Effective communication is arguably one of the most valuable skills an employee can possess. Whether it is improper grammar, usage errors, or inappropriate conversation, certain situations have the potential for disastrous outcomes. The age of texting, Instagramming and social media updating means that many professionals find their digital skills far outweigh their interpersonal ones. Here are a few general tips:

Don’t #1
Inappropriate use of slang: Most professional environments frown upon the use of slang in meetings, official emails, or during business discussions. The expectation is that an employee will be able to speak and write using standard business vocabulary and words that are appropriate and professional in nature and demeanor.

Write clearly and consistently: All writing performed in a business environment requires common sense, skill, and forethought. Success means being able to convey messages and thoughts in a clear and consistent way. Failure means sloppy, inaccurate, or incomplete communications that lack credibility or veracity. A good rule for email is to be as short as possible – if you need to write an essay, get on the phone.

Don’t #2
Texting acronyms: Many college students will be in for a rude awakening if they believe that acronyms that are used in text messages are acceptable when writing business emails. For example, using the acronym “GTG” for “good to go” will not be accepted or understood. In an office environment is best to stick with clear, concise wording and limit the use of abbreviated acronyms that the receiver may or may not understand.

Use industry acronyms specific to your field: Learning industry-specific acronyms and abbreviations is vital if you want to be an informed and reliable source of knowledge. No one wants to be the person who sits in a meeting and has no idea what certain acronyms mean. Reference guides, website, or seasoned co-workers can guide a new employee while they learn the necessary jargon for their job.

Don’t #3
Make communications assumptions: When preparing communications or work-related written products, it is critical to know who your audience will be and how to present the information required. Making assumptions without clearly knowing who the intended recipients will be is a serious error which may cause the message to be completely lost and valuable time wasted.

Research and investigate: Most writers and professional communicators agree that in order to be a successful writer, you must first be a successful reader. Learning subject matter and taking time to read reference material is a crucial part of preparation to write on a topic. If you aren’t willing to take the time to investigate and learn, your communications will suffer, as will your credibility. The bottom line: Be thorough, professional, informed, and mature in all professional communications. The words you write- and the way you write them- are a reflection of your value and worth to your firm or agency. Don’t cut corners when it comes to communication.

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.