My post on Reverse Auctions and Secret Shopper Pay drew this comment from the owner of a mystery shopping company:
We have noticed a substantial increase in the number of evaluations we must return to shoppers because they are incomplete, have poor explanations, or just don’t make sense. I think in most cases we pay well, but we can’t seem to figure out why the quality has gone down – other than the influence of text messaging.
Do you think this is an exaggeration? Judging by the email I sometimes receive, I do not believe that it is.
Because my company belongs to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, I get emails from people who want to be mystery shoppers and think I may be able to hire them. (Note: Regular MSPA membership is limited to companies actively providing mystery shopping services to clients. I am an Associate Member, because I provide services to the MSPA and member companies. Mystery shoppers are not currently eligible for MSPA membership.) Although many of these emails are written in proper business English, others are loaded with errors and are very difficult to read and understand.
Here is one email I received, in full, exactly as written:
I HAVE A VAST PAST EXPERIENCE IN THE RETAIL BUSINESS AND KNOW THE IMPROTANCE OF HAVE RETURNING CUSTOMERS AND MYSTERY SHOPPERS IS THE TOOL TO PROVIDE TO THE COMPANIES THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT THE EMPLOYEES ARE DOING AND WHAT YOU AS THE OWNER OR OPERATORE OF THE COMPNAY NEED TO DO TO GET SALES UP AND CUSTOMERS HAPPY.
Let’s see . . . could this use any improvement? Aside from the three spelling errors, the fact that it is one run-on sentence, and the poor grammar—oh yeah, it is written in ALL CAPS.
I have honestly been impressed with the quality of the comments I receive on this blog. They are not only thoughtful, but well-written. I know there are lots of mystery shoppers with excellent writing skills. However, you might be surprised by the number of emails I get that look like the one above.
Another common writing error is using sentence fragments:
“Any help you can provide. Would be appreciated.”
We all make writing errors from time to time. Yes, that means me, too. I hear the complaint that mystery shopping companies expect us to write well, but emails from schedulers often contain errors. That is not the point. Emails from schedulers to shoppers are not the same as reports we shoppers are submitting that will go to clients. And if you think I am too picky about errors such as the sentence fragment in the last example, you should know that an email that includes errors such as that one typically has several other errors, too.
Keep in mind that many of the errors I see are in emails where someone is asking me to hire them. I don’t know about you, but when I am seeking a job I try to put my best foot forward. That means wearing a nice, clean outfit to the interview, arriving on time, being responsive to the interviewer’s questions, and thanking them for considering me. If all the hiring company knows about me is what is on my application or in an email I sent, I will always make it my best work. People who are careless in writing an application are not going to be better writers when it is time to do a mystery shop report.
What is the reason for all of this bad writing? Well, the rise of texting and emailing is probably a factor. These casual forms of communication encourage speed and immediacy, not quality writing. Have educational standards declined? It has been said that we are graduating students who are unable to read their diplomas. If true, that is tragic.
Some people maintain that the language is evolving, and people who insist on proper spelling, grammar and sentence structure are behind the times. Language does evolve, and you can find proof by reading something that was written in American English 100 years ago. However, the standards for business writing have not yet evolved to, “C U L8R.” Or perhaps I should have said “devolved,” as I do not see text-speak as a forward progression.
If you believe your writing skills may not be up to par, take action to improve. Sign up for a business writing class at your community college. Take a one-day grammar workshop. Read books on grammar and writing.
Learning proper writing does not have to be deadly-dull. Listen to the Grammar Girl podcast for short, entertaining lessons that will make you a better speaker and writer. Or pick up one of the books listed below to laugh out loud while you learn about grammar, spelling and punctuation.