• Margaret Page

Is Your Digital Communication Style Stuck in the ’00s?


Old Way New Way Sign

Old rule: Always use proper punctuation, no matter the medium.

New rule: There is power in punctuation. Use it wisely.

In business, it was once perfectly normal to use formal punctuation throughout all mediums — texting, email, and instant messaging. But research has shown that our brains are changing as technology changes; we tend to value informality in text messages and formality in letters, for example.

Studies have shown that period use at the end of a sentence can make you sound angry in some mediums, like texting. Why is that? When texting, a period signals a full stop, or the end of a chain of thought. That can translate as unintentional brusqueness if used in every interaction, or if you’re responding to an enthusiastic message.

Let’s compare two sets of texts so you can see the difference:

Text 1: Congratulations on the promotion!

Text 2: Thanks. I’m very excited.

Text 1: Congratulations on the promotion!

Text 2: Thanks, I’m very excited

To many people, the first example signals the end of the conversation while the second leaves the possibility of more discussion.


Old rule: Emoji are never acceptable.

New rule: Know your audience.

Those smiling, scowling, downright silly emoji may seem completely out of place in work communication — and depending on where you work, they might be. But more than 75 percent of Americans report using emoji in work emails and messages.

Part of that is attributable to the rise of those digital natives, Millennials, who are reshaping the way we interact with each other. It also reflects the inherent drawbacks of modern communication. When you’re speaking to someone face to face, you can use your own emotional intelligence to read his or her vocal cues and body language.

That’s not possible with most of the forms of communication we use today, and so emoji fill the void.


So should you use them? That depends. Do you in a laid-back work environment that prides itself on openness and easy dialogue? Or do you work in a corporate office that thrives on formality and tradition? If your boss uses emoji, chances are it’s appropriate for you to do the same.


Old rule: Save space! Abbreviate.

New rule: Why bother?

Abbreviations have gone the way of the dodo for two reasons. First, instant messaging and predictive text make it much easier to write full sentences. And unless you’re still using a flip phone, your long messages most likely won’t be broken into smaller, numbered messages as they come through to your recipient. Second, those ubiquitous emoji have taken over — why use LOL when you can use a laughing face?

Of course, the guidelines mentioned up above — know your audience — apply here, too. If you wouldn’t use emoji, you probably won’t want to abbreviate. And if you can avoid abbreviation altogether, do so.


Have you found that business communication is becoming less formal? How so? Tell me in the comments below.