Our world is becoming more casual each day, and nowhere is it more evident than in our professional lives. We all enjoy certain aspects of a more relaxed work environment; but when it comes to customer interaction we should be hyper-aware of the difference between "casual" and "unprofessional," and the fact that the line of distinction is different for each individual.

"Professionalism" can be defined using many factors, but communication may be the biggest casual-ty of the less-formal trend. Email and texting offer huge advantages in convenience and real time dispatch, but why is it these digital formats also seem to lower our standards for spelling, grammar and punctuation?

What about our spoken word? Think about how common it has become to hear slang terminology, and even mild profanity in business settings.

There is simply no upside to using sloppy writing or coarse language when engaging customers. There is, however, plenty of potential downside. Every person has his/her own individual threshold for what's appropriate or not, and what's professional or not. Terminology that is completely acceptable (even funny) to some may be viewed as outright offensive to others. Short of offending, unprofessional language can still dent your professional image with customers. Over time, those little dents can accumulate to a more significant image problem.

When it comes to customer communications, a good policy is to always err on the side of formal and proper. It's easy to damage your image with poor language choices and practices, and it's almost impossible to harm it if you are taking the high road. And in a world where communication standards are continually slipping, keeping your own standards high will give you a competitive advantage.

Great Selling!