Watch the Language!

From the "sad but true" category, PR Daily reports on the trend of texting language now appearing in places it shouldn’t, like business writing and e-mails, or students’ schoolwork — or pretty much anywhere else that’s not a phone. This is one of those things that probably won’t change any time soon, so we should all probably get used to it and find something else to get irritated about. (If you want it, I’ve started a list.) PR Daily reports:

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be a passing fad. According to a recent poll of high school educators, 54 percent claim the “mobile phone text message language” is now creeping into teenagers’ schoolwork.

Even worse, a few years ago New Zealand officials allegedly began allowing high school students to use “text speak” in their written national exams. A local newspaper provided some tongue-in-cheek (I think) examples: “We shal fite dem on d beaches” (Sir Winston Churchill) and “2b or nt 2b” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Yikes!

Look, I get it. We live in an increasingly online world that’s populated with buzzwords, acronyms, and slang. But as someone who specializes in communications, I can’t stress how important it is to act like a professional, regardless of your chosen field. And that goes for your writing.

Experts warn that “casual communication” such as text message lingo, instant message abbreviations, emoticons, or even a quickly dashed off (and often misspelled) message from your iPhone or BlackBerry can shatter your chances of landing a new customer, making a potential sale, or winning a certain position.

While clients may forgive the occasional typo, frequent mistakes and ongoing casual communication could give them the idea that you’re sloppy and not to be taken seriously. Those types of misunderstandings can be costly when it comes to business. As one of my colleagues recently pointed out, people should try being more direct, use plain language, and be clear when communicating.

Remember, there is a time and place for casual chatter. After the close of business, customers are not your friends, so save the LOLs for a non-work acquaintance. You don’t know what might annoy someone, so the best plan is to keep it formal and professional. Craft thoughtful sentences and support your written communications with a polished verbal or personal presentation.

U can thnk me 4 this advice l8tr.

Here are a few more examples of the most hated “text talk” lingo, courtesy of a lunchtime poll of my colleagues.

• “Perf” instead of perfect. I don’t know why, but it bothers me.
• In emails, anything that has a hashtag annoys me. #lame
• LOL. Also: vacay and ROFL.
• Please spell out “pls” and “thx.” Thanks.
• In speech, I think “B.T. dubs” drives me slightly insane.

Noticed any text lingo creeping into business communications where you work?

More Words, Not Less, Preferred by Some

How many of you knew that SCUBA stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus? Maybe that one was too easy. How about the fact that a gentleman named David Davis coined the term acronym (such as SCUBA) in 1943?

If it had stopped there, we might have little to complain about. But more and more acronyms have resulted in more and more confusion. A combination of various letters today could mean one of several things — and boy are there difficulties if one misinterprets.

A Ragan Communications column tackled some of the acronym absurdity. A few excerpts:

IRA could be something you put money into for retirement, or it could be a group of rowdy Irish revolutionaries. IOU stands for ‘I owe you,’ so in actuality it should be IOY. IEEE could stand for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or it could be the sound a hyena makes.

See how confusing it can be? And really, if there’s any truth to evolution, shouldn’t we be getting better at communicating more effectively? Instead, this generation is adding to the problem with texting acronyms. Thankfully we have a 14-year-old son to help us navigate our way through the labyrinth of LOLs, TTFNs and BCs or I fear we’d be TL (totally lost).

I feel like each year I understand less and less, setting me up to make disastrous mistakes in communicating to the younger set. And I know I’m not alone.

My sister Peg is in the same boat. She is a high school English teacher in Ohio and she’s one of the coolest people I know. So when she was talking to her class about some surprise and told them to “keep it on the LD” she wondered why they all started laughing. “Mrs. G—,” a student said, “I think what you’re trying to say is ‘keep it on the DL—down low.’”

Another teacher came to Peg wondering why students were sprinkling “101” in various places throughout their written work. It took them a while to figure out that students were actually interjecting “LOL,” which stands for laugh out loud.

If this is happening to people my age, I can only imagine what happens to our parents’ generation. One person shared that her aunt thinks that the aforementioned LOL means “lots of love,” so she’s been sending notes, cards and messages that are wildly inappropriate, unbeknownst to her. Think of the disastrous results that can occur from not knowing that LOL means “laugh out loud.”

  • “It’s your birthday. You don’t look a day over 40! LOL!”

  • “So sorry to hear of your loss. LOL.”

  • “Happy anniversary. I don’t know a couple that seems better made for each other. LOL!”

  • “Your baby is adorable. LOL!”   

So let’s KISS (keep it simple, Sherlock) and stop with the acronyms already. Say what you mean, even if it takes a few more seconds out of your day. It’s not like we’re in such a hurry that we don’t have time to complete our sentences with good old-fashioned words. Besides, it’s the LYCD (least you can do).