Why You Should Avoid Colloquialisms in Business Writing

Since the AOL Instant Messenger craze, our standards for written communication and business writing have changed completely. Through the introduction of acronyms such as BRB, LOL and the like, the lines between professionalism and colloquialisms have been blurred beyond recognition (BBR?).


Here is a quick guide to appropriate business writing when addressing contacts inside and outside of your organization. 

Outside of your organization
Always be 100% professional when corresponding with anyone outside of your organization. Remember that tone of voice cannot be heard through email, so all you have are the words on the screen and the reader’s interpretation of them to get your point across. This means that you should write in complete, proper sentences and avoid using any acronyms, smiley faces, sarcasm, unnecessary ellipses, etc.

In a business setting, it is typically ok to address everyone by their first name unless you are in an extremely formal situation, such as writing an offer letter, asking for donations or putting on a formal event.

Inside of your organization
When you are new or just getting to know someone, it is important to keep it formal, as you would with someone outside of your organization. However, when you are comfortable with those you work closely with, it can be ok to relax your communication style and be more casual in day to day communication. It is definitely still important to get to know your audience and take note of their tone, so you can mirror that and keep a balance of formal/casual that is comfortable for both parties. When you have a solid relationship with someone within your organization, colloquialisms and sense of humor are more natural to include, since the person on the other end is familiar with your personality.

Overall, it is essential that whoever you are speaking with in a business setting feels respected and comfortable. Likewise, you want to be viewed as professional, organized and trustworthy when forming relationships and working on projects. More than tone and style, you need to understand the grammatical differences between commonly confused words such as your/you’re, there/their/they’re, to/too, etc. in order to truly be taken seriously in your business communication. If in doubt, look it up or ask a friend or colleague. With the majority of our communication occurring via digital communication (text, email, chat), it is important to always put our best word(s) forward.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable by too casual of an email? Or do you think colloquialisms and abbreviations are more appropriate in our digital world? Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me @mandyresh!

Photo sources: Nicolas Nova (second from top), John Blyberg (center)


Amanda Kocefas

Amanda is a marketing professional with experience covering global communication, corporate branding, trade show events, advertising, web content management, and business development support. She has a Bachelor's degree in Advertising from Michigan State University and has internship experience in graphic design and non-profit event planning. She has also raised awareness and funds for several non-profit organizations including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Relay For Life, One World One Future, Ronald McDonald House, March of Dimes, Wright for Kids, Kalamazoo Community Advocates, and Kalamazoo Community in Schools. Through this column, she aims to help career girls everywhere master the tricky rules of communication in today's workplace.

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