Millenials are a hyper-connected generation. We use Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and dozens of other social networks. We email, IM and text everyone. Although we use video sites like Youtube, talk on our cell phones, or share photos on Facebook or Flickr, a lot of our communication is textual. You would think that with all this everyday experience, we would have learned what is appropriate for different situations, but apparently we haven’t.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story on inappropriate text-based communication this week and it really caught my attention just because I didn’t know that this was such a big problem.

The way you communicate can keep you from getting hired.

We millenials are so used to communicating quickly from a variety of mediums including mobile devices that make typing quickly difficult that we throw in all kinds of shorthand to make life easier for ourselves, and we even use emoticons to help express our feelings or let others know when we’re making a joke. These practices are perfectly acceptable in our daily communication with our peers and close friends, but in the business world, many, if not most, view digital shorthand as unacceptable.

At the core, a lot of our millennial communication devices seem informal, lazy, and to some, even childish. These perceptions are fairly accurate, because digital shorthand stems from a desire to communicate quickly and with a minimum of effort.

It may not be necessary to abandon “txt-speak” completely, and if you have younger co-workers, it may even help you to communicate quickly and effectively. But it can be a big turn-off for most of your senior co-workers, customers, and people thinking about hiring you.

As a brief example, I recently received an introductory message from someone on Facebook. I hadn’t met the person before, but I immediately formed a positive impression just because the message was properly capitalized, punctuated, and divided into paragraphs. I’m not averse to occasionally skipping caps myself, but even in the Facebook world, where that type of writing style is very common, taking a little extra time to make sure that your writing looks and sounds professional can make a big difference.

The key to good professional communication is something hammered into me by my English Composition teachers in college: Know your audience. If you’re writing to someone you know well and have a good relationship with, you may know from experience that they don’t mind if you toss in a few acronyms, shorthand words, or even a smiley or two. But if you don’t know the person very well and want to make a good impression, you’re better off taking the time to write a formal and professional looking note.

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