Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Use “body language” in writing

Body language has been a source of interpersonal understanding since the beginning of the human race. Even when you’re not speaking, you’re communicating through your body language. Here are some ways to incorporate “body language” into your writing:

Shake hands
When you include salutations and closings in your emails, you extend a warm and friendly handshake. If you omit them, you send a cold and unfriendly message.

Accentuate words or phrases
Start a sentence with “and” or “but” to accentuate the words that follow. Look at the difference between the following sentences:

• I like red. I like blue. I like purple. (I like all three colors equally.)
• I like red. I like blue. And I like purple. (I’m saying that purple is my favorite of the three colors.)

“Thank you” and “please” are equivalent to a smile or friendly nod. If you exclude those words, especially in emails, you send a demanding message.

Respect personal space
Personal space is the invisible boundary around your body you don’t want others to enter unless they’re invited. One way to honor personal space in writing is to provide lots of white space. This includes 1” to 1-½” margins on the top, bottom, and sides of paper documents; spacing between paragraphs; and spaces above and below bulleted and numbered lists.

Bold, underscore, and italics “tell” the reader the text is important. If you were face to face, you’d point your finger to signify importance.

Expression tone
Use punctuation to project a dull mumble, a joyful expression, a neutral sound, or a shy whisper. Notice how punctuation changes the tone in the following sentences:

• The ABC Company—winner of the service award—just introduced its new product line. (The dashes heighten what’s enclosed as if you’re raising your voice.)
• The ABC Company (winner of the service award) just introduced its new product line. (The parentheses play down what’s enclosed as if you’re lowering your voice.)
• The ABC Company, winner of the service award, just introduced its new product line. (The commas neutralize what’s enclosed.)

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