Fred”. Fred  interviewed well but his email today did not leave a positive impression on me:

“Hi Vivian,I hope you have reached a decision for the job posting. Do u have any updates either way for me?? pl. Let me know. thx

This is the very first email Fred sends me, and he can’t be bothered to spell out “you”, “please” and “thanks”?

I couldn’t help but wonder if Fred has adequate written communication skills?  Does he code the same way he writes his emails? Fred could very well be a top notch employee, but his “half and half”  email-text message made him look sloppy.

Perhaps I am just old fashioned and prefer business emails to look like… well business emails. Not text messages.

What about you? What do you think about sending or receiving “text message like” business emails?

14 Responses to “Does your email make you look like a 3rd grader?”

  1. OMG! I know what u mean, LOL! 😉

    Actually, I can’t even stand abbreviations in IM or text messages. (I’m REALLY old-fashioned)

  2. Andrew said

    I completely agree with you. While simple daily communication between familiars can be shorthanded in email (provided you are able to do so without risking misunderstandings) more formal circumstances, such as the example you cite, should call for a more formally composed message. Even communicating B2B as opposed to internal messages should call for a more literate tone.

    That said, it is entirely possible (probable?) that “Fred” was sending that email from his phone, and that could be the reason he didn’t utilize formal English. That’s not an excuse, though. If communicating with a prospective employer is not viewed as something to take seriously enough to take the time to compose the email more carefully, perhaps even sitting down at your computer to do so, then it would make me wonder many things about the person, from their capabilities to their attitude.

    I know people (some of whom I’m even related to) who cannot be bothered to even use a shift key to capitalize first letters of sentences or names when writing emails to me. This, when I KNOW they are seated at work in front of a computer, not some cafe typing on their phone. I find it sad.

  3. […] Does your email make you look like a 3rd grader? […]

  4. Amy Wilson said

    Vivian – I find it particularly disheartening considering please, thanks, and you (as in, Vivian) are the 3 best words in the English language!

    Great post – thanks!

  5. Pratul said

    I hate that as well! Worse is when they address you as:

    @Vivian: do u hv any updates for me? Thx

  6. Meg Bear said

    I’m so disappointed that WP seems to have eaten my comment since I was going for something witty like Kathi. 😉

    Great post Vivian — another example of how people need to consider the audience in their communication vs. just themselves.


  7. Vivian,

    I agree with you. While abbreviation conventions are fine for text messages, a business email needs to be a more complete and not filled with the shortcuts and acronyms we often use in texts. One of my own personal approaches to email communications is that I try to avoid acronyms, even industry-accepted acronyms, as much as possible. I can never be certain that someone reading an email knows each and every acronym, even when they’re experienced in that particular domain of knowledge.

    Thanks for the great post.

    • Vivian Wong said

      Race – you are one of the best communicators I know. More people should be as thoughtful in their communication as you!

  8. Lackosleep said

    Wow! I agree wholeheartedly at the sloppy, childish appearance when using shortcuts, but what struck me funny was the reference to being “old-fashioned” by prefering more formal emails! I guess I am getting really old — my notion of being old-fashioned is preferring typewritten letters mailed through the post office!

    You guys crack me up!

    and TY


  9. I am all for concise (and precise) communication, but why shorten ‘you’ to ‘u’ and then add an extra ‘?’. Makes no sense to me.

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