Before you Click Send: Email Etiquette

Have you ever received an email with glaring typos, riddled with spelling and grammatical errors? Struggled to decipher a poorly written email that just makes you furrow your brow in confusion? Searched in vain for that elusive email that contained some critical information?  Maybe, you deleted that all important message inadvertently? And oops! Sent an email to the wrong person? If you’ve encountered any one, or all of the above, then this blog is for you.

In both our business and personal lives, email has become a ubiquitous communication tool. Whether we are using email for business reasons, or personal ones, it pays to cultivate some good email habits and follow standard, professional email protocol. Sometimes it is simply a matter of using commonsense: we all know not to reply to spam, not to send chain letters, or forward junk mail, to only CC (carbon copy) people directly involved with the given matter, etc.

As I wrap up my series on Outlook email here are some obvious and, some not so obvious, factors to bear in mind regarding your email:

Spelling matters! So does punctuation and grammar.  Use spell check or better yet make sure spell check is configured to check your spelling as you type.  Follow standard writing protocols. Reading an email with no punctuations makes it hard to read and easy to ignore!  And, while “c u l8er” may have been cute when you were texting as a teenager, it really has no place in your professional email. You wouldn’t send a letter before re-reading it and revising it? The same rules apply to your email message: proofread your email before hitting the send button.

PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT! Yes, that is what all capitals letters in your email message means. Do capitalize the first letter at the beginning of a sentence and do refrain from using all lower case – that simply seems lazy.

Be concise. Using proper grammar and writing correct English does not mean that your email message should be twice as long. Nobody wants to wade through long rambling emails in order to get to the point at the very end. And, while nobody expects pithy prose, a la Oscar Wilde, you can make your point in a few well-constructed sentences.

Use the Subject line.  It is there for a reason. Instead of just typing Hi in the subject field, type something that will quickly identify the reason/purpose of your email: Soccer Meeting Agenda or Budget 2012. Your email will be more likely to be read, rather than ignored or deleted, if you wrote something meaningful in the subject field.

Answer emails promptly.  Do respond to the question asked in the email and address any anticipated relevant matter connected to the subject.  And do remember to attach the file you said you are attaching to your message!

Keep it clean! Dealing with an email promptly is also an efficient way of keeping your Inbox clutter-free and up-to-date. Delete extraneous emails or emails with dated information or emails that don’t require any action on your part but was simply an FYI. Empty your trash. Do not use your trash folder as a catchall for miscellaneous messages; create folders (see Manage your Outlook) to store related messages.

Include contact information. Make sure your signature includes your contact information such as your phone number/mailing address. See how to create a signature and include your contact information on my previous blog, About your Outlook.

Email=postcard. There is nothing private about a postcard and the same goes for your email. So do refrain from putting confidential information, or information of a sensitive nature, in your email. Remember, your email can be forwarded and the contents be viewed by unintended audiences. Or you may accidentally send an email containing critical information to the wrong person. So do pay attention to the content of your email: not only should your message be clear, concise, and error-free but also civilized and ethical.

Oops moment! Did you ever have a heart-stopping moment when you realized that you have made a huge gaffe right after you hit the send button? I don’t mean an email containing some minor spelling/grammatical errors; or even sending an email to the wrong person. Sure both of those can be a cause of some minor embarrassment for you, but that’s nothing compared to sending an email containing highly sensitive information to the wrong person that could have a serious consequence? One way to avoid this from happening is to use Reply All sparingly.  Or, if you are the one generating the email, then do not type in the email address first. Wait to complete your email before typing in the email address. Moreover, pay attention to the AutoComplete feature when typing in the address so as to ensure the email address being filled in is for the correct recipient.

Never send an email in haste! Slow down. Make sure your email message is well written, and error-free, answers any questions asked by the sender, contains clearly stated text in the Subject line and is addressed to the right person.

- Rina B.


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