My Inbox Stinks!
By Mary Hughes
Do you ever stop to contemplate how your email communications reflect upon your company, and even your professional appearance? How much time do you spend making sure that your correspondences are clear and succinct? And finally, do you ever send messages that you think could be interpreted as confusing, or are grammatically incorrect? Northwest Technologies believes that all of our inboxes could use just a bit of tweaking and polishing. It is our aim to impart some simple reminders that every communication that is sent on our behalf should be a well-constructed, grammatically correct, professional email that represents our ideals and shows our clients that we are committed to excellence on every level – even and especially with written communication.
This is the first installment of our company blog “My Inbox Stinks!”. It is not intended to offend or condescend, but to take a look at a subject in which some might be a little rusty, or help individuals who are not native English speakers. Each post will cover one or two common errors and how to avoid them. Northwestern Technologies aims to project a polished image at all times and a sloppy, unclear message, whether inter-departmental or with clients, is not representative of Us. This blog is designed to give all of us the tools we need to communicate in the most efficient, succinct manner.
Let’s face it: learning English grammar is a tricky undertaking. Not only is it a complex web of rules filled with exceptions, even with a really good teacher it is still hard – even for native speakers. Words and phrases that are in our vernacular and sound perfectly fine are inappropriate to use in professional communications. Remember Miss Manners and her vision to uphold principles of etiquette for every situation? Netiquette is an extension of this principle. It is not a concept or theory, there really are concrete rules for communicating with each other and with Northwestern Technologies’ clients.
Commas are used to separate ideas and give pause. They help to give clarity and flow to sentences that contain multiple ideas. Too many commas do the opposite – they interrupt the flow and make your statements hard to read. If you are separating three or more items, use a comma.
Example: I took my backpack, lunch, and phone.
Another case where you would want to use a comma would be to separate two adjectives that are interchangeable.
Example: There will be a brief, important meeting. You could also say: There will be an important, brief meeting.
Remember if the adjectives are not compatible, then no comma.
Finally, you will want to use a comma to separate two independent clauses.
Example: She got coffee, and then she switched on her computer.
Failing to use a comma to split the two independent clauses will create a run-on sentence, and probably force your reader to re-read in order to understand. Commas reduce confusion when used correctly.
Your vs. You’re
When said rapidly, they could sound exactly the same. That’s probably how it became ‘acceptable’ to use these interchangeably. However, incorrectly using these two very different words is a glaring mistake that diminishes your message. ‘Your’ is used to show possession, you’re means that you actually are something.
Example: When you’re finished with that book, your mom wants to read it.
Affect vs. Effect
These two words also have vastly different meanings. Misusing them is a big no-no, and it also changes the meaning of your statement to make no sense at all. Effect is a noun, and affect is the verb.
Example: Doing a lot of exercise has a big effect on weight loss.
Example: We need to re-evaluate our policy if we want it to affect the bottom line.
These are just three types of common mistakes that frequently occur in email communications. Each future blog will cover other important rules that tend to be overlooked. If you are looking to quickly improve your writing skills in the most practical and enjoyable way, then make a commitment to read something everyday. It could be a newspaper, magazine, or book. Language is at the core of all understanding and Northwestern Technologies believes in constantly raising the level of standards so that we can bring our very best to every client. Our written communications are just one variable in the whole of the company brand. Words and how we use them are powerful tools and we hope that this blog will empower you to use your words to maximize their impact in everything that you write.
Stay clear, focused, and WRITE ON!
Straus, J. (n.d.) Grammarbook.com. Retrieved from http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp
Soskey, G. (2013, November 22) 15 Common grammar mistakes we all need to stop making. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-grammar-mistakes-list