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Good grammar and punctuation are essential habits of good communicators, right?

(Or should I have ended that sentence with “correct?”)

When I was running a busy creative studio, I always presented myself in emails to clients as courteous, enthusiastic, and detail-oriented. This meant I would always start with a salutation and the person’s name, speak in complete sentences, offer a closing, and sign my name (not my initials).

I did this every time. In every email.

And I was quite fond of throwing in an exclamation mark! Or two!! Or even three!!! (That’s how I showed my enthusiasm)

But looking back – on the subject of grammar and punctuation – I stand corrected. (Which is another way of saying I was wrong.)

Today I realize that people who follow this approach do indeed appear courteous, enthusiastic, and detail-oriented.

And who doesn’t want to appear that way?

Well, consider that high-level decision makers don’t communicate this way.

Derp.

I know, you think your clients are terse because they can get away with it. After all, they’re the client. And you’re the vendor. That’s how it is.

Oops. I thought you didn’t want to be perceived as a “vendor”?

The truth is, clients are terse because they are busy. And only non-busy people have time for such luxuries as correct grammar, complete sentences, and accurate punctuation.

Here’s my point: The higher up you go in the food chain, the more terse the communication.

That being the case, have you listened to yourself lately? Are you communicating in a way that positions you as a busy expert? Or rather an accommodating vendor / servant / order-taker?

Often when I’m consulting a studio owner as we navigate an important email conversation (say, we’re crafting an email to a SVP or a GM or an MD who is hopefully about to award us a large project!) I will tell the owner:

“You’re being too verbose. I need you to go into brevity mode.”

Brevity mode. As in, shorten it up. Err on the side of efficiency. Be a busy expert who respects how a fellow busy expert communicates.

Can’t say it in a sentence or two? Great. Just respond with “Call me.” Get the client on the phone and have a (gasp!) conversation between two human beings.

Because only staff (should appear as if they) have time to read lengthy, polite emails much less respond with equally lengthy, polite emails.

(And by “staff,” I don’t just mean your client’s staff. I mean your staff, too. They MUST be courteous, enthusiastic, and detail-oriented. Unlike you.)

Think I’m crazy? OK, then try this: imagine you are a client who needs something from me and instead of a lengthy, polite email I send you one of these three responses:

Just landed LAX. Give me a call. 123-456-7890

Awesome. Will send you the revised proposal asap

CCing my admin to schedule conf call. We’re stoked… talk soon

Do I sound like someone with a lot of time on my hands (and perhaps desperate) or do I sound more like a busy expert?

Cheers,

Joel

P.S. I forgot to add that some of us really need to rip the exclamation mark key off our keyboards lol


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