OMG! Are You Emailing Like a 16-Year-Old?

How r u doing? I'm GR8!

In the name of supposed efficiency, email has essentially eliminated any need for, or expectation of, decent and thoughtful writing. Grammar and spelling? Out the window. Salutations or any other formality? Fuhggedaboudit. But I am seeing an increasingly slippery slope -- business emails starting to look more and more like teenagers' text messages. Is there a bottom to what constitutes professional communication? Should there be?

I have a bad reputation for sometimes writing long emails. Guilty as charged -- I'm an obsessive perfectionist, which is not always good -- but I'm really working on it (the first step is admitting you have a problem). But many emails are quick demi-messages fired back and forth, often needlessly, and very often in place of what should be actual conversations. Forethought and typos be damned. It's a bell that can't be un-rung, or as my wife loves to say, "it is what it is." So be it.

But lately I've been getting more and more emails that read like they were thumb-typed by hyperactive, phone-tethered tweens than by serious business people. I'm not even talking about silly fonts or colored text; that's so 2006, and I've built up an immunity to purple Comic Sans at this point. I'm talking about keyboard shortcuts and other non-words, messages in all lowercase, wacky punctuation, and emoticons.

I will again admit my own guilt and (mild) hypocrisy by confessing that I do, at times, punctuate an email with the classic semicolon-hyphen-parenthesis wink. I am sorta-kinda OK with it when it comes to casual exchanges with friends. I'm not sure, but I may have even caved and popped one into a blog follow-up comment on this very site. But I would never do so in a serious business email to anyone who is not a familiar, long-time colleague and/or friend. At least I hope not... if you've ever gotten a serious business note from me with an emoticon, send it back to me and I'll send you a free Skooba bag, LOL. Yet I regularly get business emails with all manner of decoder-ring-worthy shortcuts, clever keyboard faces, and inappropriate (sometimes double or triple) exclamation points!!!

This just in: "OMG" is now in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. OMG indeed.

Is this OK?

On one hand, if I dig deep and chill out, I can convince myself that some of it is harmless. Times change, and perhaps a little winky-face at the end of a note is the easiest and most efficient way to make sure the tone of the email isn't misunderstood:

"Bob, I feel terrible that we have to let you go, but I know that a guy as totally awesome as you will move on to bigger and better things ;-)"

On the other hand, I'm disturbed that it essentially represents the dawn of complete communication anarchy. Anything goes. If letter-writing was the equivalent of a three-piece suit, faxes were dress-down Fridays, and emails are jeans-and-T-shirts, where are we now? Sweat pants with underwear showing?

"hey susan, i didn't want to be the one to tell u, but we're gonna have to do a nationwide safety recall on the model 7402 :-("

WTF? Is it me? Is this perfectly fine?

Please chime in on this. Is it just a sign of the times that we should learn to live with? Is it just fine with you? Is it OK in moderation and/or certain situations, or is it something that should be illegal after the age of sixteen? Share your thoughts on this and we'll be BFFs.

talk to u l8r!!!

(Flickr photo by wstera2)