Recently, I’ve noticed a new update to my Gmail account. As I type an email, the system automatically guesses what words I’m going to write and finishes sentences for me. It took me a while to get used to simply hitting tab to allow the words to fill in.
I must admit that I find this new update marginally helpful. I suppose I save a few seconds of writing time when I do accept those filled-in phrases. And since I still have control over what I write and don’t write, I don’t mind the computer’s suggestions.
Not all automated fill-ins are beneficial, however. In a recent post, Bernadette Jiwa writes about the “shorthand trap.” She mentions a few options I’ve tried, one of which is LinkedIn’s “quick replies” that allow you to say “Thanks,” “Sounds good,” etc. with one click.
The first (and only) time I responded to a LinkedIn contact with one of those quick replies, I regretted it. Why? Well, to put it plainly, the reply did not have a period at the end. The words “sounds good” had no punctuation at all. Before you roll your eyes at this minor detail, keep in mind that I’m not the kind of person who abbreviates when I text (although I do use “lol” a little too much). And grammar? You guessed it. Even when I text, I write in complete sentences. Yes, complete sentences, with correct capitalization and periods and commas and all the things.
Okay. I give you permission to roll your eyes or laugh at me now.
To be serious, though, if you’ve followed my posts for any length of time, you know why I believe clean and concise writing, particularly in business, is essential. Writing is often the only impression others get of our skill, intellect, and credibility. So when we use these “harmless” quick replies to respond to a potential client or business associate, we instantly send the message that we don’t care enough to write professionally.
Jiwa takes this issue one step further by stating that the “shorthand trap” diminishes how we connect with others: “There is not shorthand for caring. No substitute for deep connection. There is no shortcut either. We have to do the work of being the kind of people who make the effort to build the relationships we want if we are to create the future we want to see.”
A period at the end of a reply may seem inconsequential. But when you’re trying to make an impression and a connection, every effort (and grammatical sentence) counts.