Punctuation Matters; in Emails Too

Computer Keyboard
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How you present a sentence in writing can carry a lot of its meaning. Which words you emphasize and the order of your words sometimes speaks more powerfully than the meaning of the words themselves.

In writing, punctuation carries much of this suggested interpretation of the words. If you omit it completely, alter it or place punctuation marks sloppily, the reader can be puzzled or, without much pondering, misinterpret what you write.

Of course, mistakes can happen; there's nothing dramatic about inadvertent error. 

Punctuation Matters

Together with avoiding too much slang in your emails, follow the rules of punctuation to both your and the reader's benefit:

  • Capitalize sentences and proper nouns
  • Use periods to end sentences
  • Use commas to separate concepts
  • Use quote marks to set off direct quotations

No Punctuation Mark Reduplication

Nothing is classier, of course, than the skillful hyperbole, say in exclamation marks!!!!111!!

There is also a proper place for every form of art, however—and professional emails are usually not the right place for many exclamation or question marks. Strive for very few exclamation marks, and don't reduplicate other punctuation marks, even if they are in their proper place.

Implications of Bad Punctuation

The proliferation of "text-speak," or heavily abbreviated communication—usually without punctuation—influenced by text messaging and social-media commenting, appeals to younger audiences in informal settings.

Some of this highly casual shorthand infiltrates emails, too. However, unlike text messages or online chats, most emails tend to live forever in some way, and they can be forwarded and published with relative ease.

Although email is a simple and convenient method of communication, treating it like it's no different from a Facebook comment or a Reddit post or a Snapchat comment can undermine your credibility with audiences that expect that your message at least will seem coherent.

If you punctuate your emails correctly, you'll avoid appearing too informal with your correspondents.