Your words are an incredibly powerful business tool that you use each and every day. This is especially true during your job search. Not surprisingly, the punctuation around those words can be just as important as the words themselves.
You may have heard me preach before about the space that appears after a period at the end of a sentence. Did you know that it’s now unacceptable to include two spaces after a period? The new standard is one space after the period. If you’re like me, your teachers engrained double spacing in you as if your entire future depended on it. You can’t imagine a world with one space after a period.
To make matters worse, when the standard changed to one space, no memo was sent around. Unfortunately, those who were taught to use one space judge the double spacers. It’s assumed that a lack of intelligence must be to blame. This feeling is confirmed in an article I recently read titled, “For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period.” Now, that’s passion. Don’t you think?
I learned this single spacing lesson the hard way, from the kind editors who review my column each week. The editor of my book had also shared the feedback with me, but I was so certain about the double space that I ignored this advice until I heard it multiple times. It still surprises me how much these small details influence the reader’s interpretation of the overall message.
On top of spaces, there are other punctuation marks that should be used carefully. The most important is the exclamation point! If you use an exclamation point at all in business emails, try to keep them to a maximum of one to two per email. It’s possible to show excitement through your writing without an overuse of this mark. Using too many will make you appear overly eager, immature, or as if you’re yelling.
Keep smiley faces and other emoji-like characters out of work emails completely if possible. These are best used between friends. Using them at work can make you appear unprofessional at best.
So, which punctuation marks should you use? The most used punctuation mark is the period. Other marks that can be mixed in are the question mark, the comma, the colon, and the semicolon. These marks will help you to express your thoughts in an even, business-like way.
Writing an effective business email is truly an art. It takes time and practice to come across clearly and concisely on a computer screen. Using punctuation to your advantage is the very first step to getting there. In fact, the better your communication is at work, the more likely you are to move your ideas forward. And, the more you’re able to champion your own ideas, the more you’ll find that the doors to your career open. Although punctuation can seem like a silly detail, it’s something that’s relatively easy to improve and that will leave a lasting impact.
Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.