Wow. That’s just fantastic!
Wow. That’s just fantastic…

How did you read the above messages? Which one sticks out to you as more friendly? It was likely easy for you to decide, but did you know that someone else may disagree with you? How you interpret a message depends on many factors. Something that has a clear meaning to you may not have the same meaning to someone else. For example, exclamation marks can suggest excitement, anger, or surprise depending on the receiver. According to BBC contributor Alina Dizik, punctuation is interpreted differently by various generations. For example, ending a sentence with ellipses is considered a simple end of a sentence for older readers, but has a negative connotation for younger readers. Dizik also says that for younger readers, an exclamation point means you are friends, and a period signals seriousness. It is also important to remember that body language, tone, and facial expressions are not present in emails and text messages, which can lead these forms of communication to be misinterpreted or come across as more aggressive than intended. When you’re composing an electronic message, remember that the recipient only has your words to interpret, so be mindful of your message content and structure.

Put It into Practice

Take advantage of the opportunities you have to practice communicating formally while studying at VHS. The more practice you have with being courteous, clear, and concise in your email communications, the more prepared you will be for correspondence within other educational institutions and professional work environments in the future.

We have put together some tips to consider while composing your messages:

  1. Audience: Consider your audience. Is it a friend, colleague, teacher, parent? The level of formality may change depending on the audience. For example, you can likely joke around with a friend, but you want to ensure you are being respectful and professional toward your teacher.
  2. Emphasis: Practices such as writing in full capitals or using numerous exclamation marks drastically alter the tone. Avoid using full capitals, exclamation points, bolding, or other unnecessary emphasis to ensure your message is not interpreted as shouting.
  3. Structure: Write in sentences as doing otherwise will imply that you have not thought through your message. It’s always a good idea to write in paragraphs as such organization when dealing with several topics illustrates a degree of planning and care. Taking the time to think your messages through will help the recipient productively respond to your message.
  4. Respect: Ensure you are communicating in a respectful manner with appropriate language.
  5. Salutations and sign-offs: Compose professional emails. Refer to your teacher as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or by their first name if you are invited to do so. Begin with a salutation such as “Hi, Mr. Nassar,” and end with a complimentary closing such as “Thanks, Robin”.

Teachers and other professionals enjoy hearing from students. Extending courtesy in communication can go a long way to achieving a desired outcome.

Do you have any other tips for ensuring your message is respectful and interpreted as intended? Share them in the comments below.

Dizik, A. (2017, September 05). How to avoid writing irritating emails. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170904-how-to-avoid-writing-irritating-emails