According to Mashable, there are approximately 145 billion emails sent every day. No matter how you count it, that’s a lot of emails.
I receive quite a few from people looking for jobs, inquiring about the market, or sometimes just asking me if I know how to reach someone we both know. The thing that amazes me is how sloppy most of the them are, and over the past few years it seems to be getting worse. People are careless with emails.
• They don’t use proper grammar.
• They don’t worry about spelling.
• They don’t—in many cases—even communicate in complete sentences.
A client sent me an email he received from a person seeking a position at his company. Take a look.
Dear Martin, I read the ad online and liked what I saw about your company. Sounds like a fun place to work. I have elven years experience doing exactly what you need. when do we talk. I’m available Wednesday or Friday of next week and would be happy to drive down to meet you. Looking forward to it, XXXX Oh yeah, my resume is attached.
My prospective client sent this letter to me:
“If we do business together, I expect to see candidates who write better than this.”
If you’ve looked at many job descriptions or job ads, I know you’ve seen this requirement: “Must have good written and oral communication skills.”
Many people ignore that, but as you see from this email, you should do so at your own risk.
Back to Analyzing the Letter
Martin had his name and title at the bottom of the job ad, so it should have been addressed to, “Dear Dr. (Name withheld), not to “Dear Martin.”
It should have had a colon after the name, not a comma. So instead of “Dear Martin,” it should have been, “Dear Martin:”.
(In the UK, I believe it is always followed by a comma, but in the states, a comma is only used for informal letters.)
The author of this letter should not have said,
“I read the ad online and liked what I saw about your company.”
There’s so much wrong with that it will take another post to delve into, but the next sentence is a killer.
“Sounds like a fun place to work.”
Did this person really think that Martin was concerned about providing a fun place to work? I doubt if Martin continued reading after that last sentence, but assuming he did, I’m sure the following sentence gave him a laugh—or heartburn.
“I have elven years experience doing exactly what you need.”
“Elven” years! I don’t know how many elven is, but if it has to do with elves I’m sure it’s a lot.
And how about this one…
“when do we talk.”
I had to re-write that sentence three times because my computer automatically capitalized the first word of the sentence. This person should have had that function enabled on his computer. He should also learn when to use a question mark.
We won’t even discuss the last sentence, or the informality of the closing. Let’s jump right to the very informal,
“Oh yeah, my resume is attached.”
Would anyone like to wager on whether that attachment was opened?
What’s Wrong With A Few Mistakes?
Some of you might think I was being picky, but here’s the problem with that argument. To begin with, this is business! Business writing should always be formal.
Imagine being invited to a business party. You inquire about “attire,” and are told that dress is casual. So you show up in your jeans, knock on the door…and are mortified when you see that everyone else is dressed in business suits.
What Does That Have To Do With Emails?
Sending informal emails is just like that. Worst of all, you have no idea where that email might end up. Suppose you send it to a colleague who’s working on a project with you, and then that colleague is conversing with the boss, who needs information that was in your email. You know what’s happening, don’t you?
That sloppy, piss-poor email you sent to your buddy is now going to be seen by your boss. And maybe your boss is a stickler for good grammar. Or maybe he forwards it to his boss. Before you know it, somebody is wondering how you passed the competency screening test for new hires.
The Bottom Line
Use your best grammar when composing business emails. You don’t want to be the one who comes to the party in jeans when everyone else is wearing a suit.