As we’ve been discussing in our last few posts, our brave new world of social media and hyper-connectedness has brought about many changes in how we communicate. While differences in etiquette between types of media are one way that technology has us thinking with different hats on depending on which tool we’re using, variations in spelling, grammar, and style also need to be considered.
It’s not always easy to sort through all of the vagaries of grammar rules used in our communication methods, from texting and tweeting to IM and email. Let’s look at usage guidelines for the various options when it comes to two common pitfalls—grammar and slang language:
Is proper grammar, like capitalization and punctuation, necessary:
- …in a text? It depends on whom you are texting with, and in what context. Text messages can be written in either formal English with proper caps and punctuation (when texting with colleagues, your boss, or clients and potential clients) or can be written more informally for speed when you’re texting with close friends and family.
- …in a tweet? Being lazy about grammar—particularly capitalization—in tweets can lead to people misunderstanding your meaning. This is true in hashtags as well, since you may be omitting spaces between words in your hashtag or your whole tweet to stay within Twitter’s 140-character limit. The same goes for proper use of periods and other punctuation marks. Since tweets are meant to make an impression through their succinct and powerful statements, it can reflect poorly on the tweeter to use grammar incorrectly.
- …in an IM? The same rules apply as for a text—consider your recipient and the context to decide whether to go formal or informal as far as grammar rules go. You can also follow texting and instant message guidelines when using the comments feature of collaboration tools with an office productivity suite like WPS Office to communicate with a distributed workforce.
- …in an email? Unless you’re writing to a very close friend or family member with whom you have a shared understanding about informality in your messages, it’s best to err on the side of caution when composing emails. Make the effort to proofread your emails before you click send to ensure that your grammar is correct, including capitalization and punctuation.
Can you use shorthand and slang:
- …in a text? Texting is designed for fast, efficient communication—within reason. You always want to keep the receiver in mind when writing a text message that contains popular acronyms like BRB or NP—never use such informal terms with business colleagues, even in a text. However, if it’s your personal pal, then use of shorthand terms will probably be expected.
- …in a tweet? Twitter is a form of social media rather than an instant messaging service or texting platform. The latter have more flexibility for informality since their goal is quick-hit, one-on-one communication. Tweeters are in a much more public forum, so they should avoid using abbreviations like LOL and other insider slang that can put off some people in your audience.
- …in an IM? As long as you aren’t on your work Instant Messenger talking to a superior or important client, some use of basic shorthand terms is probably OK. However, go easy on any slang, since it can make you look unprofessional even in the IM context.
- …in an email? For business correspondence, it’s a bad idea to pepper your message with shorthand like “RU” instead of just typing out “are you.” Even if you think you’re writing to an understanding coworker who is a friend, it’s easy for work emails to get forwarded to others around the office either intentionally or by accident. Err on the side of more formal communication when crafting them.
As you can see, there are no easy answers when it comes to making the right grammar choices via your communication tools of choice. But if you follow these basic guidelines, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding a serious faux pas.