The Top Twelve E-Mail Mistakes
That Can Sabotage Your Career
By Lydia Ramsey
You return to your office from an afternoon meeting and decide to check e-mail.
You wonder where your day went after spending hours downloading messages,
reading some, deleting others, crafting replies and filing those that you
want to work on later. Your e-mail box was full when you arrived at work
this morning and tomorrow promises to be no different.
What is this e-mail explosion? Was there a point in time when the
entire world decided to use the Internet as their business communication
tool of choice? Are there rules for managing these messages and being
a professional and polite user of electronic mail? There are, but
not everyone has gotten the word.
Your e-mail is as much a part of your professional image as the
clothes you wear, the postal letters you write (assuming you still
do), the greeting on your voice mail and the handshake you offer.
If you want to impress on every front and build positive business
relationships, pay attention to your e-mail and steer clear of these
top twelve e-mail mistakes:
1. Omitting The Subject Line.
We are way past the time when we didn't realize the significance of the subject
line. It makes no sense to send a message that reads "no subject" and
seems to be about nothing. Given the huge volume of e-mail that each person
receives, the subject header is essential if you want your message read any
time soon. The subject line has become the hook.
2. Not Making Your Subject Line Meaningful.
Your header should be pertinent to your message, not just "Hi" or "Hello." The
recipient is going to decide the order in which he reads e-mail based on who
sent it and what it is about. Your e-mail will have lots of competition.
3. Failing To Change The Header To Correspond With The Subject.
For example, if you are writing your web publisher, your first header may be "Web
site content." However, as your site develops and you send more information,
label each message for what it is, "contact info," "graphics," or "home
page." Don't just hit "reply" every time. Adding more details
to the header will allow the recipient to find a specific document in his/her
message folder without having to search every one you sent. Start a new message
if you change the subject all together.
4. Not Personalizing Your Message To The Recipient.
E-mail is informal but it still needs a greeting. Begin with "Dear Mr.
Broome," "Dear Jim," "Hello Jim," or just "Jim." Failure
to put in the person's name can make you and your e-mail seem cold.
5. Not Accounting For Tone.
When you communicate with another person face to face, 93% of the message is
non-verbal. E-mail has no body language. The reader cannot see your face
or hear your tone of voice so choose your words carefully and thoughtfully.
Put yourself in the other person's place and think how your words may come
across in Cyberspace.
6. Forgetting To Check For Spelling And Grammar.
In the early days of e-mail, someone created the notion that this form of communication
did not have to be letter perfect. Wrong. It does. It is a representation
of you. If you don't check to be sure e-mail is correct, people will question
the caliber of other work you do. Use proper capitalization and punctuation,
and always check your spelling. Remember that your spellchecker will catch
misspelled words, but not misused ones. It cannot tell whether you meant
to say "from" or "form," "for" or "fro", "he" or "the."
7. Writing The Great American Novel.
E-mail is meant to be brief. Keep your message short. Use only a few paragraphs
and a few sentences per paragraph. People skim their e-mail so a long missive
is wasted. If you find yourself writing an overly long message, pick up the
phone or call a meeting.
8. Forwarding E-Mail Without Permission.
Most everyone is guilty of this one, but think about it. If the message was
sent to you and only you, why would you take responsibility for passing it
on? Too often confidential information has gone global because of someone's
lack of judgment. Unless you are asked or request permission, do not forward
anything that was sent just to you.
9. Thinking That No One Else Will Ever See Your E-Mail.
Once it has left your mailbox, you have no idea where your e-mail will end
up. Don't use the Internet to send anything that you couldn't stand to see
on a billboard on your way to work the next day. Use other means to communicate
personal or sensitive information.
10. Leaving Off Your Signature.
Always close with your name, even though it is included at the top of the e-mail,
and add contact information such as your phone, fax and street address. The
recipient may want to call to talk further or send you documents that cannot
be e-mailed. Creating a formal signature block with all that data is the
most professional approach.
11. Expecting An Instant Response.
Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with e-mail turned on. The
beauty of Internet communication is that it is convenient. It is not an interruption.
People can check their messages when it suits them, not you. If your communication
is so important that you need to hear back right away, use the phone.
12. Completing The "To" Line First.
The name or address of the person to whom you are writing is actually the last
piece of information you should enter. Check everything else over carefully
first. Proof for grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity. Did you say
what needed to be said? How was your "tone of voice"? If you were
the least bit emotional when you wrote the e-mail, did you let it sit for
a period of time? Did you include the attachment you wanted to send? If you
enter the recipient's name first, a mere slip of the finger can send a message
before its' time. You can never take it back.
E-mail makes everything easier and faster including making a powerful
business impression and establishing positive professional relationships.
The businessperson who uses the technology effectively and appropriately
will see the results of that effort reflected in the bottom line.
© 2004, Lydia Ramsey. All rights in all media reserved.