Posted July 30, 2008 9:52 am by with 20 comments

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Hey, you know me by now. I read the Wall Street Journal. I do read other things as well. I just figure that my sports addiction may not be of interest to the internet marketing crowd so I talk about that elsewhere (Let’s Go Mets!).

The WSJ had an interesting article on a phenomenon that has become a bit of a pet peeve for me. It’s about the new English that the internet has spawned and its apparent shortcomings for those in the more traditional business world. I know I may come off as sounding “old school” but I don’t mind because I am. This isn’t a new rant for me. When it come to business I firmly believe that “r” is just letter not a verb (are) and “8” is number and not something you just did at a restaurant. It seems like corporate America agrees.

The story revolves around young job hunters and their apparent cluelessness about how the rest of the world writes when it is trying to get work done. While many of these folks have great credentials and get far enough through the process that there may be a job offer waiting only to have their resume tossed into the “circular file” because they follow up and actually use terms like “hiya” and “thanx” in the correspondence and then top it off with multiple exclamation points and emoticons. Yikes. Imagine them working with a client and writing “Thx 4 your biz. U r a gr8 client!!!!!!!” I can see why the job would slip through their fingers.

Many follow up immediately after an interview using a Blackberry and think that they are being efficient but actually come off as not being able to digest something and think about it. Getting something done to say you got it done is not going to impress anyone. It really is the thought that counts in many situations. Then there are the interviewees who become “friends” of interviewers on Facebook and the like. I can’t even fathom the lack of understanding that would possess someone to do that.

The Internet marketing application of this stuff is simple. It’s about knowing how the other person, your customer / prospect, hears things that should be most important. While it may be efficient and sometimes even clever to create internet shorthand on the fly that should be done behind the scenes only. You have to make sure that the person who receives any truncated messages actually will understand you. What just a few short years ago would have looked like someone fell asleep on their keyboard is now considered to be communication. Your modern way of interacting may even cause someone to dismiss you as being unprofessional because you don’t appear to have a grasp of the language. That stuff affects the bottom line.

Does this sound harsh? Well, I suppose it is. The truth often is. For you younger folks in the industry (which I know there are many) you will have to make adjustments to those who have the ability to pay you and not think that they should come around to how you do things. That’s a basic sales and marketing precept; empathize with your client so you can meet their needs. You can “play the game” and be successful or can be like Chris Brubaker, a junior at Iowa State University who apparently has it all figured out and feels that “textspeak” will be accepted as normal business practice. He says “text messages are much more short and to the point. General communication is becoming more electronic.” First of all, what does that mean? My next question for Chris is, “R U nuts?”

  • This is excellent, I really enjoyed the article!

    Cosmixxx’s last blog post..Fascinatia discobolului

  • Along the same lines, I see a lot of people in business (especially the younger set) that make the assumption that everyone they talk to shares their politics. If I’m thinking about buying something, I really don’t need to know your political views. Confronting your customers with your love for Obama or McCain risks offending roughly 50% of your sales, since it’s a close race.

    Bloggers should think about that. Perhaps they’re just trying to create good Digg bait, but having a google search on your name produce 1,000 submits to Digg of how you love a candidate can’t be helpful. Likewise profanity, religion, etc.

    You kind of have to wonder about how the college kids that are posting huge amounts of controversial stuff on these social networks are going to explain some of this in their job interviews when they get out. Using your real name and saying what college you go to in a profile is like sending out a resume these days.

    Don Draper’s last blog post..Add the ProBlogger Friends List the Easy Way

  • NO NO NO!


    You write:

    “Does this sound harsh? Well, I suppose it is.”

    BZZZZT! El-WRONGO! You’re not harsh ENOUGH! Instead, you should have written something akin to:

    “People who indulge in the utter brazen soul-searing stupidity known as ‘chatspeak’ in real life interactions are truly deserving of meeting my pet pirahna named Fluffy and engaging in their conversations via that venue.”

    Super article and it should be said far more often!! Stumbled – everyone should read it.

