More business communication bloopers to avoid - Insights

More business communication bloopers to avoid

My badCommunication, any form, short or long, has the power to define your brand and reinforce your brand image. Communication helps you seal sales deals, build up your reputation, break down misconceptions and make strong relationships with your clients.

Often, emails are the first interface with a potential client or a probable business prospect. So why have we begun cutting detestable corners while communicating – both verbally and via the written word? In trying to save time we end up dispensing more in damage control.

I’ve previously written about five common bloopers  – here follow five more mistakes we continue to make, despite our good intentions:

1. Skirting around

Instead of addressing the issue at hand or bringing a closure to the discussion, why do we like to engage in preambles, introductions and corollaried explanations? A lot of my communication compatriots (including yours truly) can be easily tried for the offence of being over-the-top in our business writing.

Research shows us that to-the-point text carries more weight and delivers more than a superfluous assemblage of words that simply add weight to the body copy.

Be brief. Brevity is indeed a virtue. It helps you capture the reader’s attention span for just the requisite amount of time and convey your piece with force and conviction.

Also, break your text into short paragraphs for an easy, breeze-through read. And do adhere to that middle school diktat of Introduction – Body – Conclusion in most of your communication for easy comprehension and take-aways by the recipients.

2. Not using correct grammar

I am of the strong belief that no matter how little time we have, how small our gadgets become, and in whatever part of the world we work in, grammar will always be our guardian angel in effective communication.

Grammar sets apart a pro from a tyro, a zealous worker from a careless one, a professional who takes pride in their handiwork from one who is merely passing time. Use of proper grammar uplifts the document, making it engaging, easy on the eye and a pleasure to read.

Lack of good grammar and its improper use can alter the meaning of what you wish to convey, and sometimes in acute cases, put your text in the grey zone of libel.

Grammar is no longer as stringent in dictating terms. The rules that applied, say in the 60s, have been relaxed. It is alright to write in an easier, fluent, conversational style. Yet the basic boundaries that bring shape to your syntax and coherence to your content must be observed.

A fabulous writing/editing web resource, Freestyle Editorial, corroborates the point by stating, “The most engaging, persuasive business writing is also the most conversational. So that means you can, and often should, violate some stuffy grammatical rules. Which means you can end sentences with a proposition, split the occasional infinitive and begin sentences with a conjunction. After all, that is how we speak. However, breaking other grammatical rules can make you look…well…dumb. They can hurt your organization’s credibility and affect the conscious and unconscious purchasing decisions of your customers. According to a 2009 survey, 94 percent of business service buyers report that grammar, punctuation and spelling affect their purchasing decisions to some extent.”

There are a zillion grammar minefields that you should try and avoid at all costs. It’s vs. Its; There, Their, They’re; Stationary vs. Stationery; Principle vs. Principal; Who vs. Whom; Affect vs. Effect; and That vs. Which are some of the most common goof-ups we make.

Communication is a craft – please hone it and practice it well. Many a reputation and businesses have been broken on the wheel of weak grammar and slip-shod structure.

3. Using smileys and other emoticons

I am surely one of the biggest culprits of using the smiley face rampantly. To me, no communication is complete until I have sent a smiley back to close the conversation, and close a conversation one must. It is the closest thing to smiling back at a person and easily the nicest element in our non-verbal personality indicators and body language.

I get away with it, in my formal dialogue with my editors, publishers and fellow professionals I meet and interact with on the web. But in a more sacrosanct, corporate work space, I would flinch if I did it more than the rare few times I could indulge myself.

Emoting with the emojis in your social media exchanges and with a certain set of people is absolutely fine. Go ahead and give that Thumbs Up or send that snoozing fat kitten.

But, at large, and in most of your formal communication, please refrain from looking perplexed or agitated or elated or walloped (the last depicted by that copiously weeping round face). Also, even when you are bursting at your seams with mirth, there is no place for a ‘Ha Ha’ in official content.

Emoticons have their place in our messaging systems, but a business communication text is not one of them.

