How To Email Correctly, and Improve Your Social Standing

In this world of rushing around, it seems that we no longer have time to do things properly. Being busy is no excuse for doing things half-a**ed – you must use your whole a**. Give it your ALL and put your best foot forward. This is true for email. Email is your frontline expression of who you are, and it says a lot about how you conduct your affairs.

First, let’s talk about annoyances to avoid. I will list them in order, most annoying to least annoying:

1. Forwarding a re-forwarded email that has already been forwarded by someone else who forwarded a re-forwarded email by forwarding it again. There’s nothing more annoying than having to page through several screen-fulls of random email addresses. Or worse, when the forwarded forwards are forwarded as attachments within attachments within attachments. I hate having to open successive attachments to read a joke from the 1970s. It’s like the old trick when you get a birthday gift in a large box, only to open it finding a slightly smaller gift wrapped box, and so on, until 10 re-boxings later you finally open a tie-clip or something. No matter what media it occurs in, it’s always annoying. Please don’t do it. If you must email old jokes or pictures of kittens in wicker baskets, please have the courtesy to delete all the preceding email addresses. It will take maybe 3 extra seconds. Plus more that 1 person will probably actually read it without simply deleting it. Also remember that Outlook sometimes drops the pictures after a few re-forwardings.

2. Overuse of “Reply To All.” It’s kinda like being in some lame newsgroup that you can’t unsubscribe from. I was caught in one of these loops one time where I was the 2nd person on the action items list. I had completed my task 4 weeks prior, but I was still seeing the results of this email going round and round, and seeing replies from people that I had no idea who they were, nor cared. Despite my repeated attempts to remove myself, I found I was guilty of doing the same thing by replying to all and requesting that this madness cease. So I just let it die… and eventually it did.

3. Emailing a long, confusing dissertation to a group of people because there might be one sentence near the bottom that pertains to someone. In this situation, I have developed my own personal protest by replying to the email and including all of the previous text, then simply giving a one word answer at the very bottom. If you are a manager in charge of a group, please try to personalize the emails a little more and give your people the stuff that actually matters to them. Take the “noise” out. You’ll probably see more stuff getting accomplished and they won’t think you’re a twit.

4. TYPING IN ALL CAPS or in very big fonts. What can one say about this? It looks like you’re yelling. What it really says is that you are completely clueless and you probably should not be using a computer under any circumstances. Besides, if you have to yell, just pick up the phone or do it in person. It’s much more effective, especially if they see that vein popping out of your forehead.

5. Land of 1,000 fonts. Don’t type every line in a different font and/or color. This isn’t a font test. It’s extremely distracting from the original point of your email (unless that was your point, like if you work for Adobe and you’re showcasing some new fonts). Stick with 1 font in 1 color as much as possible. Usually Arial, or Times New Roman 10 or 12 is very professional looking. Use bolding and underlining to highlight important points, since not everyone uses Outlook, so much of your careful formatting can be lost. Keep it simple. If I’m emailing a lot of people, I just use Plain Text formatting.

6. Cutesy animated pictures. Yes…VERY annoying. Just stop it. Sometimes this is acceptable if it’s a corporate logo, but only in rare instances. If I want cartoons, I’ll watch cartoons on TV.

7. Huge gigantic attachments. How often have you opened your email only to find that one message in particular is taking 15 minutes to open. You then discover someone sent you a 12 megabyte attachment and it’s taking forever to load. When people would ask me “Did you get that video I sent you?” I used to tell them, no I never got it, then inevitably, they would send it again. So now I just say “Yeah, that was great.” If I ‘m pressed for details on it, I just pretend I have a cell phone call. If you’re sending videos, open a YouTube account and just send the link (FCOL)!

8. Copying and emailing a web page in the body of your message is annoying. Remember, I said not everyone has Outlook, and the formatting can really get skewed, or worse, the person just gets a whole bunch of unreadable HTML code. Instead, just copy the actual URL by copying the address line as text, and pasting the text into the email. Emailing actual shortcuts doesn’t work and will probably get filtered out as spam, or a security hazard. Emailed links should start with “http://…..” or something similar. That way even someone getting their mail on a web-enabled phone can see it too.

9. When emailing large groups, PLEASE use the BCC field. Place ONE address (usually your own) into the “TO” field, and place all the rest into the BCC field. This way, the people receiving it only see ONE email address and your list stays confidential. If you must email a lot of people regularly, use a service like isendit.com.

With those annoyances in mind, here are some simple guidelines to effective emailing:

1. Keep it short and to the point. One or Two short paragraphs. Just the facts.

2. Only send the emails that pertain to the specific people who care about them.

3. Learn to use the BCC field when emailing a group. PLEASE!

4. Use ONE font. Don’t get crazy with them.

5. Keep your formatting simple and basic.

6. Use proper paragraph form. Place breaks between short paragraphs. Don’t forget to fill in the subject line.

7. Open with “Dear…..” and end with “Sincerely, Regards, or Thank you”.

8. If you must email a lot of text and graphics, it’s best to place them in a word doc, or PDF file.

9. Use a SHORT signature at the bottom with essential contact info. Don’t give 9 different phone numbers. Pick a primary contact means, and perhaps one secondary means.

10. Learn the above 9 steps by heart.. possibly cutting them out and pasting them on the side of your monitor.

So put your best foot forward when emailing. Be a pro, or just look like one.

-=Jeff Gross=-

How To Email Correctly, and Improve Your Social Standing
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