Two Kids to College, One Piece of Advice: Write Well
The inevitable has arrived. My twins are heading off to college.
My son will be studying biomedical engineering. My daughter is pondering mechanical engineering or applied mathematics (or maybe something else—she’s leaving her options open, like her mother). They like the technical disciplines and it’s hard to find a math problem they can’t solve. It’s reasonable to assume they’ll have nice careers in these fields, given the strong demand for scientists and engineers. But, of course, many students change their minds and majors like politicians change stances in an election year. So who knows what they’ll end up doing?
So this got me to thinking. What is one simple thing I can tell them that might give them a little professional edge regardless of career path? I’ve already given all the serious, profound advice about how to treat people and handle oneself personally and professionally. So I hope we’re good there. But what’s that little extra piece of advice they need to take with them?
The answer was in my inbox. Actually, the answer floods my inbox daily: poorly written emails and attachments that make a weak impression—or worse, leave me wondering what I’m supposed to do. So, Jack and Abby, after I’ve given you my final “Phil’s-osophy” (you’re welcome for this link) and all the hugging and crying is over, please remember: always write well.
And here are seven easy-to-remember tips to help you along the way.
Spell their name correctly
Seriously, just make sure you spell everyone’s names correctly— first and last. If Mellissa spells her name with two L’s, then by all means, be respectful and type her name with two L’s. If P.J. goes by P.J., then don’t type “PJ”. Jon is Jon. You cannot greet him as John. Dan isn’t short for Daniel unless Daniel tells you it is.
Speed kills. Failure to check what you’ve written can leave recipients wondering if the subject is swimming (goggle), golf (PING) or search engines (Google and Bing). Or you might accidentally request a “sex story” instead of a success story. Real examples. Take a moment to read what you’ve written (preferably aloud) before sending. It’s a 60- to 90-second commitment that can save you a lot of backtracking and embarrassment.
An email is not a text
Texting has made us sloppy and lazy. Please don’t use “r”, “u”, “IMO”, “IDK” and the thousands of other shortcuts you learned from texting in anything you write professionally.
Do not treat a text to a customer or business colleague casually
Texting professionally is commonplace, but just because the message is being delivered via phone does not mean you should revert to shorthand and emoticons. Keep it professional. Type it out. SPECIAL NOTE: Don’t use the autocorrect excuse. Take the time to get it right.
Keep it simple
Early in my career, I felt a long email or letter teeming with flowery prose would impress people. It didn’t. Keep business communications short and sweet, but not so short that you can’t explain what you need. Avoid run-on sentences and omit the nickel and dime words and trite jargon designed by consultants to impress.
Don’t take advantage of familiarity
Inevitably, you’ll find professors you really like. Customers will become friends. When this happens, you’ll be tempted to take shortcuts when writing them. Don’t. Stay professional. Leave the friendly stuff for phone and in-person conversations.
It’s good for your brain. You’ll learn new words and be reminded of great words and ways to express yourself.
Oh, there is so much more I would like to go into, but alas, I know you’ll only be able to take in so much with all the excitement surrounding your first weeks of college. In fact, I’m concerned you won’t read this at all, given I couldn’t summarize it in fewer than 140 characters.
Maybe this will help: #studyhard #alwaysbenice #havefun #helppeople #callyourmomoften #writewell