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Email Etiquette: Are Acronyms, Memes, and Emojis Appropriate in Work Messages?

by Ayaz Nanji  |  
August 10, 2017

You should avoid using acronyms, emojis, memes, GIFs, and all-caps in your work emails if you want to come across as serious, intelligent, trustworthy, and professional to your co-workers, according to recent research from Fundera.

The report was based on data from a survey of 1,000 adults in the United States.

Respondents were asked to rank the appropriateness of various content types in work emails on a 1 (very inappropriate) to 5 (very appropriate) scale.

American adults rated acronyms, emojis, memes, GIFs, and all-caps as generally inappropriate in work emails.

Messages written in all capital letters were rated as the most inappropriate (1.5 average score); GIFs are deemed as the next most inappropriate (1.8), followed by memes (1.9), emojis (2.1), and acronyms (2.1).

Asked to compare the use of memes, emojis, and acronyms in work emails, respondents said memes are the content type that makes the author seem least serious, intelligent, trustworthy, and professional.

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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Peter Altschuler Thu Aug 10, 2017 via web

    Content has a volume problem: it uses up too much space to say too little. Add in the passion for infographics, and the problem gets worse.

    This study could be reduced to a single declarative sentence. Yet it consumed several hours of work to design and create the layout and then sucks up readers' time to slog through it, only to learn "While senior executives are the least likely to object to the use of memes, emojis, and acronyms (and tend to use them more) in email messages, their use conveys to recipients that the senders are less professional."

  • by Tony Madejczyk Thu Aug 10, 2017 via web

    I'm a creative in an email team for our customers, so may I offer the exception to the rule? We like to try out gifs and emojis among ourselves before testing them to our customers. That said, I am not surprised that business people take a dim view of these flashy tools. Use of acronyms, memes, emojis, etc. require attention and immersion in pop culture –– and that's not what you're supposed to do at work?

  • by Kris Thu Aug 10, 2017 via web

    Kind of wonder what the age scale was on the 1,000 adults. Our company is littered with internal acronyms, but maybe they were meaning text type of acronyms? LOL, OMG ? instead of SOP or HR ?
    Interesting info, I agree that a more brief infographic may have communicated this more easily.

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