In a moment of true clarity, Madonna once exclaimed, “We are living in a material world!” A few decades later, I think it’s safe to say that we are living in a digital world. (In that vein, does that make me a digital girl?) But let’s face it: The rules have changed. We’re no longer hand writing letters to our distant friends, and I’ve heard more than one acquaintance of mine recently grumble about having to use a real-life, 44-cent stamp!
Not only has communication become faster and faster, but communication has also become more and more lax. Everything now seems to come down to acronyms and emoticons, and to hell with capitalization and punctuation!
We’re so enculturated into a digital society, that it’s easy for us to forget who our audience is.
I have the best job in the world. I get to represent awesome, independent companies, and I can totally be my goofy self with Nicole, who I’m convinced is the most patient and rad boss ever. She just laughs when I make up crazy words like “AWESOMAZING” (a superior hybrid of “awesome” and “amazing”) or send a *facepalm* her way. In that vein, I am quite certain that I have never had a boss like her before, so chances are you don’t either. Which probably also means that your boss would be less-than-thrilled if you accidentally dropped an *eyeroll* in a written memo.
So here it is: Five things you should never write in an email to your boss…unless your boss is my boss…Nicole Miller.
- Multiple exclamation marks. When I was a freshman in college, I had the most evil writing professor on the face of the earth. So much so, that I’m surprised I continued to minor in writing after that class. He was in love with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and he hated “to be” verbs. He thought that Charlotte’s Web was the greatest piece of literature ever produced. While that class was probably worse than pulling teeth, I did respect his rules on punctuation: If you were only allowed to use an exclamation mark three times in your entire life, would you really use it right now? I remember that he actually circled any exclamation marks in our essays and, at the end of the semester, if we had used the mark more than three times, we got decreased points. He had a point, though. How awesome does it really look if YOU ARE ALWAYS SUPER EXCITED IN YOUR EMAILS??!!!!111!!1!!!!? Cut it out. One is enough, if you must.
- Emoticons. I think it’s pretty standard instant-messaging practice nowadays to drop an occasional smiley face, and maybe even a winky face if you’re really trying to be ironic. Emoticons can be cute and can lighten up a message. But in an email to your boss (who is assumedly not Nicole), they can come off as incredibly informal and immature. If whatever it is that you are writing can be misconstrued without the use of an emoticon, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you rethink what you’re writing. Emoticons: cute, but not professional.
- Acronyms. They’re everywhere. Just check out the comments section of any Oh No They Didn’t! post. I can pretty much guarantee that you will need to make a few trips to Urban Dictionary just to navigate all the crazy acronyms. Such slang like LOL, OMG, WTF, IDK, and ROFL has become so ingrained into our culture that I’ve had to stop myself a few times from actually saying them out loud. My point being, this is just another example of how our language has become super-casual, and unless you work for a company like the FDA, the IRS, or the CIA, you should probably avoid the acronyms. Don’t make your boss have to work so hard to understand that you were just laughing out loud, and not licking Oscar’s labrador. Just sayin’.
- Make digital gestures. I feel like this one is almost as obvious as emoticons. But I’ll emphasize it again: If whatever it is that you’re writing needs an *eyeroll* or a *facepalm* or a *shakes head in shame* or a *shudders*, then you should probably rethink what you’re writing. Be creative. I have faith that you can find more than one way to say something. And remember—sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in an email and is sometimes better left for face-to-face interaction. Take this into account when you’re drafting emails to your boss. Your tone is as important as the message you are relaying, and you should not be overly informal by including asterisked digital gestures.
- Abbreviate. Abbreviations vary from acronyms in that an abbreviation is simply a shortening of a single word. A lot of us take shortcuts when we’re texting. How many times have you caught yourself writing “u” instead of “you,” “plz” instead of “please,” “2mrw” instead of “tomorrow,” or “thanx” instead of “thanks”? Understandably, such abbreviations save time and space when you’re working from a phone; however, how would you react if you received an email from one of your employees that was chock full of such abbreviations? Not only does it get difficult to read, but it shows your boss that you didn’t take the time or energy to type a few extra letters or use your auto spell-check.
There you have it—the five things you shouldn’t email your boss. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I’ve broken every rule on this list, but then again, Nicole is my boss….