Punctuation rules for global communications

January 18, 2016


By Anu Ramani

Anu Ramani is a specialist in international B2B communications.

More articles from Anu Ramani

Trust your feelings. Use the punctuation, young Skywalker.

We have all evolved our message-vocab with the times. We read and understand the message differently, depending on the medium. A study by Binghampton university says that ending messages with a full stop makes you seem insincere, but using an exclamation point is ok – it makes your message seem heartfelt.

The study got me thinking about the merits of writing differently and adding extra punctuation– when we communicate with people we don’t know well. Especially people who are from different cultures / social backgrounds than ours? It is born from the helpful wish to provide more emotional context – remove threatening overtones perhaps – and engage the reader in your viewpoint.

In this respect I disagree with those who snobbishly insist or removing as much punctuation as possible. Especially the faddish vendetta on commas and semi-colons. The most important punctuation rule when communicating to multinational audiences is – use it.

If English is not your first language you do find it harder to interpret long sentences without the helpful traffic lights of punctuation. Even if you use English at work every day.

Colleagues in APAC trained me to write short, short, short sentences: and now I think long sentences are both elaborate and smug. I’m generous with commas and punctuation – why not, if it helps?

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