Your Emails: Bring It or Blow It – To Do’s and Taboos
By Dawn Mentzer – Solopreneur & Freelance Writer
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It’s seems rather odd to me that so much is written about the do’s and don’ts of interacting on social media, but the one constant in communication – email – has been sort of getting the cold shoulder.
I know (and I’m glad) that social media is here to stay, and I embrace the powerful opportunities that it brings, but as a small business owner, where do you want your social media interaction to eventually lead? As a solopreneur, I want it to lead to one-on-one conversations with people who are interested in the services I provide. Sometimes that takes the form of a phone call, but most often that conversation is carried out through a series of emails.
Email is where the rubber hits the road. Through email, you can either demonstrate your professionalism, experience and commitment to delivering excellence to your clients, or you can blow it by making some fatal email errors.
Here are my lists of the most prominent email “taboos” and “always do’s”:
- Type in ALL CAPS – I DON’T LIKE WHEN PEOPLE SHOUT AT ME! DO YOU? You’d think this is a no-brainer, but apparently it’s not. Every so often, I receive emails exhibiting this faux pas.
- type in all lower case (including first words in sentences and proper nouns, says dawn) – i just don’t get why anyone would do this, but I’ve seen it on more than one occasion. too tired to hold down the caps key?
- Fail to include a subject on the subject line – Everyone gets boat loads of email every day. Extend them the courtesy of knowing what your message is about so they can prioritize what’s in their inbox.
- Exude attitude – In short, watch your tone! It takes practice to be diplomatic when you’re writing to someone who you disagree with – or don’t particularly care for – but you won’t make the situation any better by coming off confrontational. My advice: Type your email, save it as a draft, and come back to it no earlier than an hour later (and way longer than that if you’re still feeling highly emotional). Then, re-read it and ask yourself objectively how someone else might interpret your approach. Better yet, ask a neutral part to read it and request their feedback. After that, tweak it to remove any hints of abrasiveness.
Email Always Do’s:
- Say “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, “Good evening” …while addressing the person(s) or group by name. “Good” is a good way to start things off on the right foot.
- Ask “How are you?” or say “I hope all is well with you.” – It’s OK to jump into the “stuff” of your email if you’re in the middle of an existing string of messages, but if you’re the one starting the ball rolling, this is a nice way to set a friendly tone.
- Say “Please” and “Thank you” – Just as you would in person, mind your manners when asking someone to do something for you – and after they’ve done it.
- Organize your thoughts – Edit your email message content so it flows in a logical order. Don’t jump around from one point to another point and then back to the point you covered 3 points earlier. Bullet points or numbered lists work great when you’ve got multiple topics or ideas to cover. They visually categorize your content for the reader, and they keep your thoughts from landing all over the place.
- Be clear about what you want from the recipients – “Please read this, I think you’ll find it very interesting.”; “Please provide your input on how you believe we should move forward.”; “Please let me know when you’ll be available for a follow up phone call.” You get the idea. And it helps to share the call to action near the beginning of your email and at the end.
- Spellcheck AND proofread – Yes, you need to do both! Spellcheck will pick up most glaring errors, but it doesn’t catch “its” vs. “it’s” or “there’s” vs. “theirs”. Having one minor error in an email is generally not a big deal, but high profile messages should be error-free. Proofread your email several times and read it out loud to yourself to catch any blunders.
Got your own do’s, don’ts, or email pet peeves? I’d love to hear about them. Please comment and share your thoughts!
You might also enjoy reading these articles about email etiquette:
Email Etiquette Rules
Email Tips and Proper Practices
Dynamoo’s Email Etiquette
Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Good reminders, Dawn. I know that I need to watch my ‘tude when I’m fired up about a situation. I’ve been called on the carpet for it. Thanks, again, for great reminders! 🙂
Thanks Wendy! Although I can’t imagine you ever having a ‘tude! 😉