Before You Send that Racist Text, Read This!

10 texting and email tips for school administrators (and everyone else, really).

By now you’ve read about the discovery of a bunch of very racist texts exchanged between the Superintendent of the Coatesville school district and his Director of Athletics. Both men have been fired from their jobs. There were lots of uses of the N-word with a healthy sprinkling of F-bombs, not to mention slurs on Arabs, Mexicans and the Chosen People, too (hey, that’s me). Lots of hahahahas too. What fun!

So what have we learned from all this, other than that Miss Universe is one fine piece? (I mean… duh, right?)

Communication skills, particularly in a professional environment are very important. We spend much of our days emailing and texting co-workers, family, customers and suppliers. And although most of us at work are not engaging in the kind of exchange that these guys were, we could all use some improvement in the ways we text and email. Smartphones, iPads and Gmail are great, but these tools have caused a lot of us to lose our professionalism over the past few years. So let me offer these ten important suggestions so that you can restore those very important business skills that were so recently lost and possibly repair your relationships with others in your network.

  1. Don’t use racial slurs. Let’s just get that little nugget of wisdom out of the way first.
  2. When someone that you know sends you an email, REPLY to it. My company sells software. A month ago I spent a month on the phone with Joanna discussing her company’s software needs and my recommendations. We had a great conversation. I emailed her some info she requested. No reply. I have since emailed her every week for the past four weeks merely asking if she got my original email (she had asked for this stuff, remember). Still no reply. I finally called her and what did she tell me when I asked if she received my emails? “Oh, yes, I received your emails. I’ve just been sooooo slammed and just too busy to reply.” Really? Slammed? Too busy to send a one-sentence reply? C’mon… have some courtesy. It takes less than 30 seconds. She knew me. I spent time with her. I helped her. I’m not looking for much–just a simple update. I get it if you don’t reply to a spam message or someone you don’t know. But here’s the rule of thumb: If you meet or speak to someone, then now you know him or her. Unless you’re being bombarded, show a little courtesy, particularly if you invited the exchange.
  3. Keep your messages short. Ever get that email that looks like it was copied out of a chapter of Crime and Punishment? Do you read them? Thought not. I don’t read emails that are more than 2-3 sentences long. I get bored. If it’s that long, then pick up the phone. There are still phones. People still talk on them.
  4. Never, ever send an emotional or text. Trust me, you’ll regret it the minute you hit the send button. There will always be something you forgot. Your feelings will be misinterpreted. You will not get the last word and when the reply comes back you’ll just cringe. You’re creating a paper trail of words that should probably be left in the ether. Save it as a draft. Give it half a day. Then go back and read it. Trust me, you’ll wind up deleting it 95 percent of the time.
  5. Don’t reply to group texts unless the group really needs to see your reply. Here’s why: A group text gets sent to an entire group of people. When someone replies to that text the entire group gets that text. Unless it’s relevant to the entire group, then for God’s sake just reply to the originator of the text. There’s nothing worse than your phone vibrating off the table because 12 people are all texting “K” (that’s short for OK… it takes much, much longer to type OK, so a lot of people just save precious time by just typing K). Same goes for “reply to all” on an email. Soccer moms, listen up: we don’t care that little Danny has an orthodontist appointment at 3 p.m. and you also have to take your 6-year-old to Karate lessons and that’s why he’s going to be late to soccer practice. Just reply to the coach only. It’s another button next to the “reply to all” button on your email. Thank you.
  6. Don’t send attachments without permission. Why is that one email message from John taking so long to download? Oh, that’s right, John thought I actually cared about that 4-GB 16-color brochure advertising his product so he just… sent it to me. And now time stands still until it’s downloaded. With the increase in available storage space, files and photos are getting larger and larger. Don’t attach them to emails unless specifically asked or if you warn in advance. If they are too big then stick them on Dropbox and give your recipient a link.
  7. If your email is unsolicited, do a little work on your subject line. Every month I get a newsletter from a company that makes umbrellas. This is true. I don’t ask to be taken off the list because the newsletter fascinates me. Not only do I not recall opting in for this newsletter (who exactly is reading a newsletter about umbrellas anyway? British people?) but the subject line makes laugh. It just says: “XXXX (name of company) Newsletter.” Wow! You drew me in on that one! If you’re going to send me an unsolicited email then grab me with a good subject line. Give me a reason for opening it. Be creative. Be funny. And…
  8. Be personal. Look, I know that I’m on a marketing list. I know that I’m worthless, one of just billions of human souls walking this vast universe for just a brief moment of time until my meaningless, pointless, futile, insignificant life is snuffed out, never to be remembered or cared about. But do you have to make me feel this way when you send me an email blast? Couldn’t you at least take enough time to personalize the greeting? Say “Hi Gene” instead of “Hello Member” or “Dear GENEMARKS.” Every worthwhile email application allows you to embed a first name field in a message. I know it’s not much to ask. But it’s a sad life I live. Can you make it a little more worthwhile?
  9. Spell correctly. If you don’t spell correctly in a text or email message, you look like a dope. A big dope. When someone says, “Oh, I’m not good at spelling,” I don’t sympathize. I think to myself, “Oh, then you’re a dope.” Because spelling isn’t hard. Your text messages aren’t that long. Your email application has spell check. Have some pride in what you send out. Read it before you send. Don’t look like a fourth grader. People notice these things. Learn the difference between “your” and “you’re,” “lose” and “loose,” “their,” “they’re” and “there.” This is not hard.
  10. Have a signature line on your emails. I like it when people include their address and phone number under their name. Sometimes I actually (gasp) call people after getting a message, and finding their number is much easier when it’s there on the email. Go ahead and give a one-line promo, too–it’s fine. Tell me about some new product or that you’ll be manning the booth at ExpoCon 2013 in Chicago. It’s not a bad way to slip in another message.

Oh, and don’t send racists message. Did I mention that before?