Or, I mean, typing or texting.
Take a step back and recall how many emails, text messages, and chat messages you sent today. You might be startled at the result. I do this exercise once in a while whenever I feel like my eyes get a twinge of blackness from staring at the electronic screens – computer and cell phone – all day. One time I found myself getting at least 30 to 100 emails per day, text messages from three people, online messages from three people, while four colleagues hovered over my cubical to talk about the project I am working on right now. That’s a lot of talking and writing we do everyday without thinking. No wonder I felt exhausted! I was writing and communicating all day! Most people’s working in an office is like this too – spending hours and hours going through emails, phones, text messages, online messages, and more emails.
With the rapid change in technology, we have made ourselves all more available but at the same time we aren’t resting or taking a step back to think what we are really writing before we press that send button. In fact, we are writing so much at such a speed that we forget to realize that while emails and texts are great ways to communicate quickly to someone at anytime it could also accelerate any miscommunications. We blame autocorrect for correcting us, but sometimes its because we forget that writing emails and texts, though they are often informal and colloquial, are still a form of writing and should be treated as such.
Good writing, my Professors used to tell me, takes time. It’s critical to take sometime thinking about what is your writing style. What is your approach? Do you like to joke and put smiley faces? Do you like to use a lot of acronyms? Are you a serious writer that you will double check every sentence to be a complete sentence and get annoyed when some other email writers do not do that? There is no one answer, but understanding what is your style and how your writing influences the way you communicate with others is an important matter to reflect on. In fact, there are some digital writing etiquette we should be more careful of too. We don’t have to comment on everything we read. We don’t have to respond to every email we get within an hour. We don’t have to express our emotions in all emails nor hide in all emails. Sometimes, its better to just go out to your colleague and talk about something instead of writing them out on an email. Remember, it’s the digital age – all writing we do will stay ALIVE somewhere FOREVER.
We have to change this attitude we have towards digital writing. I’m trying to become a better writer too by trying different approaches. Spending some time to reflect and think about the way you write will be critical for you realize how others may see you when you write. If we aren’t pressured to multitask and respond to all emails and text at the same time, we’ll be able to think the message better and give a more clear response. Everyone has a different approach and there is no one way of doing this. The three things I’ve tried that worked so far are to (a) prioritize my inbox and messages in the morning before I start responding and make a list of my “to-do list,” (b) block chunk of times to work on certain emails and to NOT work on ANY emails, and (c) learn how to say “let’s talk later” if its something that could wait. I also try spending some time crafting my emails or messages in a structured layout or a list to make my message more clear. I’ve also practiced minimizing the usages of adverbs and writing more concise messages. It’s still a process, but I’ve made some improvement when I compare the emails I wrote 6 years ago.
I don’t know what tomorrow’s technology would do to change the way we communicate or write in the future. Maybe we’ll have something that we won’t have to stare into the screens all day to communicate or our phones. Maybe we’ll have to just think out loud or blink at another person to express something. Still, one way or another, good writing and good communication could benefit us all. It wouldn’t hurt to spend some time talking and thinking about the way we write and type today!
Now turn off that screen and rest your eyes to give yourself a break and reflect.
Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.