Have you ever been reading something and then you come upon a really ugly grammatical mistake and you just stop reading? It’s like nails on a chalkboard. What if the thing you’re reading is an e-mail from a respected colleague or mentor – does that influence your opinion of them? If you’re honest with yourself, you might say yes.
We’re all guilty of not double-checking our text messages. Sometimes your thumb gets moving so quickly that you’re pressing ‘send’ before your eyes even have time to re-scan. Plus, it’s just a text, right? It’s probably not that important. You probably don’t often text your professional contacts, so it probably makes no difference.
But, what about e-mails? Where do they fit into the communication importance hierarchy? I guess it depends on whom you’re e-mailing and what audience you think that e-mail has. If you’re e-mailing your Mom or brother, it’s probably not critical to make sure you’re using ‘whom’ appropriately, or whether you’ve put the apostrophe in the right place. Most e-mails, however, deserve a re-read (and probably even a second re-read) before you send them. Most deserve the additional time and labor of editing so that you don’t ruin an otherwise perfectly good piece of communication, and in the process, tarnish your good reputation.
What am I talking about? Well, we all make mistakes when we’re writing e-mails. These days, autocorrect and spellcheck have our backs… until they don’t. What happens when you write a word that is a real word but is simply not correct in context? Spellcheck probably won’t alert you. What happens when you mix up your tenses mid-sentence? Autocorrect probably missed it too. I’m not talking about high-level grammatical mistakes that you’d need an English major to uncover, or even about stylistic preferences - I’m referring to simple, albeit painful mistakes. Here are some sneaky and easy mistakes that are commonly made that you can benefit from avoiding, particularly when you’re sending an e-mail to someone important (i.e., professor, potential future business partner, clinic coordinator, etc.).
If you have made/are making these mistakes in your e-mails, they are simple errors to fix. If you know you frequently mix one or more of these up, please feel free to print up this short list and tape them up somewhere where you’ll remember to look before clicking send. Next time you’re in a rush and trying to get an e-mail out quickly, just remember who’s on the other end of it and consider whether their impression of you will change if you make one of these simple mistakes. Your words matter, and probably more than you think! Take the time, and preserve your erudite reputation.