You are currently browsing posts tagged with error-free

Texting and Writing

§ March 1st, 2011 § Filed under communication, small business, training, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” – Joseph Priestley

In response to my request for communication pet peeves, one of my readers emailed, “I dislike the fact that kids, with texting, are using “shortcut” language.  This definitely will not help their spelling & written skills.”

Texting! Just like my reader, I worry about the writing skills of our youth. I teach writing classes on the college level, and I see omitted punctuation, lack of capitalization, and words that I have to read aloud to decipher the meaning.

Is texting ruining the writing skills of an entire generation? To be honest, probably. But the problem may not the obvious one.

English teachers throughout history have had to help students understand the difference between formal and informal language. (Growing up in Texas, we all had to learn that “ya’ll” was not an acceptable pronoun when writing a school paper, but then neither was any second person pronoun.) Texting adds a layer to that concern, but with some training, students can move between the formal and informal writing easily. Research shows that students, especially those with some college, tend to understand the difference in requirements when writing formally.  If you are interested in how teens perceive their writing skills, the Pew Research Center has done a fascinating study on teen writing and technology.

The bigger problem may be that texting requires quick, to-the-point, no-nuanced writing.  Conversely, good writing requires supporting detail, more explanation, and additional depth.  One of the concerns pointed out in the Pew study is that most writing assignments in high school are short – a few paragraphs at the most. The combination of texting, Tweeting, and sharing short messages on Facebook, plus a lack of opportunity to learn how to write lengthier and more in-depth prose may be hurting our students’ writing skills much more than the abbreviations and shortcuts.

I have my pet peeves when it comes to spelling and grammar, but I can usually decipher those mistakes easily. The harder task is sorting out writing that is illogical and unsupported, and I seem to find a higher frequency of poorly thought-out writing these days whether in my classes or in the marketing materials of businesses. We need to teach students to think critically and write fully thought-out papers. Businesses need to learn to communicate from the reader’s viewpoint, answering questions before they are asked. I love the idea of communicating quickly through text messages or 140 character Tweets, but to be decent writers, we have to be able to provide detailed, coherent information.

As we embrace our new forms of communication, there will probably come a time when “your” will become “ur.” I can’t find a good argument against the shortening of some words, leaving out letters that serve no meaning except to confuse non-native speakers and to point obscurely to the mongrel history of our language. The only argument that I can fall back on is that we have rules for the way we have always written, and I know that is a miserable excuse. So I won’t be surprised, and I won’t fight the inevitable. I won’t completely give in just yet, either. So, instead of “thx 4 rdg,” I’ll say, “Thanks for reading all of my letters, even the unnecessary ones.”

Five Questions to Ask Before You Hit Send

§ June 25th, 2010 § Filed under communication, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

“When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two-thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one-third thinking about what I want to say.” – Abraham Lincoln

One of the biggest communications problems is the lack of complete information. This results in a slew of additional back-and-forth emails, voice and text messages until the full information is received and acknowledged.

How much time do you spend having to get additional information when someone has sent you an email or left a message on your voice mail? Wouldn’t it save time if the pertinent information was included in the original message?

The easy way to make sure you are communicating complete information is to ask yourself a few questions:

Who? Who is the intended recipient? If it is written, who else might end up reading it? Who else needs this information?

What? What is the reason for the message? If it’s an email, make sure the subject reflects the content. If you are leaving a voice mail, leave enough information so that the recipient can respond.

Where? When? If you are sending information about an event, be sure to include the location and the day and time. If you are requesting information, be sure to specify when you need it. “As soon as possible,” “quickly,” “immediately,” and “in the next few days” mean different things to different people. Be specific.

Why? Explain your need for the particular information so that the recipient has some context.

How? How do you want the information delivered? Do you want a phone call? Or is postal mail appropriate? How do you want a task completed? Have you provided enough specific information that the recipient will understand exactly what you are asking? How will this message be received? Have you been diplomatic? Have you been too diplomatic?

You won’t need to answer all the questions every time you send a message, but it’s a good practice to simply read through your message and run through these questions. It’s a first step toward becoming an effective communicator. The truly gifted communicators follow Lincoln’s ratio.

Error-Free Business Correspondence

§ June 2nd, 2010 § Filed under communication, small business, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

Want your email to be error-free? Here are some suggestions.

Do you have a tendency to forget to include important pieces of information in your emails or business letters? If so, answer the “5 Ws and an H” as you write:

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Not every email has to answer all of these questions, but if you’re inviting someone to an event or explaining something important, running through these questions will help you cover all the necessary points.

Read it out loud

Once you have finished your email or business letter, read the whole thing out loud. We are all in such a hurry these days that it is normal to leave a word out or say something that doesn’t put across what we intended. Reading out loud forces you to slow down and check for errors. It’s also a good way to check for repetition or phrases that cause the reader to lose concentration.

Find an extra set of eyes

If you have the time, have someone else read over your more important correspondence. An extra set of eyes can give your text a fresh look and find errors that you are too close to see.

If you make a mistake, your reader will probably be able to figure out what you meant. Remember, though, that being clear and error-free makes you look more professional and makes your reader feel he or she was important enough to receive your best effort.