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Don’t Be the Email They Dread

We all know the feeling – an email pops up in your inbox, you see who it’s from, and immediately you feel exasperated. And that’s before you get to the actual content! The ability to communicate clearly and competently through email is a professional skill that can and will shape your future success. Keeping a few basic tips in mind can ensure that your emails are welcomed and respected instead of avoided and disregarded.

(1) Don’t be a paragraph person in a bullet point world

I get a lot of emails. So do you. No one wants to weed through blocks of dense text to get to the point. The best tip I learned from a former executive was to write emails as though every word costs a dollar. Acknowledging that you respect the reader’s time shows awareness and consideration.

(2) Avoid reply all

Savvy emailers know when to speak up, but more importantly know when to stay silent. Unless you have a vital point that the entire group needs to know, don’t reply all. Abusing the privilege is the quickest way to have people start passing over your emails.

(3) Add context markers (but don’t get carried away)

I had an English professor once tell me that exclamation points were for religious fanatics and middle school kids. While that example was meant in jest, context clues like punctuation, emoticons, and images can play an important role in your reader being able to sense sarcasm, importance, or levity. But as with everything – use such markers wisely. If every email has a cat .gif, a winky face, and seven “lols”, your message won’t be taken seriously.

(4) Friends don’t let friends send rage-mail

Just like how drunk-texting your ex is discouraged, so is emailing when you’re wound up. Firing off a scathing retort feels great until you hit send…then you realize what you’ve done. Allow yourself time to cool off, and have someone you trust read your draft before sending. Always remember the first rule of the internet – once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

(5) Proof, then proof again

As an executive assistant, most of my job is nailing down details through email. The quickest way to derail effective planning is a simple typo. All it takes is one AM instead of PM and now several emails must go back and forth to acknowledge and correct the mistake. A misspelled word is unfortunate, but flying someone to MSY instead of MSP could cost me my job.

These points may sound basic, but too many professionals suffer setbacks, both major and minor, due to poor email etiquette.  Remembering these few basic tips can set you up for success with peers and executives alike. Happy Emailing!

 

Post by Jeff Harris

 

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