Given that most of us use email on the job every day, writing skills matter. No, it’s not because we have nightmares of the red pen marking up our emails; it’s because poor writing means that readers of our emails get confused. When they get confused, we wind up with more emails in our already overloaded inbox – or our instructions don’t get properly followed. Either way, we waste time and aren’t as effective.
Look out for these two (don’t cringe!) grammar issues in your emails today:
Unclear pronouns – We use pronouns like he, she, or it in most of our emails. Sometimes, however, we use pronouns in ways that make our meaning unclear. For example:
We set up a meeting to discuss the project, but then it was cancelled.
What was cancelled—the meeting or the project? Because “it” wasn’t specified, the reader doesn’t know for sure.
Misplaced modifiers – Just like the name implies, “modifiers” are words that modify the meaning of other words in a sentence. Sometimes our fingers and brains get their wires crossed, so we type these “modifier” words in the wrong place…and unintentionally alter the meaning of the sentence. For example:
A strike at the factory almost delayed the entire order.
A strike at the factory delayed almost the entire order.
These sentences have the same words, but the reader takes away two different meanings – all thanks to where the modifier “almost” was placed.
Fortunately, a good proofread before you hit “send” will help you catch these issues. I promise it’s time well spent!
Our emails don’t always have to be grammatically perfect, but they do need to get the job done – and that means communicating clearly the first time. Have some respect for all that stuff your English teacher was trying to tell you. Turns out, it was some of the most practical information you learned. You just didn’t know it at the time.