Here is a painful example of an actual email received by my friend from his employee last week, which was obviously dashed off and not proofed:
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Thu, Sep 11, 2008 at 7:53 PM
Subject: Re: supplies
Hi David i did not get my supplies i am hear at work until 9pm. Did get delivered to my apartment
There are many proofing and editing issues here:
- I am confused about where these supplies are. Does Caroline mean they did or did not get delivered to her apartment? Also, if she has not yet returned to her apartment, how would she know if the supplies had or had not yet been delivered there? So, the main point is unclear.
- A comma is missing after the salutation.
- The first sentence, beginning with “i did not get my supplies” should be capitalized at the start of the sentence and conclude with a period: “I did not get my supplies.”
- She is “here” at work, not “hear” at work.
- i did not get my supplies i am hear at work until 9pm is a fused sentence.
The recipient of this message is forced to guess at its meaning, and has only two choices, neither of which are productive:
- Reply and ask for clarification (correct action, but wastes his time)
- Guess at its meaning and move ahead, risking incorrect action.
The goal of every written communication should be to communicate exactly what a reader needs to know or do in one communication cycle. This example is obviously extreme, but ask yourself if you ever receive email responses asking for clarification of your message. If so, you need to tighten content so your reader can execute your request with no confusion.
I know we are all busy, but if we don’t take the time to proof our email messages for content and clarity and correct grammar before we send them, we cause our reader/s to waste their valuable time trying to decipher meaning or asking for clarification. Worse yet, they may take incorrect action.
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