Guest Post by Tim Jones. Tim is one of the founders of English Online Hub, a company focused on helping teachers excel in online education.
With the advent of the internet, the world has become a global village and communication can happen in real-time through mediums like texts, internet chats, and emails. This is a great victory for companies and other large institutions that value time and are able to connect with their peers and colleagues without the need for extensive travel. However, the benefits of online communication can easily be ruined by poor communication practices. If your organization works remotely, is spread out through multiple offices, or just needs a refresher in best practices, we’ve broken down 5 tips to help get everything back on track.
1. Fine Tune Your Tone
Just like the tone of a spoken word, the tone of a text, email, or internet chat is vital when communicating with a colleague. Once you’ve crafted a message, ensure to proofread the email at least three times and then read it outloud to yourself. Depending on the recipient (like your boss), it might even be worth having another person read over it as well. Make sure to choose your words carefully to ensure that the message reflects the tone you would have used if the communication were to be face-to-face. The email’s intent might be a simple question or follow up, but taking the wrong tone could cause it to be misinterpreted.
2. Using Emoticons in Your Online Communication Sparingly
It was hard to escape emojis even before the term was officially added to the dictionary in 2015. However, while you might use these communication accessories with your friends and family, they are often viewed as unprofessional in business settings. In professional correspondence, these emoticons should take a backseat to well thought out sentences and organized thoughts.
While you should always consider the message recipient, even the most strict managers have been known to make one exception when it comes to emoticons: internal chats. That’s right, tools like Slack and Pidgin have become safe havens for these symbols, but make sure you check with your company’s rules before you go injecting them into every chat.
3. Be Careful When Using Humor in Your Online Communication
Humor plays an invaluable role in all forms of communication but it would be incorrect to say that all humor is created equal, especially when it comes to business. The main word to remember in this tip is excessive and plenty of relationships have been strained by jokes that have been misinterpreted or overdone. If you’re going to use a joke, by all means use it, but make sure you know who’s going to read it and ensure that it will enhance the conversation instead of detracting from it.
In addition to considering the recipient, our advice is to err on the side of caution and don’t force humor into any correspondence that you’re not sure about. Remember, even if you have “that kind of relationship” with the reader, messages often get forwarded and copied and you don’t want anything coming back to haunt you in the future.
When in doubt, refer back to tip #1 and have another party proofread your message. It’s always better to spend the time up front perfecting the message rather than having to explain what you meant later.
4. Keep Your Communications Brief
In the contemporary world where time is of the essence, human concentration lasts only 15 seconds. You might be drafting a long message with true intent of getting your coworker to thoroughly understand your idea, but he or she may end up resenting the amount of time it takes to consume it fully.
With online communication, less is more. In a world where receiving hundreds of emails a day is not uncommon, you’ll have more success focusing on the details and keeping your messages short and sweet.
5. Proper Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Are Always Important
This is the most important concept of any communication, not just online. Proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation make your messages readable and help you maintain a sense of professionalism. It defeats the purpose if you’re trying to convey a message to a client or colleague that is hard to understand or worse, riddled with errors. Luckily, many online messaging platforms have built-in spell and punctuation checkers and we shouldn’t have to tell you how beneficial they can be. However, even the best of these tools are not able to iron out grammatical mistakes and it’s still advisable to proofread your message a few times before sending.
As emails, texts, and chats continue to make phone calls and letters obsolete, it’s things like online communication that can help make the difference between a message that’s understood immediately or one in need of clarification. If you’re an employee looking for that extra edge, following these tips could be what puts you over the top in management’s eyes.
If you’re an organization with persistent communication problems, consider trainingand reinforcing a set of rules aimed at efficient communication, keeping in mind that the framework you build now will impact your organization’s future.