Thursday, June 10, 2010

Email Style Guide: Part 2

Last week, we tackled some of the basics of structuring a professional, non-dickheaded business email.

In today’s installment of the Professional Email Style Guide for Complete and Total Morons, we will cover a couple of simple stylistic conventions that will prevent you from looking like a babbling preteen imbecile.

Once again:

The Hypocrite's Caveat: Just because I'm writing about writing doesn't mean I will use perfect English. So if you find a mistake, eat me. It's a blog. Do as I say, not as I do.


There should be none. This is not a text message to one of your man-slut friends about how much you drank last night and whoah I saw you making out wit the Lithunanian chik did u getrdone? There should be no “LULZ LMAO :-).” If you had any ability to recognize when something is appropriate and when something makes you look like an ass or a fifteen year old then you would know this already.

BOLD. There is no reason for you to use this, unless you are talking to an absolute idiot whom you must lead to important details like a dog to his own waste matter. The result of this sort of condescension is to make your target audience hate you. If you are trying to coerce someone into doing something for you, this is absolutely 100% the wrong way to go.

CAPS. Capitalized words are acceptable only in the event that you are using an acronym, which is a word made out of the first letters in a proper name. An example would be NAMBLA, the North American Man / Boy Love Association. We’ve already established that you probably spend a lot of your time there. Please note that if you do use an acronym you should be consistent with capitalizing it. Writing nambla now, in lower case, shows that I have the attention span of a hummingbird on uppers, or Gary Busey. Coming across like Gary Busey should be avoided at all cost.

Outside of acronyms, all caps just makes you sound like a Tourette Syndrome patient or someone with extreme anger management issues. Yes, you may be very mad about something. The appropriate means of expressing that anger is traditionally with back handed compliments, not shouting like a buffoon into a text box.

ITALICS. Why the hell are you using italics? Are you speaking in another language? Do you just like the way slanty words look? Knock it off. This is not a Harold Pinter play. If you knew who Harold Pinter was, you might think that comment was amusing.

UNDERLINING. This is as bad or possibly worse than the all caps simply because there is no appropriate time to use underlined words.

DIFFERENT COLORED WORDS. Don’t. Stop doing that.

The role of blind, seething rage in your professional email will be discussed another day. For now, just try to avoid highlighting your stupidity for all the world to see.


We’ll leave semicolons, colons and commas out of the discussion. I would advise you to avoid using semicolons and colons until such time as you actually know how to use them properly. Using them improperly will just reveal the fact that you paid no attention to your high school level English classes. It seems like commas you can, literally, use anywhere you like, anymore, even though there are, rules, about their usage, so, just try not to over, use them.

Instead I’ll focus on how you end your sentences.



Question marks. For questions.


Exclamation points! ARGH!!!! I’M SO ANGRY!!!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! Stop it. You’re not a toddler. Unless you are, in which case get off the Internet before NAMBLA finds you.

Ellipses. This is the word for “dot dot dot” or “…” and in dramatic writing (the one for the tv!) is meant to denote when someone trails off before they can complete a thought. In a professional business email, using ellipses means that you are unable to complete your own thoughts. If you use more than three periods in your ellipses, it means you can’t complete your own thoughts and also that you cannot count.

An example of poor writing: “OMG we need these crates of sausages NOW and cannot wait……. There WILL BE HELL TO PAY!!!!! Do you know, who I am????? I’M SO UNHAPPY WITH MY HOME LIFE!!!!!”

An example of proper writing: “Please calm down. Your crates are in transit. We understand your desperate need for sausage and hope that getting your hands on some might finally calm you down. Cheers!”

Next week will be etiquette.  If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comment section.

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