By PCB Communications Team
We on the Communications Team encourage everyone associated with PCB, including board members, officers, teams, chapters, special interest affiliates, and individual peers to present the most competent and effective image of persons with vision loss as possible when communicating with government entities, other organizations, and the general public. We offer here some tips to guide your interactions whether they are face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations, or written communications. It can be so very easy, especially with emails, to slip into quick and casual sloppiness.
All hard-copy written communications should be on official letterhead from PCB or your chapter. In the case of letters and emails, your name, mission, and contact information should be conspicuously displayed.
We should all adhere to official PCB policies and positions when writing as representatives of our chapter or as PCB peers. Hence, before we state what we think constitutes official PCB policies and positions, we should check and make sure we are accurately representing PCB’s latest policies and positions. Consult the PCB website or communicate with someone from the leadership or staff who should have the latest information.
If you are writing as an individual, not as a representative of any entity of PCB, then you should feel free to speak your mind, state your opinions, and make your points— so long as you make it clear you are writing as you and not as someone representing any entity of PCB. In this case, you would not use organization letterhead.
We encourage teams, chapters, and special interest affiliates to form an Editorial Committee. Before any member sends anything out which represents the team, chapter, or special interest affiliate, that member should send it to the editorial committee for review. This is not a small group trying to control every aspect. It is an attempt to ensure consistency and professionalism in what is produced and how we are perceived in the community.
None of us should use our vision loss as an excuse for sloppy documents/emails and we should not excuse one another. Instead, we should hold ourselves and each other to the highest standard of professionalism, share in the production of materials, be responsible for our work-product, and be accountable for the final product, both individually and collectively.
Let’s make every effort to create written communications as professional and error free as possible: i.e., at a minimum, the following should be done before sending:
- Be as clear, concise, and compelling as possible. Think about what you want to say before you say it and re-read everything you write before you send it. Make sure your writing is organized, makes sense, is complete, and has no mistakes.
- If it is an important document intended to serve a formal function, you might do well to ask someone else to proofread it. Another “pair of eyes” can be very helpful in spotting errors and suggesting the most effective ways to say what you want to say.
- Use spell-check, but do not rely on it to find all mistakes. You must proofread your documents to find and correct all errors.
- Check for the correct spelling of names and places that are not included in your spell-check dictionary.
- Check for grammatical mistakes, including the use of homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but mean different things. Some spellcheckers will not pick up when they have been used incorrectly, e.g., “hear” and “here.” Also check for missing words, odd sentence structures, and any “read-bumps” that distract the reader from an easy read and clear understanding of your message. In most document and email programs, you can choose a grammar check that will run when you run a spell-check.
- Use proper punctuation, especially in text messages. Lack of punctuation can generate a stream-of-consciousness effect in which meaning is lost amid a jumble of words.
- Check for different fonts and type sizes (this usually occurs when you cut/copy/paste bits of text from several sources) – the easiest way to ensure consistency of both is to select your entire document/email, cut it to the clipboard, and paste it as unformatted text (this will get rid of all weird paragraphing, font/size differences, and special typological items like bolding, underlining, and italicizing).
- Assign one font (Arie\al Black is a good one) and one font size (12 is good enough for most sighted audiences, 18 should be used when corresponding with persons with some vision loss) to the entire document/email.
- Check your facts, especially make sure dates, times, places, and names are all correct. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows.
- Check your language. Remove any potentially offensive language.
- Humor is a very subjective and easily misunderstood, so use it sparingly or make it clear that you are making a joke.
- Avoid acronyms, emoticons, and emojis in official correspondence. They are fine for personal writings but insert an unprofessional air of casualness in any official text.
- Use formal opening and closing salutations. “Dear” followed by the person’s name and ending with a colon, is sufficient. Use the person’s last name preceded by Mr., Mrs., or Ms. (each ending in a period), if you have never met this person or have a formal relationship; and use the person’s first name if you are on more familiar terms. With respect to closing salutations, “Sincerely,” followed by a comma, or “Respectfully,” followed by a comma, are sufficient.