Professional Writing

The way that you converse with a friend is going to be very different from how you converse with a facilitator or a CPAWSB staff member; the same is true in written communication. Your emails and assignments should be business appropriate and reflect your professionalism. In this post we examine how to write professional-sounding correspondence, whether in your studies or at work.

Things to avoid:

Slang: Slang usually consists of commonly-used words and phrases that emerge in a society to stand for other things. Slang has an informal and unprofessional tone that will make you appear immature or inappropriate. Keep in mind that slang may interpreted differently across cultures or generations. Try to stay away from words or phrases that could be misinterpreted; if you aren’t sure about something, it is safest to remove it.

Emojis: It is never acceptable to use emojis in professional writing. You will not be taken seriously as a professional student or employee if you tack the sunglasses emoji onto your signature.

General assumptions: Try to stay away from any assumptions. If you aren’t sure about something, do some research on it or, if you can, remove it entirely. Some examples include referring to someone’s gender based on their name, referring to a current event and expecting your recipient to feel the same way, etc.

Profanity: Using profanity of any kind in emails or during phone conversation will make you sound abrasive and unprofessional.

Jokes: As funny as you may be (or think you are), try and keep the jokes to yourself when corresponding with anyone about your studies or work.

Use caution:

Abbreviations: You may think that everyone knows what “LOL” means; however, not only are abbreviations unprofessional most of the time, they can be confusing. Some may interpret LOL as “lots of love” or ‘laugh out loud” and others may not know what it means at all. Abbreviations that are commonly used while texting, such as K, plz, or np are unacceptable in professional writing. If you must use an abbreviation, explain it the first time you use it – especially with someone who might not be familiar with it – and ensure it is meaningful to the conversation. For example, if you are referencing PDPA, write out the first instance as Post-Designation Public Accounting (PDPA) program.

Tone: Your facilitators and CPAWSB staff are trying to help you succeed, therefore, when writing to a facilitator or School staff member, use respectful language even if you are trying to resolve a difficult situation. Avoid making accusations or threats.

Following up: Regardless of why you’re contacting someone, wait at least 24 hours to follow up about the same question, as this can make you appear impatient and can postpone their response. And even if you have previously corresponded with multiple people at the same organization, choose one to send your message to. If your message requires multiple recipients, use the carbon copy (CC) email feature so they can see who else has received it, rather than sending a separate message to each person.

Be sure to include:

Pleasantries: Emails and business letters typically begin with a pleasantry. This could be “Dear Name,” for more formal recipients, or simply “Hi Name,” for more casual interactions. Make sure you have spelled the recipient’s name fully and correctly. At the end of the email or letter, you should include a sign-off such as, “Best,” or “Regards,” before your signature, but remember to keep it simple.

Proofreading: Before pressing ‘send’ look over your correspondence and make sure that you have used proper spelling and grammar. If you aren’t sure, try and get someone to review it. Professional communication uses capitalization to start sentences (referred to as sentence case) and avoids using ALL CAPS (considered shouting in email) or all lowercase (this can be difficult to read).

Contact information: Include your name on every message. Depending on the person you are sending it to, you can add less or more contact information, though the recipient should understand who you are and how to respond. To better identify yourself when corresponding with CPAWSB staff, make sure to include your candidate number.

A clear purpose: You should always be as clear and concise in your correspondence as possible. If you are asking a question, make sure the question is clear and you are being as courteous as possible. Avoid demanding a response.

Remember, the emails and letters you send are reflections of you.