    Enjoy, Barbara

    Barbara Ling’s last blog post..SURVIVING the Circle of Love (and smashing your fears to teeny tiny bits)

  • Maybe it’s because I’m a former newspaper reporter, but I can’t stand it when anyone uses texting shorthand in an e-mail. I’m relaxing a little when it comes to instant messaging. More often then not, I still feel compelled to make sure my IMs are properly spelled and punctuated, but I’m starting to relax a little about that. It will be interesting to see what the future holds when it comes to business and correspondence. Maybe when today’s youth are in charge, something like this will be the norm in corporate e-mails: OMG, I <3 your idea. Can u come c me 2 discuss?

    Ginny’s last blog post..Exploring Durham’s Scrap Exchange

  • Barbara,

    I like your passion around the subject. I did dial back my “real” feelings a bit. Go to the WSJ and read the article in full if you want to get even more upset! I didn’t even get to mention that one of the recruiters complaining about this is with KPMG which hires Ivy League types to big paying gigs right out of school. Imagine you hire a new graduate who will be front facing with good size customers and their e-mails consist of emoticons and rah, rah !!!!!!!!!! stuff. KPMG is not going to tolerate having to explain that away. Also, anyone who has hiring authority wouldn’t in their right minds OK this kind of silliness because THEY will end up on the street. Phew!

  • Ginny,

    That is my worst nightmare.

  • Scott

    IMHO, u r st8tn gd pts. Der is a tm & plc 4 txt spk esp w/ IM w/ peops u kno.

  • Frank – great pickup on this article. I read it as well and got a little chuckle out of it. I have worked with several interns recently that don’t quite seem to grasp the professional courtesy that “real-life” jobs require…and I work in the Internet Marketing field where one can get away with a little more chat-speak.

    The article didn’t really explore the numbers behind this phenomenon too much, but there are certainly some buttoned-up interviewers that still send proper thank-you cards or emails. There have always been slackers in the real world and I assume this is just a continuation of that trend.

    Natural selection will maintain the balance of life, so to speak. The weak (mannered) will be thinned from the (corporate) herd.

  • I haven’t yet turned 30, but I feel so old sometimes when I encounter “txtspk” everywhere. My red pen twitches – or at least the hand that holds my red pen twitches. I hate that it has become acceptable for people to communicate this way. Even when text message my friends and family, I use real words.

    The idea of using r, u, gr8, or <3 in business communications is just cringe-worthy. Though I have used “ZOMG” sarcastically in a blog entry…

    QualityGal’s last blog post..I Feel Lucky and have big Dreams, and we?re up to 40 now.

  • I suspected at least one comment would be in text shorthand. @Scott, thanks for not letting me down.

    We talk extensively about this in Radically Transparent. How you compose your emails, says a lot about your reputation.

  • Marifer

    haha..I would never do that. But I’m saving your post as a reminder anyways 😉 Thx 4 ur post!

  • This needed to be said from all roof tops by all responsible people. I am glad that you have taken the bull by its horn and come out with a strong post. I hope that the users of such sloppy communications are reading this.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Custom T-shirts

  • Scott

    @Andy – I couldn’t resist :-). I’m sure Frank got a chuckle as well, considering how badly I butchered “text speak”. Hopefully it reiterated the validity of the points made in this post and the WSJ story.

  • I would defend adding people who interviewed you to social networks though not until the job “decision” has been made…and I would start with LinkedIn and only gravitate to Facebook depending on the industry and level of connection that was made with that person.

  • Todd,

    I see your point. Thanks for checking in.


    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Blog With The End In Mind

  • This is interesting, because I was just discussing this issue with someone the other day. He was an older gentleman who has been in the business world for many years. He said that he will not even read e-mails he receives written with shortcuts. He said it was extremely unprofessional and almost offensive. I totally agree with this statement. It is great to have shortcuts if you are in a hurry or talking to close friends. However I think it is extremely important to be able to know when it is and when it is NOT appropriate to use shortcuts. Great article!

    Spinfield’s last blog post..What is Web 2.0?

  • I like this acticle. I agree that using text slang is absolutely terrible for business. I have yet to see text speak on a resume, but I am sure I will one day.

    I think part of the problem is that communication vehicles are seen as casual. Blogging is something that is casual, texting on phones is casual. The speed at which you communicate is directly related to how casual that communication is.

    I work for a business networking website,, and some people do use text speak when they are describing their business. I don’t think people realize the potential impact using text speak has on their professional life.


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