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February 6, 2013

What was it you just said?

“Gv msd cl whn mtg bgn”:  for most of us, this string of alphabets would appear as nothing unusual, and at one glance, we shall be able to grasp the message: someone is asking anotherperson to give him a missed call on his cell phone once a particular meeting starts so that he can join in shortly. But if you show this same content to someone who is not used to sending or receiving messages on his cell phone or not a social media addict, this would appear as gibberish. Deny it as we may, the language we speak or write has been deeply affected by the advent of technology and changing lifestyle.

 What it used to be

People used to communicate with each other via letters, etc from times in memorial. Initially runners used to travel on foot from one place to another to deliver communication; then came the postal system – written communication was transported through trains and aeroplanes. During the times of the kings, people used to write flowery languages to praise the rulers. Later, all the frill got reduced to formal courtesies in addressing someone. But we used to pour our heart out in a letter, filled with updates about almost everyone and everything – be it the crops, rains, cattle, etc. We used to enquire of similar details of  the addressee and end our notes sending respect to the elders and love to juniors.

 New Age Communications

With the advent of e-mail, our communication began having “subjects”. So, what we wrote also used to revolve around that topic, and was much more focused. When a reply comes, we respond again- and after a few exchanges, formalities seem to disappear and the content shrinks to one or two lines, or just a few phrases.

 When mobile phones became part of our lives, we got a new mode of communication. Sms-ing or sending short text messages revolutionized the way we used to write to someone. And with the charges of sending messages being slashed by mobile operators, people could send as many number of messages as he pleased. However, the distinct difference in appearance and use between a keyboard and a keypad of a mobile, where one has to press a key number of times according to the desired alphabet or digit, was a laborious arrangement that would tire the user immensely. So, people evolved an easy solution – “write minimum, communicate maximum”.  This means that although full sentences may not be used and words may be shrunk to few alphabets, yet, the message shall be communicated effectively.

How does it affect Communication at workplaces?

 How we communicate in our personal lives with our friends and relatives is definitely different from the way we conduct ourselves at work, while communicating with fellow colleagues, the company’s management, clients, etc. There used to be an unwritten decorum – a formal way in which communications had to be written, or spoken, but all that is slowly losing its place in our verbal and written exchanges.

In the modern context, socializing through text messages, chatting platforms, social media, etc have become a part of our lives. The connectivity through mobiles, and the easy access to internet have made us addicts. The extent is so much that the web has entered even our cell phones.  As we succumb to this temptation, we do not realize the quicksand we are stepping in to, and get dragged in. The younger employees appear to be more affected by these modern practices, and seem to be confused about the expressions which are fit for an formal work atmosphere. You may have overheard a colleague using slang words very casually, without realizing the wrong impression that he creates with others.  Colleagues, without much second thought, address each other through terms such as "Dude", "Yaar", "Man" - expressions that are fit for personal conversations only.

Just stop for a minute and take a strong look at the language we write or speak nowadays - not only in personal level interactions but also in official communication. Almost all of us write “hrs” or “yrs” instead of “hours” and “years”.  When an e-mail says, “Pl find atchd....”, our subconscious mind reads it as “Please find attached..” and the expression does not appear out of place at all. Another popularly used abbreviation is “Rgds”, which represents “Regards”. 

Today our lives are fast paced where we are racing against time - we hardly have any time to read books, magazines or newspapers carefully. This directly impacts our spoken and written language, including the knowledge of correct spellings. We seem to forget our lessons from school. The incidences of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in official communication is on the rise – even in those prepared by highly qualified people. This could also be attributed to the stress on content in official communication, rather than its language or spellings.

Those working in the government sector where paper work is immense inspite of use of computers and relevant equipment, are required to adhere to defined processes, and use a particular language in all official communication. How much they must be detesting these restrictions, for they literally compel them to keep away from the expressions that have become part of our lives.

What can be done?

 A wrong spelling or improper word may spell disaster for the impression of a person, or a company’s image. It is essential that we realize the importance of appropriate behaviour, correct spellings and proper language. The revamping of these practices is an onus on the shoulders of senior management of a company. They should convey it to the Human Resource team as well as all heads of all departments to stress upon the need of appropriate language, conduct and likewise. Workshops may be organized for improving the communication skills of employees, and initiatives such as essay competitions can be organized where stress would be on proper language and spellings.  One should be encouraged to read articles on improvement of languages as well.   Happy communicating!



Tags : Social Media, Abbreviation, Messaging, Official communication

About Anupama

A Transport Planner and Architect, Anupama has been blogging for about six years now. She has taken up professional content writing for the last two years, and can always be contacted for any assignments or queries. Her strength is original presentation of any topic.