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Email Dos and Donts

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Sending an email is obviously very convenient, but emailing your boss, co-workers, prospects or existing clients has the potential to be a minefield for professional embarrassment. Here are a a few email dos and don’ts to help you avert a potential disaster.

  • Don’t use emails to avoid personal contact. If you’re sending an email that could potentially confuse or be emotional for the recipient, call the person or speak with them face-to-face.
  • Do reply to all emails sent to you. If it appears you were sent a message by accident, still reply to make sure it was a mistake. Also, try to respond to emails within 24 hours or the next business day.
  • Do remember that email is not private. Email is considered business property, so assume the email will be read by everyone. Also, don’t use your business email for personal matters.
  • Very important! Do check over your email twice before sending it out. Not only do you want to make sure it’s clear, and words are spelled correctly, you also want to verify: subject line, correct contact information and add any attachments.
  • Do add the email address last. You don’t want to accidentally send the email before you have finished writing or proofing the emails. Also double-check you selected the correct recipient.
  • Do keep tabs on your tone. For sensitive emails, have a trusted colleague read it and provide feedback on the tone or words that may be misinterpreted.
  • Do know the difference between “reply and “reply all.” Use “Reply All” when you are dividing up responsibilities for a group task,  you have a question about a group task or event that everyone in the email group needs to have answered, or if your answer will affect others’ plans of action. If you need to respond only to the sender, use the “reply” function to avoid clogging others’ inboxes. Use the FORWARD function and enter the members’ names manually if only some people in the group need to see your response.

Additional Email Dos and Don’ts

Each email you send is a reflection of your professional persona. Consider every aspect, starting with the subject line and ending with the closing.

  • Include a clear and straightforward subject line. The recipient may decide if it’s worth based on the subject line. Don’t be coy; let them know what to expect.
  • Don’t use Bcc (blind copy) to keep others from seeing who you copied. Bcc should be used when sending to a large distribution list so recipients’ messages won’t be cluttered with a long list of email addresses, or to protect their privacy. Only Cc people who are directly involved.
  • Use professional salutations. Salutations such as “Dear,” “Hi,” or “Good Morning” are appropriate. Depending on how familiar you are with the recipient, you may use their first name, their last name (with Mr., Ms. Mrs.) or a combination of the two.
  • Close professionally as well. Use phrases such as “Sincerely,”  “Thank you” and “Respectfully yours.” Don’t forget to thank the recipient for their time or consideration. Lastly, include your name, title and relevant contact information.
  • Keep messages brief and to the point, concentrating on one subject per message if possible. Don’t use two paragraphs to ask one simple question. If you have several items, use bullet points.
  • Don’t be careless with grammar. Writing in all caps LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING. Don’t write in all lower case, because it looks lazy. Use exclamation points sparingly and only to convey excitement. Most important, use good spelling, punctuation and grammar. Not only are you representing your company, you are also representing yourself. Avoid unprofessional abbreviations such as “LOL” or “BTW.”
  • Use simple fonts. Readability is key, so choose a professional, easy to read font and color.

And there you have it: keep emails professional, to-the-point and clear and you’ll skirt the biggest pitfalls.

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