Each week, Inc. staff writer Nadine Heintz (Miss Management) will help you tackle office etiquette problems both big and small.
Dear Nadine,I've noticed lately that some team members are sending e-mails and not using capital letters at the beginning of sentences and not using proper punctuation.† Are there any rules to guide us in this area or is this a trend to save time, etc.? I look forward to your answer. Tom
Unfortunately, poor punctuation and e-mail do seem to go hand in hand. And, during the past few years, capitalization has become passe. Sometimes I try to be "cool" and send out all-lower-case e-mails. But, inevitably, I delete the whole thing and start over again. It just doesn't feel right. I guess we're both old-fashioned, but we're not alone.
Thankfully, proper punctuation has had a bit of a rebirth recently thanks to a book called Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by British author Lynne Truss. The book's title riffs on an old gem about a panda who walks into a bar, has dinner, shoots the bartender, and leaves. It turns out that he ignored the punctuation in a description of "panda" in the encyclopedia. The entry read "panda: eats shoots and leaves." In the book, Truss rails against the current trend towards bad punctuation, and, judging by its runaway sales, she may just turn the tide. You can do the same in your office.
I suggest that you treat the situation with a bit of levity. Perhaps you should read the Truss book, then bring it up at the watercooler or at lunch. Tell the panda joke, then mention that you're saddened by the lack of punctuation and capitalization in e-mails these days. At the very least, you'll get some people to think twice before hitting "send."
Have a dilemma for Miss Management? Send her an e-mail and check back here Tuesdays for the answer.