Collectively, we send nearly 300 billion emails per day, and around half of these are for business purposes. Reading and responding to business emails is a daily task. Some might call it a chore. Yet, it’s still essential for professionals and employees to maintain a high standard for quality when it comes to email writing. Issues with grammar are one area that can quickly lead to misunderstanding and to poor perception of the company.
Emails should be concise, professional, and grammatically correct. That’s easier said than done, right? Most email providers have a built-in spell check, but grammar checking is more tricky. Thankfully, there are tools that can help out, but there is much more to effective written communication than great grammar.
Grammar Affects Perception
Let’s stick to grammar for the time being. If you believe that grammar can’t be a serious issue, then think again. Poor grammar often causes the reader to judge you negatively, and over time will damage your individual and company reputation.
There have been a number of studies dealing with grammar and its effect on the reader’s perception. Research by psychologists at the North Carolina State University showed that when emails were riddled with errors, college students perceived the writer as being less intelligent, less conscientious and less trustworthy.
It’s not just students. Similar findings have been discovered in a number of different contexts. One study showed that spelling errors in peer-to-peer loan applications lead to less chance of success. Research from 2013 showed that 74% of consumers notice when a website has spelling and grammar mistakes, and 59% would reconsider their purchase if they noticed too many errors.
Email is still the number one tool for business communication, and so it’s important to take every message seriously. Emails are essentially a reflection of your personal or company image, and grammar mistakes have the potential to cause damage to business relationships.
Perfect Grammar Can Still Cause Misunderstandings
Emails are known to be a common cause of misunderstanding in the workplace, and a simple miscommunication has been shown to lead to anger and resentment. The purpose of grammar is to ensure clarity of communication, but small changes can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. This example is taken from a popular grammar book:
“He eats, shoots and leaves.”
“He eats shoots and leaves.”
The first sentence evokes an image of a man finishing his dinner, shooting his gun and then leaving the restaurant. The picture the second sentence paints is that of a male panda eating bamboo. The only difference is a single comma, but the meaning changes entirely. Here’s another one:
“We’re going to learn how to cut and paste kids.”
“We’re going to learn how to cut and paste, kids.”
In the absolute worst case scenario, use of grammar could lead to a lawsuit for misinformation, but that’s pretty rare. Most of the time you will be dealing with frustrated customers, employees and managers, but that’s bad enough. It’s important to get the fundamentals right and there are tools out there which can help.
Should You Use Grammar Checking Tools?
Grammar check tools can help non-professional email writers and non-native English speakers to fine-tune their grammar. They also offer native speakers and professional writers an extra defence against unnecessary mistakes.
However, despite their sophistication, they will not help in situations where the grammar is already correct. All four examples in the previous section are grammatically perfect, but present wildly different messages to the reader. No matter what tool you use, you should always proof read your emails before sending.
Also, grammar is only one part of the puzzle. It is important to get the fundamentals right, but perfect grammar is elusive and in many cases gets in the way of making the right impact. You can invest time crafting a grammatically perfect email, but it could still miss the mark with your reader. To write a great email that hits the target, there are several other factors to consider:
- Effective Business Language – Emails should make use of professional business language to convey the message effectively. The language used should be clear and concise, without any potential for misunderstanding.
- An Appropriate Subject Line – Without a good subject line that summarises the reason for sending, your message may not even be opened. When it comes to length, think of Goldilocks. Not too short and not too long. More than five words but less than twelve is usually just right.
- Tone – Emails tend to come across negative, unless positive language is used to lift the tone. Emails should be friendly, professional and make use of appropriate formalities. Managers should also consider a key element of their role is to energise a team to perform. The tone used in their messages can help or hinder this responsibility.
- Reader Insights – Professional emails should still account for personal preferences and cultural differences. Sophisticated email tools use reader insights to make suggestions based on real-time data.
The fundamentals of grammar are important in emails, but the search for perfect grammar should not come at the cost of the point you want to make. To write a clear, effective email that gets your point across, you need to tick all the boxes.
Checking email not only for grammar, but also for language, tone and personalisation, can enhance the power of your communications and reduce the risk of misunderstandings. SMYL is an all-in-one email checking tool which offers live improvements to your email writing based on business best-practice and AI-driven analysis. Sign up for free and start enjoying better business emails.