4. Over usage of exclamation marks/under usage of spacing options

Can you please send it to me ASAP??????

Waiting for the report!!!!!!!!!!

I called your office to discuss the important matter at hand. I have been waiting for a call back?!?!?!?!?

Do these look familiar? I know, there are a gazillion instances that make us feel exasperated, push us to the end of the tether and make us hit our heads against the wall. Our corporate avatars are constantly barraged by issues and situations through the day that try our patience.

But exhibiting that vexation on the formal platform through the crutch of excessively used exclamation marks is certainly not a proper outlet. Everything has its place; don’t overuse it. That is why the chair and standing office exercises and 2-minute meditation techniques were invented.

One of my personal peeves is when people do not use readily-available spacing options intelligently and allow their text to tumble down their hill of overflowing thoughts.

Please use correct pauses in your clauses. Use indentations and line spacing to divide your copy and demarcate contexts and sub-contexts. This is not embellishment of text; it is de rigueur in developing your communication.

5. Being culturally insensitive

In the case of the simple, irritating, highly commonly used LOL, what is Laugh out Loud for the goose may be Lots of Love for the gander.

WTF, that ubiquitous, highly appropriate, extremely profane Americanism can stand for World Trade Fair (in business), What the Fish (a polite form of ‘that’ profanity), Walk to Freedom (US Army), Wire Transfer Form (in money matters), Weapons Tactics Force (in gaming), Work Time Fun (PSP game) or Wikileaks Task Force (US CIA).

In today’s livewire world of social media and its 24X7 connectivity, people across the world are taking umbrage for just about anything. Now, it is not okay to write ‘He could make a difference to the role.’ To be politically correct, you must write ‘He or she could make a difference to the role,’ lest you risk being labelled a sexist.

In the same vein, avoid using old-practice generic words such as chairman, businessman, forefather, layman, mankind, manpower, spokesman and the like. Switch them with the more unbiased, non-controversial and definitely proper alternatives viz., chairperson, businessperson, ancestor, layperson, humankind or human race, workforce, representative and so on.

It is not just the term ‘Black’ which is off limits. People prefer Asian from Oriental or the more specific Indian, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani (never the offensive Paki), Alaska Native or even Inuit-Yupik over Eskimo, Aboriginal people over Aborigines.

Remember, in a conscious effort to be more sensitive and inclusive, we no longer use crippled and disabled; replacing them with more respectful ‘special,’ or ‘differently abled.’

Do you recall the case of Justine Sacco, the Communications Director (no less) of New York-based internet empire InterActive Corp, who was roasted on slow fire for her tactless and thoughtless holiday tweet, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” The mindless, heartless, insensitive communiqué not only set trolls on her back, but also discredited any good work she may have done, brought her infamy and made her resign from her enviable position.

Finally, one of the dirtiest acts in the case of communications is not keeping your house clean and letting emails gather and collect dust. In spite of CCleaner, digital organizer and other organizing tools. we still fail to de-clutter our inbox, inviting more trouble and stress.

I urge you to make your work and life easy by making your communication work for you. Become more effective, save time and heartache by imbibing some of the above-mentioned strategies.

For, after all, Y.O.L.O; err……You Only Live Once!

About the author
Aruna Dhir_1L. Aruna Dhir is a hospitality and feature writer and columnist. Her industry writings are used as references in case studies and hotel schools.

With over 16 years of experience with some of India and Asia’s top hotel brands, Aruna is a seasoned corporate communications specialist, PR strategist and writer who has taken a sabbatical, after holding the position of the Director – Public Relations at The Imperial New Delhi, in order to work on book projects on Public Relations & Communications, Hotels, Food and India respectively.

As an industry expert, Aruna has launched brands, developed training modules, created standardization of business communication and written manuals. Aruna has represented India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the aegis of Rotary International and participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia and chaired by Princess Anne. In her official and personal capacity L. Aruna Dhir has and continues to work on several social awareness projects – People for Animals, Earthquake Relief, National Blind Association, PETA and Friendicoes to name a few.

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