Speak the Queen's English, Man

February 10, 2009

We spend a good deal of time preaching authenticity in online communications. Mark, who is always more precise succinct in his posts, previously summed it up thusly: Corporate blogs should be more blog than corporate. Never one to let one sentence explain what several dozen can, I tackled business-speak in an incomprehensible press release I once came across.

However, the longer I spend in this business—and the more I read of similarly situated industry adherents—the more I realize how easily one can go too far with casual language. This was highlighted for me in this CNET post by a technology columnist who concedes that his daily use of commonly accepted online words or phrases often confuses others.

Proper English, FTW!

I get a lot of good-natured ribbing from friends and loved-ones for my continued practice of composing emails like formal, hand-written letters. Yes, I still use a salutation, body, and closing (though, I'll admit, I often neglect to do so with intra-office email). Even on casual networks like Twitter or Facebook, I don't use phrases such as "pwned," and it will be a cold day in El Paso before I employ "LMAO" or other, similar acronyms.

Why do I not give in to such popular, if cryptic, language stylings? Communication is how I earn a living, and I can ill afford to sound either like a text-messaging teenager or the head of the local Dungeons & Dragons guild. More importantly, that's just not how I communicate with others. If I used these types of terms, it would sound forced and contrived.

Authenticity does not equal conformity

Those of us in digital marketing sometimes fail to convey that involvement in the online tools we so cherish is, in and of itself, the biggest step. The medium is the message, and by committing to new marketing techniques, you signal progress—not that you're becoming something altogether different.

When your marketing folks tell you to get on Twitter and Plurk, blog away the night, and be 100% genuine and authentic, they mean—or should mean—be yourself. If you're the kind of person who refuses to use contractions and thinks crossword puzzles have become too pedestrian, so be it. Don't try to emulate someone else's style.

In the end, your customers will know when you're full of it, and they'll let the world know. The result will not make you LOL or ROTFL.