A long time ago in a galxay far far away, people communicated through something called the “letter”. This was a curious device, requiring, as it did, the composer to sit in one place for a concerted period of time, writing carefully and above all legibly. If you made a mistake, you couldn’t just press delete, you had to start again. And you had to think about what you were writing before you wrote it, as you couldn’t cut and paste something in as an afterthought.
The same was true with cards. You sent cards for a range of different reasons; births, deaths, marriages, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas or just to say hi. You had to go to a specialist shop, or possibly a stationers, as not everyone sold cards. But you still had to think about what you were writing before committing pen to card.
Nowadays, you don’t even need to own a pen. You can have a facsimile of your signature saved for your e-mails, you can order and send paper cards online or, even worse, you can send an e-card. (Seriously, please don’t – they are tacky and irritating). But the curious thing about e-mail communication is the language used within them.
There is a school of thought that says you should compose an e-mail as if you were speaking face-to-face to someone. The main logic behind this is to stop yourself using words or phrases that you would never normally use in an attempt to make yourself appear more clever. There is a flip side to this, however.
You can send e-mails via so many different devices. The standard gripe most people have about this system is auto correct, substituting an entirely inappropriate word for the mis-spelt word you wanted to send. People who blame auto correct are just lazy, incapable or unwilling to check the text or context of a message before sending it. Part of the problem can be down to screen size, or use of a touch screen; at the end of the day, very few of us are trained touch typists, yet most of us expect to be able to send a word perfect, correctly spelt e-mail every single time. Part of the problem is the text message world, where a quick response that makes little sense (or uses far less letters than is generally thought acceptable in polite society) is better than spending five minutes typing it out.
It is true to say that most CVs I receive are spelling and grammar checked, as are most of the original pieces of correspondence that accompany them. The issue apears to arise once initial contact has been made, and the range and variety of additional e-mails I receive defy belief. Random punctuation, terrible grammar, odd phrases. Much as you create a good impression in the first five seconds, you can go a long way to unravelling a reputation by not taking time over sending e-mails.
A message sent in haste suggests someone who doesn’t work well under pressure. A well written CV followed by poorly worded or phrased e-mails suggests someone who is slapdash and lacking attention to detail. The job market is highly competitive and you have got to give yourself the best possible chance by creating and maintaining the right impresssion. No e-mail is so urgent that you have to send a reply immediately; it will get a much better response if you read it and re-read it before pressing send.
E-mails have revolutionised our lives and the messages we can send across the internet have encouraged far greater access to the wider world. At one point the letter was the height of communications technology; then the telephone; then the fax (remember them?) It is not what you use, it is how you use it.