In an increasingly-online era, it is difficult to differentiate between a quick text to friends, an email to a colleague, and an online job application. Communicating professionally online poses a unique challenge by taking an often-casual platform (the internet) and making it formal. Here are three ideas to keep in mind the next time you engage in professional online communication:
Remember your audience. The professionals you are communicating with will not want to receive text-style typing, so make sure to have an editing app such as Grammarly installed to proofread before you begin communication. Review any automatic features you have enabled on your emails and texts, and remove things such as a “Sent from my iPhone” tag. Make sure that you address your audience properly, whether that be “Dr.,” “Ms.,”or “Sir.” Write with your audience in mind. This mindset shift will help you to automatically format your words more professionally.
Take an extra few minutes to ensure precision and thoughtfulness. Entre Resource references Laurence Peters’ poignant quote: “Speak when you are angry — and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Peters is right; communication out of frustration is often negative. Thankfully, online communication provides the opportunity to think before you respond. Take advantage of this time not only to formulate kind and appropriate responses when you are frustrated, but also to articulate your thoughts well. Use the extra time as a resource to enhance your writing, instead of just typing back the first thing that comes to mind. As you take this extra time, your grammar and style will improve because you are spending more time thinking about how you’re communicating.
Be (professionally) friendly. Several resources highlight the importance of personal connection in the workplace. Cultivating a warm and encouraging atmosphere shows that you care about the people around you, making you a positive person to work with. However, there is a balance between friendliness and professionalism that can be difficult to find. One simple way to stay professional while being friendly is to give people specific, thought-out complements. Instead of saying, “You’re awesome, man!” write, “I appreciate your prompt response; thank you for your time and consideration.” This means more because it is more specific and sincere, and its grammatically-correct structure maintains professionalism.
As you envision your audience, proofread your messages, take time to ensure your best work, and cultivate kindness through specific and professional friendliness, you will be well on your way to communicating professionally. Watch how your confidence grows as your professional communication abilities increase.