This blog is NOT about mass emails that are part of a marketing plan. It IS about emails you send to co-workers, colleagues, or one or two contacts outside your office (clients, customers, prospects, vendors, etc.) It’s about emails you dash off in a hurry and then are embarrassed by or have regrets about what was said later. It’s also about why your emails might not be opened or not completely read or understood.
According to a study by McKinsey® & Company, people spend 28 percent of their working week reading and replying to emails. Email can be a quick and easy way to stay connected. However, it is also easy to send emails that are ineffective, create the wrong impression, make you look sloppy and unprofessional or even upset clients and ruin relationships. Whole books have been written on this topic, but applying these few tips will be faster to read and might prevent a few headaches!
It’s a fact that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. The best subject lines briefly (some say no more than 50 characters) and clearly summarize the contents of the message. They enable your recipient to give the email the right priority. Make sure your email doesn’t get caught in a Spam filter by keeping a list of Spam triggers by your computer and out of your subject line.
The risk of sending an email to the wrong person can be increased by not checking for typos, clicking “Reply all,” the use of “auto-fill,” predictive text and “threads” or “conversation view.” An unintended recipient or no recipient can be embarrassing, can result in distributing sensitive information to the wrong people, and possibly damage your reputation. Wait to enter the address until you’ve finished writing the email so you won’t accidentally send it before you’re finished. Then always give the email address a second look.
We’ve all sent an email without attaching the relevant document. Avoid appearing unprofessional or forgetful by attaching files as soon as you start writing your message. Attaching the wrong document can be much more serious, particularly if it’s sensitive or restricted. Make sure the attachment is the one you intend to send.
When writing an email, less is usually better than more. According to “You Won’t Finish This Article: Why people online don’t read to the end,” most people read only 50% of an email. Like me, you’ve probably had personal experience with someone not reading all or even most of your text. Put your most important point in the first sentence and only cover one main point per email. Ask for feedback to be sure your recipient understood your message, especially if you find it necessary to include jargon related to your profession. One big No-No: Don’t deliver bad news in an email. Do it in person so you can soften the blow with body language and sensitive replies. If you can’t be there in person, at least do it via the phone. You can clarify your message as needed, or help people deal with the news.
One benefit of email is that you don’t have to respond immediately. It’s important to delay your response when you’re stressed, angry or upset. If you send a message in the heat of the moment, you can’t get it back. These emails could damage relationships or even be used as evidence against you. Avoid sending any messages until you’ve calmed down and can think clearly and rationally.
Emails are often written and sent in a hurry. Because of that, too often they contain spelling, tone, or grammar mistakes, making you look careless and unprofessional. If you want to create a good impression with your emails, it’s essential to proofread before you send them. Don’t rely on spell-checkers: they won’t pick up words that are used incorrectly. Make a list of words and phrases that you find hard to get right (such as “lie/lay,” “your/you’re,” “its/it’s,” or “affect/effect”). Keep it close to your computer. A good source of help with preventing mistakes in any type of writing is “8 Proofreading Tips and Techniques.”
A lot of people use the same signature template on every email. Be sure that for each email you send you’ve included only the contact/reply method(s) you want the recipient to use. If the email is going outside your office, be sure to include an active link to your web address so the recipient can find out more about you and your company.
by Marti Lythgoe, NL Editor, Writer