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Is It Ever Okay to Use Slang in Your Business Communications?

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 18, 2016 7:30:00 AM

With the advent of instant messaging and texting, it may seem like we’ve lost all sense of the English language.

Sometimes the use of “u” instead of “you” or saying “gotta” or “wanna” instead of “have to” or “want to” can easily creep into things like email or memos. But here’s the question - is this okay in a business setting?

Well, the answer is - it depends.

The main thing to keep in mind is who the specific type of communication is written for. The use of slang may be okay depending on the type of communication and how it is delivered.

Electronic Communications

If you’re using instant messaging in your office, then it’s probably going to be difficult not to use some form of slang. Employees are most likely going to type instant messages similar to the way they text, as it is an informal way to communicate.

The same goes for email, but here it can get a bit fuzzy. If team members working on a project are emailing documents or information back and forth with each other, the emails will likely include varying degrees of slang. Things will need to change, however, when those emails turn into progress reports or project updates addressed to upper management or outside parties. Keep in mind that slang is an absolute no-no when emailing your customers.

Blog posts should have a conversational tone to them but that still shouldn’t allow for the use of slang. Here we have to point to your audience, in this case your customers. Your blog post should be used as a method to engage your audience and to help them understand your business. While they can have a casual feel, a blog post should still reflect your business in a professional manner.

Written Communications

Written business communications should never contain any form of slang.

Your written communications are usually created for customers, management, investors, or other more formal audiences. While the purpose and format will vary, a written communication should speak to the reader in a respectful way.

Using slang here could cause the reader to not take your business seriously and could possibly have disastrous results. Think of presenting a business plan that is riddled with slang terms to an investor or bank officer. How would you view your business if you were they? You’ve not only reduced your chances of funding but you’ve probably damaged your reputation as well.

You also have to consider that more modern slang terms may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by the reader. This could be due to age or someone who uses English as a second language. Avoid any embarrassing situations by leaving slang completely out of your written documents and communications.

Preventing Slang from Creeping into Business Communications

So how do you prevent slang from slipping into business communications?

One way is to educate your staff on when it’s okay to use slang and when it’s not. Depending on your business type, you may decide that it’s not okay regardless of the circumstances. Having clearly set rules will help you to avoid any mishaps.

You could provide your staff with online resources or give them a list of reading materials to use as a reference to aid them. Explain to them the consequences of including slang in their writing and how it can negatively impact your business. Try giving them quizzes or contests to help them write more professionally in a fun way.

Another way to prevent slang from creeping into your business communications is to have a second set of eyes review it. Proofreading can help to prevent any trouble and help you detect any errors before you present written documents to your audience.

Have you ever used slang in your business communications? Have they ever negatively impacted how people view your business? Let us know in the comments below.


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Topics: slang, business communications

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