Text and Email: A Tale of Two Etiquettes

Musings of a Millennial

Text and Email: A Tale of Two Etiquettes

Out the Window

Most people have their own degree of concern when it comes to perception within digital communication. But we can all agree that text based instant messaging (slack, text, DM, etc) has become the more prevalent form of dialogue in our fast paced digital world. Sometimes it’s hard to reset your brain to typing out thoughtful paragraphs that are structured correctly and contain the appropriate punctuation. That’s when we pull out the grammar plug-in right?? I know that my knowledge of true sentence structure and comma placement have all but gone out the window (Cue “When It’s Over” by Sugar Ray).

Smiley Face + Exclamation Point

It’s easy for the communication lines to blur between text and email. Especially when the majority of our correspondence is via text with no auditory cues to indicate our tone of voice. That’s why we have emojis right?? To convey feeling and tone. Emojis are all fine and good in texts and even direct messages to coworkers. Informal and light hearted, we even sometimes let punctuation go and use text language like “lol” and “haha” and even the occasional “lmao.” We do this with ease and quickness. We make plans, we update people, we send affection.

I remember scrolling through the ol’ gram and passing a post that said “Limit your email to 2 exclamation points.” To me that sounds like torture. How will they know that I’m excited and engaged? I know that when I send a text, there are at least 5 in there. Along with some smiley faces peppered throughout. Just to make sure they know my tone. Maybe 5 is overkill?

But that’s what we do. We apply our personalities to our messages. Whether it’s with emojis, exclamations, all caps, memes. We are casual and emotive. In one way or another we can all communicate and understand the colloquialisms of digital dialogue that have leaked into our everyday language.

Oh, How the Turntables

But what if the situation is professional? When it comes to a work email, it seems to come with some level of acute anxiety and to take up a lot of time. I can’t tell you how many times it has taken me more than an hour to craft the “right” email. One that is efficient and addresses all necessary points and most importantly, conveys professionalism AND friendliness?

It’s possible, but being professional and polished seems to have me second guessing every word I type. Even now, writing this blog post, I’ve probably written and rewritten this paragraph at least 5 times. But why? Why is it such a laborious task for us to communicate in this way?

The obvious answer is the stakes of the message and the level of client or colleague you’re communicating with. We have to be more detailed and watch punctuation. We read through it 3 or 10 times and show it to partners and co-workers. You read it over and over wanting to make sure there are no mistakes and you addressed every single point clearly. But that’s not the whole story.

To Thine Own Text Be True

When it comes down to it, texting and DM’s are natural conduits for creative communication.

Punctuation, grammar, and a lengthy message are no longer the communication standard. We don’t send as many letters to our loved ones. We send DMs or texts. Now, when we’re required to take time to make things properly punctuated, detailed, and formal – it can feel foreign and somehow disingenuous? I suppose because of the relatively formal nature of emails and long messages and letters. But we aren’t really supposed to insert our personality into those kinds of messages. We’re supposed to include all the details and formatting so that the person we’re corresponding with thinks we are professional, take the subject matter seriously, and trust the information in the message. But that’s not our day to day communication anymore.


Let's get those facts and figures into the idea machine


As time goes on, the energy and colloquial nature of text messages is seeping into how we communicate. My question is, how long will it be before communication blends together on all fronts? In my mind, humans will always gravitate toward the quickest and most effective way to communicate information. Those rigid structures will start to break down and our language will evolve as we do, making way for a less structured and more expansive vernacular. Sometimes we’ll throw an “lol” into those professional emails. Sometimes we put in more than one exclamation point and put “sparkle emoji” at the end of something we’re excited about. At the end of the day, no matter if it’s a text or an email, the most important thing is that we say what we mean, make ourselves clear and remember the difference between texting your BFF Jill and sending an update to your company’s biggest client.

Loved the article? Hated it? Didn’t even read it?

We’d love to hear from you.

Reach Out

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Insights

View All