Will Your Writing Style Ruin Your Career Before It Started?

Woman worrying at her desk.

Long gone are the days of having your co-workers close by. Instead, many of us are moving into complete isolation while staying connected with instant messaging apps like Teams, Slack, and Google Chat. Now that communication has moved to apps and email, you may be looking at your writing and wondering if you’re sending the right message. 

We’ve all at one point sent an email that we second-guessed or wanted to retract immediately. Especially if you’re a self-proclaimed professional writer, even the slightest grammatical mistake can feel enormously devastating.

While grammar mistakes are cut and dry, some errors are more abstract and can affect your job. For example, when deciding the tone that you will take with your employer, you might think that it’s a bad idea to make it friendly. You might even believe that it is inappropriate.

Well, the answer is simple. There are some benefits to having a friendly writing style, but in general you want to keep your writing style professional when communicating with an employer.

Casual Language Can Make Your Writing More Engaging

Keeping it professional while at work would seem obvious, but informal writing can be some of the most convincing and impactful. Persuasion requires that your audience feels something, and conversational language can express emotion much better than the cold and dry tone that a formal vocabulary assumes.

That’s right! Simple syntax is not only better, but it also allows you to strike at the heart of your meaning with clichés or colloquialisms. Often it is easier to grab someone’s attention with a more relatable tone. That is why you might be tempted to over-share when typing up that message to your boss. Because who doesn’t want to be liked by their boss?

Whether you are talking to your employer, a client, or both, it can be tempting to treat them like your good friend. True, there may be some exceptions, but in general, you want to make sure your writing is professional. Within the dynamic of an employee/employer relationship, there are unique factors at work.

When Informal is not Formal Enough

Similar to how informal language can have its distinct advantages, there are benefits to formal writing.

Using formal language leaves less room for interpretation with your words. It also creates a distance, which I think is healthy for an employer and an employee. Even if you are close friends outside of work, it makes sense to leave your friendship outside of work because you wouldn’t want a relationship influencing how you conduct business.

In addition, formal language does give you a certain amount of credibility. Formal language is more consistent than a casual style and a sign of polished writing. Therefore, it can be persuasive for different reasons as well. 

Although it might be tempting to use the same writing style for your friend and your employer, it is not always the best strategy. Not only should you factor in your relationship when making the decision, but you should consider the circumstances. 

Workplace Etiquette You Need to Consider

Walking the line between funny, offensive, and fireable can be difficult if you’re an impulsive person. For myself, it is challenging because I have a sales background, and my instinct is to get close with everyone I meet. Not because I want to sell anyone anything, but mainly because I was taught that getting others to like you meant treating them like your good friend.

While helpful for phone sales, that piece of advice isn’t applicable for all aspects of a work environment. Knowing you are taking the right tone comes down to the situation. Still, there are three main ideas you can consider when deciding whether your message is appropriate.

Avoid Offending Your Co-Workers

Remember that you are at work, and it’s easy to offend people. Even if you don’t find a joke offensive, even seemingly harmless humor can offend the wrong person. So, double-check yourself before you press send. Does your message have the potential to hurt anyone?

Present Yourself as a Serious Professional

Does your writing present you as a professional, and are you respecting the subject matter of your sentences? 

It’s never a great feeling, knowing that your employer or friend doesn’t trust what you tell them. When double-checking your communication, make sure that you’re elevating your writing, at least to some degree.

Create Relationships with Healthy Boundaries

Although blending friendships and work relationships can signify a healthy work environment, there need to be boundaries.

If you’re not sure whether you are crossing the line, it doesn’t hurt to remove anything that isn’t immediately necessary to convey your message.

Final thoughts

Even though your writing style should be different with your employer. Ultimately the question of whether your style is going to destroy your career depends on the circumstances. However, the answer is likely no. Your writing style should be professional and engaging because you want to communicate effectively. Part of that means using both formal and informal techniques. 

Mix up your style, and it will produce the best results while leaving a professional impression. Whether you are a seasoned professional or recently hired, it is good that you are thinking about what is and isn’t appropriate in a work environment.

I guess, like most things, it takes a bit of practice. A bit of training and experience will help you feel more comfortable with your communication style.

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