A few weeks ago, we talked about the strength of body language. But did you know that the language we use online can have just as much power? For example, women usually put more emotion into their emails and tend to use more punctuation. However, is too much punctuation hindering your abilities?

We sometimes get caught up in the excitement or hassle of work and start going overboard with our email etiquette, using way too many exclamation points. It’s as if we’re trying to rack up points in a game!

This might sound cheesy, but keep in mind that overusing smiley faces and emoticons make you look unprofessional. Also, I’ve noticed that women use them more often than men. Men’s writing is often direct and to the point. They use big, fat periods, and they’re not afraid to sound brash. But should we take after them?

According to Jorie Scholnik, an expert on business etiquette and assistant professor at Santa Fe College, men are more likely than women to get straight to the point in their emails.

According to Scholnik, not knowing whether the conversation needs a phone call could be the problem here. In today’s world, most of us correspond only via email and have for years. But there are still some occasions when speaking on the phone or over Skype is the best way to communicate.

Scholnik said she has seen smiley faces used by both sexes, but she tends to see it more with women.

“Email being sent through the workplace needs to be more formal,” she said. According to her, not only can punctuation in email make you look bad, but it might also communicate your intentions wrong. For example, you may believe that extra question marks signify enthusiasm; however, the receiver could read it as impatience instead. Also, those happy exclamation points might be seen as anger or yelling by the person on the other side!!!!!

If you frequently reply to work emails, there’s only a 50 percent chance your colleagues will interpret the tone of your replies correctly, even if you believe you’ve gotten it right, says a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. For example, consider Chandler Bing from the hit TV show Friends. If you were only reading his lines, sarcasm would be nearly impossible to detect – thus rendering him much less funny.

Scholnik warns that it’s crucial to remember you may be emailing someone from a different generation, especially if using informality such as emoticons or LOLs.

As a “netiquette” expert and author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Digital Manners Julie Spira told Levo, using LOL with friends is one thing, but your boss might not see the humor. I suggest that women restrict their use of punctuation marks to personal emails. If you get a new job or become engaged, an exclamation mark or two is appropriate, as long as it’s sent to your close friends and family.”

Nicole Emerick, founder of Ms. Career Girl Media told us that young women should consider these three points before they start using excessive punctuation in emails:

What purpose do you think this extra punctuation serves?

Emerick suggests that young professional women take a step back and ask themselves WHY they feel the need to use emoticons, exclamation points, and “haha’s” in their emails. Do you fear the person you’re sending this to? Do you not know the answer to their question? Do you feel like you need to constantly prove yourself? Would you like them to like you?

Tweet, Tweet: Keep your email short and sweet.

Reframe how you think about work email, Emerick says: as if you’re limited to only 140 characters like on Twitter. This will force you to get straight to the point. Using too many exclamation points, emoticons, or “haha’s” often only adds more confusion to the message.

Do you feel the need to hide your thoughts behind punctuation marks?

Emerick believes that emojis can add creativity and personality to a text, as long as they are used in moderation. I am NOT a fan of using emails as a bandaid or distraction from more difficult messages that need to be written. Although it may feel daunting, it is important to get accustomed to being direct in your emails, as this will benefit you greatly in your future career.

What are your thoughts on dispensing with excessive punctuation? Are you for it or against it, and why?

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