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Published: Tuesday, 4/21/2009

Owens Community College

Correspondence is changing. People are conversing through social networking sites, video chat, e-mail and text messaging instead of using the phone or attending meetings.

Stacie Majewski quickly realized the change and knew that in order to succeed she had to be prepared with proper etiquette. Majewski says the courses she took at Owens covering digital etiquette prepared her for her secretarial career.

Before I learned about digital etiquette, I wasn t sure how to send a business e-mail, but I learned to keep e-mails short, concise and proper and not ramble with a story.

Owens is working to ensure that alums like Stacie are prepared for their career by incorporating digital etiquette into classes in the Office Administration and Business curricula. College and Career Professionalism, a course that has evolved over the past few years, debuts this summer and will focus on behavior in the workplace, including digital etiquette.

If appropriate digital etiquette is not utilized, miscommunication may occur. It is estimated that 85-90 percent of all errors made in the workplace are the result of miscommunication, said Teri Pratt, Instructor of Information Systems.

Research on digital communication is limited, but a survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that instant messages and text messages were easily misinterpreted. Other forms of business communication were easier to understand: 56 percent of those surveyed had never misinterpreted a fax, and 46 percent had never misinterpreted a letter. However, the same survey found that 78 percent of respondents could not live without e-mail in the workplace.

E-mail remains a popular vehicle for communication, but what is acceptable communication in everyday lives is not necessarily acceptable in business.

Writing e-mails using language similar to text messaging, such as incomplete sentences and abbreviations, seems to be common. However it is important to use full sentences and spell everything out so the recipient understands the message, said Sophia Ramos, an Office Administration student at Owens.

In addition, e-mail senders should use a detailed subject line so the recipient knows exactly what the message contains and how to respond, for example, Please review attached document.

Business Professor Jeff Hardesty says students must also remember to check spelling and grammar, and be direct, proper and courteous.

Texting is another form of communication popularized by Gen-X to send messages over cell phones. It is quick and easy, but should not replace all forms of business correspondence. Anything longer than 160 characters should be sent as an e-mail or phone call. Professionals should also avoid texting when in the presence of others. Co-workers and clients deserve their full attention.

Finally, I remind students that messages can be easily transferred from one person to another, and the way we communicate gives insight into what kind of person we are and the company we represent, said Hardesty.

It can be difficult to decipher the intended tone of the sender in text messages and e-mail, so it is important to be clear and concise. An e-mail may seem informal but it must always be professional. E-mails are never private; they may be stored or forwarded. Hardesty puts this in perspective by asking students to imagine how they would feel if their message appeared on the front page of a newspaper.

Crystal Henry, an Owens student and a legal assistant, is thrilled with the benefits of technology. Cell phones with e-mail capabilities have allowed us to cut down on voicemail usage, which makes return phones calls quicker and easier, she said.

The proper netiquette she and others are learning at Owens is helping further their professional careers.

For more information on the College and Career Professionalism course and other courses covering digital etiquette, call 567-661-7007.



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