Recently, while having a conversation with an individual in the office, the topic of appropriate email language was brought up. Specifically, the use of the ever so popular “:)” (smiley faces) or “LOL” (laugh out loud). I think that there are many aspects that need to be considered while determining what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. Examples being: The culture of your workplace? Do members of management use “catch phrases” and “slang” while corresponding? Are these terms understood throughout your office? I know of a few individuals that would be quite confused if I sent them “LOL”, surely saying to themselves that I have poor spelling skills or do not read through my correspondence for typos. There are also other issues to consider, such as the use of such language while corresponding with outside clients or individuals that do not work in your office, but you maintain a professional relationship with them. Is it appropriate to carry your “texting vocabulary” over to your “email vocabulary”? My initial inclination is to say No. Trade the “LOL” in for “Wouldn’t you say that is amusing?” or “Doesn’t that make you laugh?”.
However, this topic got me thinking about other language used in e-mails. More specifically citing the use of swear words or poorly speaking of fellow coworkers and members of management.
In an article published by www.abcnews.go.com, entitled “Don’t Curse Now: E-mail Monitored by Employers for Language” they stated that some Wall Street companies were banning curse words in work e-mails. These said companies installed filtering software which would prevent any e-mails with profanities from being sent. Sure, we have all been in a situation where a coworker or client may set you off or upset you, and you sit down at your computer and really tell them how you feel, however, think not twice, but ten times before hitting “SEND”. Even when deleted from your Inbox and then deleted from your Trash, it is still there. The article goes onto explain that E-mail is “Electronic DNA” and according to a 2009 survey conducted by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute, 24 percent of companies surveyed had e-mails subpoenaed.
Employees-always remember that one accidental “SEND” in the heat of the moment could potentially lead to the end of your job. Always assume that there are three individuals in the email string. The first individual being you, the second individual being the recipient and the third individual being the “monitoring” system.
Bottom line, keep language, vocabulary and terminology appropriate. If you are not comfortable saying something to an individual face to face, or repeating it to your Boss, it may not be appropriate for your email!