Don't Hit 'Send' ... Yet
The Internet's Lightning Speed Is No Excuse For Shoddy Communication
By Alicia Orr Suman
I just figured out how to adjust the "send" option on my laptop's e-mail. It had been set to send all messages immediately—big mistake. Several times I've hit send only to regret it a few seconds later. A half-written message inadvertently goes out, or worse, a message written hastily is sent without my really having first thought of the consequences of sending it.
The absolute wonder of the Internet is that it allows us to communicate at light speed: Just click and go. But it carries with it an inherent danger.
"Remember Internet Time? ...
the phrase became canonical
in the late 1990s. It was used to
describe the accelerated pace at
which, in a Web-enabled world,
all business was supposedly
going to be conducted."
—The Wall Street Journal's Lee Gomes writing in his column "Boomtown" (10/28/02)
Gomes later jests, "This is your brain on speed." I get a cold shiver when I think how quickly and often stupidly we use the Internet—especially e-mail—in our business and marketing communications.
Speed at Your Own Risk
The speed the 'Net gives us to get messages out can be useful in creating and delivering marketing messages faster than ever before. But sadly, we all too often misuse this medium by not critically reviewing what it is we're sending.
"One can't help but suspect that Internet Time was a convenient excuse for companies of the period to sell stuff not fully tested, if not downright shoddy."
While Gomes' comment above speaks mainly of product cycles, I believe his criticisms to be equally relevant in the communications space.
Here are some ideas to consider before you send your next Internet message:
>Craft your messages with care. Communication is almost too easy online—from the e-mails we dash off to colleagues or clients with little forethought ... to poorly planned, poorly executed e-mail marketing campaigns. The problem even extends to ill-thought-out Web site development. (The mentality, "We can always change it later," is a dangerous one!)
Focus on the message you want to relay, then do it as succinctly and clearly as possible in keeping with the brevity required for this "quick-consumption" medium.
>Use proper English grammar. In online communications, write in a casual tone when appropriate. But never forget you are using the English language—not some form of 'Net-speak.
If you're old enough to remember when we used to have to get out a typewriter to write a letter, you know the painstaking process we'd go through to make a piece of copy letter-perfect. The same care should be used in creating e-mail communications, as well as copy for the Web.
>Proofread your work. Before a piece of printed literature goes to press, it's put through several rounds of proofing and review. Typically, with e-mail, there are no proofs to review. You write it and it goes. Don't fall into this trap. Print out your copy and read it carefully. Better yet, if you have a little time, put it away and do something else; then read it with a fresh eye later and make sure it's something you're confident is your best effort.
And remember, just because "Internet Time" means we can communicate faster, cheaper and more easily than with any other medium, it doesn't give us an excuse to do less than our best work.
Alicia Orr Suman is executive editor of Target Marketing. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.