Email Poll

Email is the number one preferred method of communication these days, but is our email communication effective?  What renders it ineffective?  What could strengthen it and make it more persuasive?  When would it be best to just pick up the phone?  These are the issues I'm going to be covering in a new article series I'm writing exclusively for my newsletter subscribers over the next several months.  If you are not currently receiving our newsletter, you can subscribe here. It started with this month's newsletter article and continued with a discussion I had with my dad last week, but I believe most of the misunderstandings now take place over the internet.  Email, texting, social media and Yahoo groups are immensely popular ways to communicate these days.  As of February of this year, Facebook alone has 175 million people logging in each day (according to Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg).  Studies show that only 7% of face-to-face communication is made up of the words we use.  The rest is in our body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.  This means that most of our communication with each other now takes place devoid of 93% of what makes up communication in a face-to-face conversation. Apparently all our texting habits and email shortcuts are having an ill effect on our communication skills.  A study done in 2005 by the Journal of Employment Counseling revealed, "Employers said students needed stronger writing skills; more training on professional uses of e-mail; and additional education regarding self-expression, impression management, and avoidance of slang." This brings me to my discussion with my dad last week.  How much does society's lack of effective email communication skills contribute to misunderstandings and hurt feelings? Does a person's poor grammar, spelling, lack of punctuation, overuse of abbreviations and general lack of communication skills over email present an image such that what he says isn't taken seriously?  And if so, in which situations is that most detrimental? According to research, our general lack of effective communication skills combined with our reliance on technology instead of face-to-face communication is a huge societal problem.  I thought I'd conduct a little unscientific poll to see what my readers think about this issue. Would you mind answering 3 questions for me and passing this link along to those you know?  I'd love to get as many responses to this as I can before I begin my article series on email. As the two men from Bartles and James used to say, "Thanks again for your support!" 1. Would you be less likely to be persuaded of something if it were presented by someone whose email or post was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors or who used words incorrectly? 2. Would you be less likely to consider someone's business proposal seriously if it came in the form of a poorly written email? 3. Would you be inclined to think someone is less intelligent if his email contained multiple errors that were obviously not just typos? (using an incorrect word, repeated spelling errors, bad grammar, etc.) BONUS QUESTION:  Do you have any email pet peeves?


  • jojosblog

    Very good points, ladies! Thanks so much for taking the time to post your thoughts. I really appreciate it!

  • In Our Write Minds

    Excellent post, JoJo.

    1. Yes, I would be less likely to be persuaded. To me, the writer seems less credible. Honestly, we really don’t notice when someone uses correct conventions, do we? I don’t read an article in the newspaper or an email or a chapter in a novel and think: “Wow, not a single spelling error!” As I mentioned in my own blog article today, writing conventions like grammar and spelling are meant to guide the reading experience. Poor convention impedes the reader and causes us to doubt the source.

    2. Yes, I would have accepting a business proposal. If an email is poorly written, it raises a red flag about the quality of the company the person represents.

    3. Either less intelligent or inattentive to detail. But I definitely tend to judge. I wish it weren’t so, but there you have it. The person may be very intelligent, but not a detail person. Still, I find it hard to see the forest for the trees. I get so caught up in the errors that it’s hard for me to focus on the message—-even if the content itself is excellent.

    Bonus: I have several pet peeves, but the one I’ll mention here is how email is a time thief.

    While it’s true that we can dash off a quick response that might otherwise take a 10-minute phone call, often the opposite is true. I can spend so much time trying to frame a careful reply that it would have been MUCH quicker to reply by phone.

    I’m so conscious of how easy it is to miscommunicate when I’m writing an email (esp. to a customer), lest I come across as impatient, perturbed, sarcastic, etc. I want my speech, even my written emails, to be grace-filled. But w/o the added benefit of facial expression, body language, and the ability to correct myself midstream when I see that I’m not being understood, emails can sometimes backfire.

    This gets me back to my original peeve: even when my emails are short, they often take so stinkin’ long to write because I’m so conscious of how I might come across. Since I answer many emails a day, that adds up to a lot of time to 1) write the email; 2) proofread for errors; and 3) proofread to make sure my tone is gentle. Sometimes it would take less time for me to fly cross-country and answer face to face! :)

  • Wendy

    Question #1: Absolutely, yes. But to be fair, I would also be less likely to be persuaded by a traditional letter with spelling and grammatical errors, or by a face to face conversation with someone who uses poor grammar.

    Question #2: If the person were unknown to me, then I would be less inclined to take it seriously, yes. If I knew the person, and realized that they were simply unskilled in language, though skilled in the area of business in which the proposal was being put forward, then it would be different, and I could overlook the poor writing.

    Question #3: Unfortunately, yes, I would think that in most cases. Again, this would be particularly true if I did not know the person. Knowing someone makes a difference! I have a good friend who is very smart and talented in business decisions. However, he cannot spell, punctuate, use correct grammar, etc. He is a self-admitted “slacker” in terms of his school career, and just never put effort into learning those things. I do not think him less intelligent when I read his writing, but someone who did not know him would.

    Bonus question (Do I get extra credit???): My pet peeve is when people reply to an email which asks them questions… and they do not answer them all, or do not answer them completely. This requires a follow-up email or phone call, thus taking unnecessary time and attention.

    I also dislike “text message” abbreviations in a serious email. I don’t mind when it’s between friends and casual, but in a business email things like LOL, b4, l8r, emoticons, etc. – have not place!

  • Patti

    Poorly written emails (and Facebook comments) really frustrate me. Proper use of grammar, sentence mechanics, and spelling rules are vitally important. I don’t think a poorly constructed sentence or a misspelled word is any different than saying two plus two equals five.

    I have read articles online (like my local TV station’s news articles or MSNBC’s news articles), and it amazes me to find run-on sentences, the word “loose” when they mean “lose,” “than” when they mean “then,” and even missing words (example: “There was a stabbling at park today”—-the word “the” is needed between “at” and “park,” but it is left out). The people that write these articles probably have degrees in Journalism, but that is not evident by their writing.

    Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but the way I see it is that our language is being “dumbed down” by email and texting. We no longer deem it important to write or speak properly…and, as I said, to me, that’s not much different than thinking proper arithmetic skills are unnecessary. (Why should I be expected to give you $20 in change, if I think $10 in change is accurate?)

    Thanks for letting me vent. I guess I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  • Laurie Neumann

    1. Would you be less likely to be persuaded of something if it were presented by someone whose email or post was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors or who used words incorrectly?

    YES! I think somehow I relate it to how responsible a person is, which relates to how much I can trust them.

    2. Would you be less likely to consider someone’s business proposal seriously if it came in the form of a poorly written email?

    Yes again. I feel that poorly written emails give off a sense of non-professionalism.

    3. Would you be inclined to think someone is less intelligent if his email contained multiple errors that were obviously not just typos?

    That depends. Some people just type too fast, and thereby, have a lot of errors even though they may be intelligent. However, I would not be impressed.

    Sounds like a great series, JoJo!

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