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We can all do much better than ‘best regards’

The unspoken rules of digital communication

I will start with email first. There are a few important things: proper greetings, getting the spellings correct (no abbreviations please!), striking the right tone, and an appropriate sign-off.

I try to keep my greetings simple. As long as you are being genuinely sincere, you don’t have to try too hard. It’s also important to use correct grammar. I have a bit of a reputation amongst friends and family for correcting their grammar. People often take offence if you correct them, so one has to tread carefully.

I must admit that I’ve been striving to find the best email sign-off for years now but am yet to find it. I am always overcome with self-loathing when I use “Best Regards" for want of a better option. At some point I’d like to find something original that reflects my personality, has the right tone and, yet, is cool.

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I have a couple of pet peeves:

1. Why do so many people use the word “revert" instead of “reply"?

2. When, after engaging you in enquiries or negotiations, people suddenly just drop off the face of the Earth. Even if circumstances have changed, one should just say so instead of going completely silent. I try to be upfront as far as possible in a polite way while I’m doing business. It’s more respectful to close the chain rather than leave things open and just go silent.

As far as phone etiquette goes, there is just too much beeping everywhere. My personal rule is to keep my phone on silent mode, and if I’m talking to/texting someone, only the person I’m communicating with and I should be privy to the conversation. It’s really rude when everyone can hear you in public. Step out to a private space or lower your voice and tell the person you’ll call back later.

For many years, I resisted emojis. I felt it wasn’t appropriate for a grown man to communicate with them. But now, my opinion has changed and I often find it’s easier to express a thought or emotion with an emoji. They’ve become so creative and cheeky!

SMS abbreviations are really dreadful even in personal communication but using them in business communication is appallingly unprofessional.

I’m a classic, textbook introvert so when it comes to friends, I’m much more comfortable communicating via text rather than phone calls. I can’t bear long social phone conversations and there are only a handful of friends I’m comfortable enough with to just call for a chat. Even then, after about 10 minutes, I’m itching to hang up!

For work, often it’s better to communicate important points on WhatsApp or email so that one has a record of things agreed to and commitments made. That said, if there’s too much back and forth, sometimes people can misunderstand the tone of the written word and it’s better to jump on a call to have a voice-to-voice conversation or a face-to-face Skype video call.

I’m always available and more than happy to speak to work colleagues and clients on the phone.

In Work Wise, actor Rahul Khanna talks about how to best lead life at work and outside it.

As told to Sandipan Dalal.

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