Emails expose the real “you.” In an organizational setting, the communications you send to prospects,
clients and partners usually pass through some kind of quality check—an editor, an administrative assistant or the guy in the next cube. But for the most part, we’re on our own with emails. We exchange email messages with all our brilliant insights and all our flaws right there on the screen with no one else checking our grammar.
Therefore, emails frequently provide the most honest assessment of the sender’s knowledge, capabilities and care. We should be taking as much care with the emails we send as we do with our annual reports, because our personal brand is on the line. In preparing your email messages, you may benefit by keeping in mind these 10 tips:
- Use your best grammar, spelling and punctuation. Emails are presentations to important people and part of your “permanent record” in their minds.
- Realize that even deleted emails may be retrievable forever. Many companies receiving your email (as well as your own firm) may need to retain them for legal e-discovery, so never send emails that could result in lawsuits over abusive language, threats, libel, racism, obscenity or other issues.
- Never expect your email to be private. Recipients may forward, copy or publicly post them; so for private messages, meet by phone or in person.
- Don’t use capital letters for emphasis. “All caps” indicates screaming. Instead, italicize, underline or bold the words you want to stress.
- In business e-mails, avoid texting-style abbreviations. It’s very likely that your recipient may not understand the meaning if IMHO (in my humble opinion) or BTW (by the way). One woman purportedly confided in a Facebook post that her mother, in concluding condolences and other serious messages, has been signing off with LOL, which she believed meant “Lots of Love.” LOL!
- Always proofread before hitting the send button. Just as news editors know that their biggest errors are most likely to occur in the boldest headlines, your biggest embarrassment may occur in the shortest message. Just ask apologetic business associates who follow up a mistake with a one-word email reading, “Opps!”
- To avoid an accidental “Send,” complete the “To” line after drafting the message. If you’re replying, cut the “To” line names and paste them back in after completing the draft.
- Use caution in choosing “Reply” or “Reply All.” Sometimes the initial recipients may not be appropriate for the reply, as many a former employee has discovered in responding to a company email message.
- Create separate personal and business email accounts. In that way, you can avoid accidental auto-complete of the “To” line with a business contact name, rather than that of a friend. Also, an embarrassing personal message meant for a friend is less likely to end up in a business colleague’s inbox.
- Be considerate of the recipient’s bandwidth. Never send very heavy presentations or video as email attachments. They may tie up the recipient’s inbox, blocking other emails while they download. Instead, store the document on your intranet or extranet or in your public cloud space and send the recipient a link.
If you feel these tips are helpful, you might email them to a colleague. But proofread them first, just in case.
--Steve Friedman is the director of marketing communications at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley