Five Ways to Look as Smart as (or Smarter Than) You Are

[Cache #209]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Recently I told a colleague that I didn’t think a particular person was especially bright or helpful.

My colleague, who I respect as very bright indeed, expressed surprise at my point of view.  He had spoken with this person on the phone a number of times, and found him to be “really helpful and quite funny.”

Why the difference of opinion?  Because I had never spoken to this person.  I had only exchanged email with him.  And his email style – blunt, grammatically incorrect, no salutation, no please and thank you – made him, in my opinion, look uncaring and stupid.

In fairness, our communications technology is making us all look stupider every day.  For the past two years, for example, I have had a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone.  Now, because the sharp minds at Samsung decided to “upgrade” my operating system, I have a Samsung Galaxy Note stupidphone.  The new operating system works in slow motion, which has dumbed-down the predictive text feature.  Yesterday, for example, I sent a text apologizing to a friend for my Buffy:

Of course, I was walking at the time of that text, highlighting the obsession many of us have with responding in a kneejerk fashion to every missive – email, text, Facebook, Twitter, whatever – sent our way.

Then there is an additional challenge posed to all English-speaking individuals who are not American, or at least do not desire to spell like one:  the predictive text and autocorrect features on smart/stupidphones are defaulted to the American way.  So Canadians or Brits, for example, have to either type quickly and seem like they cannot spell or do not know which citizenship they possess, or, take the (interminable!) time to go back and fix the instances of color, favor, humor, etc. that pepper their messages.

Because, ultimately, it does come down to spending a bit more of the most precious resource we have:  time.  It takes a bit more time to employ these Five Ways to Look as Smart as (or Even Smarter Than) You Are:

Five Ways to Look as Smart as (or even Smarter Than) You Are

  1. Begin each email with a salutation.  This could be Hello, Hi, Dear, or simply the name of the person you are communicating with, followed by a comma or dash.
  2. Use periods at the end of your sentences. Missing periods give the impression that you do not especially care about the person you are communicating with.  They are the equivalent in speech of not bothering to finish your sentence.
  3. Spell words correctly.  Even more than missing periods, misspellings indicate that you do not care about your partner in communication.
  4. Adjust your level of formality to your audience. On the matter of spelling, for example, tip 3 doesn’t apply if you’re communicating with someone with whom you have a very close relationship, one in which it is no longer important to prove you respect each other.
  5. Most important of all, especially if you choose to ignore any or all of the above:  make your mother proud and say “please” and “thank you,” politeness and appreciation being almost dead in the online sphere.


Except for “please” and “thank you,” these tips apply to a lesser degree to text and Facebook messaging – and pretty much everything can be thrown out the window on Twitter.  The whole point of those messaging modes is that they’re open, spontaneous lines of communication.  Know that when you make a Facebook update, however (being a communication that is not purely private), you will be judged by your “friends” on your ability to spell and use proper punctuation.

Email, social media, smart/stupidphones and our frenetic lifestyles have changed the way we communicate.  What has not changed – what will never change – is our need to be appreciated, and therefore, our constant measuring of whether we are.

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