Grammar in the workplace: Importance of good communication
Lately, I've been paying a lot of attention to the way people communicate with one another across different communication channels such as Teams, Slack, Yammer, Mattermost, Jira and so on.
Now that the IT sector is almost entirely working remotely, communication with written text across all communication mediums is part of everyday life for most IT workers.
I find it quite fascinating how people use grammar and written text differently depending on the communication medium and to who those messages are sent.
I’ve tried to develop a pretty grammatically correct writing style no matter who I am writing to or where I am writing. I interact with colleagues, clients, teammates, architects, and almost anyone in the same way. At least, that is my goal.
It always warms my heart to receive a well-thought-out and structured message in a channel where you least expect it, such as Slack or Teams. Then again, it’s almost expected to receive such grammatically correct notifications via email.
There are probably only a few situations where I would forget about structuring my messages or caring about my grammar. These would typically be some urgent situations with a peer developer whom I’m working in close collaboration with.
Usually, in these types of situations, it is often just better to jump into a call because in these situations as well, there is an excellent chance of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Why good grammar is important
Writing grammatically correct text no matter the communication channel says a lot about the way the message’s sender has thought about their message.
In many cases, well-written text also yields respect toward the message recipient.
In many workplaces, it is common to encounter message exchanges with someone who ignores all grammar rules, writes the way they think about things, ignores spelling errors, responds with emojis, and uses other cryptic ways to express their feelings or emotions.
Sure, some of these ways have their place and time, but at least in my current workplace, I’m not so close with most people that I would feel comfortable expressing myself this way without worrying about being misunderstood.
I’ve recently encountered a few situations where Teams messages have burnt people out. After looking into some of these private message exchanges, proper messaging standards and grammar could have avoided many problems. Well, at least with a higher probability.
Taking the time to think about the content of my messages is already a part of the work I do every day. Because writing messages is a daily habit and a part of the work, I feel like it should be done appropriately.
Most commonly misinterpreted messages
It is too easy to get misunderstandings and misinterpretations while exchanging written messages; it’s not even funny. People misunderstand each other even when communicating face to face or in voice calls; it is not surprising that written texts get easily misinterpreted.
Too often, people are left hanging, waiting for a response back to their message. This is the worst and the most commonly misinterpreted way of expression, especially in messaging software where you can see that the other person has seen your sent message.
Nothing gets my blood boiling the way that using dots for self-expression in the written text does…
Dots should only be used for ending a paragraph. Period.
Some people use multiple dots as continuation expressions, but I don’t understand it.
Some people use dots for expressing frustration or some form of anger or dissatisfaction. Still, I don’t see that it is necessary to do that through written text, especially not in a work environment.
Too long sentences
Sometimes I run into messages that include sentences that are way too long. Almost daily, I read sentences and in the middle of reading them, I start to wonder what I am reading at the moment.
Usually, these long sentences are tried to be justified by placing “thought commas” to break down the sentence into multiple parts.
If a sentence gets too long, there are probably multiple different points the writer is trying to make in a single sentence. The sentence should be broken into various sentences for better readability and structure in these situations.
In general, expressing emotions and feeling through written text is hard.
Initialisms, such as “lol” “rofl” and “lmao” can be interpreted in many ways even though they typically mean some form of laughter.
Emojis are also an option for self-expression and expressing feelings or emotions, but I don’t see them too much in the work environment, and when I do, it leaves quite a bit of room for misinterpretations.
Written text as the medium in the workplace
Written text has been part of the workplace from way before my time on this planet, but usually in a very formal manner. I could see that text has had significant importance in documenting things, contracts, agreements, etc. These exist today, but now that communication is also added to the mix of text mediums, it’s hard to draw the line between formal and informal channels.
I write text every day for the following things in my workplace:
- communication in messaging apps such as Teams, Mattermost, Yammer, Skype
- code and commenting within
- Gitlab peer reviews
- Confluence documentation
- Some company Intranet channels
Written text is the backbone of my everyday work. I need to communicate a lot of my thoughts and knowledge through text and interpret others’ on top of that.
I am witnessing a massive change in the workplace because of how many text-based channels there are.
There are no random coffee talks anymore as most people are working remotely, which is why I always try to remember to at least add a “Hello” or something when messaging someone for the first time during that day.
Is asking “How are you doing?” a waste of time and energy when using text as a medium?
How to draw the line between all the written text channels and how to use grammar and be formal or informal?
Is it acceptable to have different ways people communicate and express themselves through written text, or should there be some standard or a set of rules in place to follow in different channels?
As a native Finnish speaker whose second language is English, I am biased to cultural differences as I also work in Finland, but in a Fortune Global 500 company.
As the last word, I want to say that I love writing, but interpreting other people’s texts every day can be very time and energy-consuming through different channels and platforms.