Some people find inspiration in cooking their families and their dogs. Some people find inspiration in cooking, their families, and their dogs. Punctuation matters. Yet, there seems to be an epidemic of poor grammar, spelling, and either too much or too little punctuation. As we just celebrated National Grammar Day on March 8, let's pause to consider the state of grammar today.
But what does it tell us about a person when we see grammar and spelling mistakes in business correspondence? Those of us in media sales are actually in the communication business. If we don’t communicate well with our customers, they may not want to do business with us. It is partially a generational thing, with younger people having the benefits of spell check, lightning quick written communication, and the world of texting, in which shortcuts are common. But in media sales, saying that the speed of response takes precedence over business etiquette is dangerous.
I did a quick caucus of some of my colleagues in media sales who are in managerial positions, asking them what they thought of a person whose business communication contained spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. The answer ranged from the very tolerant “I think they are in too much of a hurry” to “It seems kind of lazy” to “They appear to me to be uneducated.”
It could even be said that communication that is full of mistakes is disrespectful – you’re not bothering to take the time, or have the inclination or education to speak to someone in a position of authority in a business-like manner. The message in the communication can be overshadowed by the reader’s perception of the writer. And in our virtual world, this perception may be all the reader has of you, because you may never have met.
Not only might your supervisors find you to be disrespectful to them, but they may also be embarrassed by the personae you are putting forth in representing the company. They want clients to think their media sellers are top communicators, not in a hurry, lazy or poorly educated. They want clients to think they hire the best, and that the best minds will be working on their campaigns. Except, the best mind confuses “it’s” and “its” and never uses capital letters, commas or periods. And please don’t ask about semicolons!
So, what should you consider doing differently if you tend toward being a cannibal by writing, “Let’s eat Mother” instead of extending an invitation to dinner by writing, “Let’s eat, Mother”?
- When sending out eblasts, read them and re-read them. You can offend the masses with the stroke of a key, because that ever-helpful technology allows you to send personalized emails to a large number of people. Beware the potential of embarrassing yourself and your company if you hit “send” and there are errors.
- Have someone proofread your business communications. This is especially important if you are sending out a monthly newsletter. Sometimes, even those who DO strive for proper communication overlook a spelling or punctuation error. And few of us, unfortunately, are strangers to the fact that auto correct can substitute a word you really don’t mean!
- Be sure that your contacts’ names are spelled accurately and that their titles are correct. Don’t you automatically correct someone who calls you by the wrong name? Putting in a misspelled name shows you are in a hurry and too busy for your client, are too lazy to look up the correct spelling, and/or don’t care about them enough to realize how important it is to spell their name correctly.
- When collecting in media sales, consider how important a business-like tone and demeanor is. How seriously would you take your financial advisor if they were in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt? I used to dress in black and carry a brief case on “collection days.” People took me more seriously and I rarely got put off. The same holds true for your communication. If you misspell words and use poor grammar, how seriously do you think you will be taken?
- Slow down. Get in business mode. Re-read that email. Are you writing run-on sentences with no punctuation, which require the reader to try to figure out what you mean, or do you respect your client or manager enough to take the time to show that you are NOT in a hurry, lazy, or uneducated?
The price of speed of communication in media sales today may be costly if you ignore the perceptions of those with whom you are doing business.