Monday, December 21, 2009

Things to Remember when Sending a Professional E-mail

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emailI am surprised how many e-mails that I get from both my classes and my job that are nonprofessional in nature.  All it takes is one e-mail to change someone's perception of you as a coworker.  Here are some things to remember when writing a professional e-mail.

- Keep it short and address only a single topic.  I have a received in the past e-mails that go on and on and it becomes too difficult to read.  Keep it short, simple, to the point, and only discuss one thing at a time.  If you send an e-mail with multiple topics, make sure to separate them.  People do not want to spend a great portion of their day dealing with your ramblings and answering fifty questions.

- Keep it timely.  Business professionals receive an extraordinary amount of e-mail a day and the e-mail builds up quick.  If you have something that needs to be discussed, deal with it at the time.  Do not wait until a later date or the person you are e-mailing may have no idea what you are talking about or may have put the topic behind them. 

- Be professional and courteous.  It sounds stupid and like a no-brainer but people think of e-mail as an informal form of medium, and it is.  Your personal e-mail can be full of inside jokes and side discussions.  Professional e-mails should be just that, as professional as if you were writing a memo.  Also, remember what your mother taught you, thank you goes a long way when dealing with coworkers or clients.

- Watch misspellings and Grammar.  It is important to remember that, in a lot of ways, e-mail is a way that people know who you are at work.  Even in a small office setting, these days most conversations take place via e-mail.  Sounding uneducated or careless by spelling 'the' as 'teh' speaks volumes to coworkers, especially those who don't know you at all.  Take the time and reread e-mails before sending, even if your e-mail client has spell check.

- Don't use emoticons (smileys).  They are cute and should be used only for personal use.  Writing the CEO of your company that, "our stock numbers are down :(" is not professional.

- When dealing with clients, always include a signature.  Signatures at the bottom of an e-mail are like a business card to clients, never forget to include it.  Generally, try to keep the signature no longer than four lines.  I usually put name (line 1), phone | fax (line 2), e-mail (line 3), Web site (line 4).  But, these may not apply to all businesses.  Some may want to put a mailing address, etc.

- Don't leave subject fields blank.  I stated above that business professionals receive loads of e-mail a day.  Putting the subject is no longer just a courtesy, but a must for all e-mail so that they can prioritize them. 

- Don't e-mail everyone in your address book every little thing.  The situation to e-mail everyone in the address book should be limited to only important information.  An example of one that warrants writing everyone in the company, "the e-mail server will be down Friday at 4:00 for maintenance."  An example that does not warrant writing the entire company, "we will be playing basketball during lunch, please move your cars if they are parked by the hoop."  That previous example is a real e-mail I received at my old company.  This individual e-mailed all 2,000 employees including the CEO and VPs that e-mail - unprofessional. 

- Don't mark a message as urgent unless it is.  I had a coworker that would constantly send everything as urgent.  Of course, in the IT staff, when we see the little red exclamation point on the e-mail, we drop everything to see what was going on expecting a crashed server.  Nope, it was someone wanting to know what I wanted to do for lunch.  Only use urgent when something actually is urgent.

- Avoid sarcasm.  Just because you know that you are being sarcastic doesn't necessarily mean your reader will.  Good sarcasm requires body language, a fluctuation of the voice, rolling of the eyes, hand gestures and none of these exist in e-mail.  Avoid sarcasm.

- Don't use uppercase.  This goes for anywhere on the Web, don't use uppercase - it sounds like YOU ARE SCREAMING!

- Remember that e-mails can be saved.  When teaching my intro to computers class, I always use the 'coworker getting promoted' example to explain why it is important to remember that people can save e-mails.  Say you and a friendly coworker are constantly e-mailing back and forth about another coworker who is constantly late for work.  All of a sudden, that coworker gets promoted and your friendly coworker wants to get in this person's good graces, and just happened to have kept some of those e-mails that would put you in a position you don't want to be in.  Just keep in mind even when you are angry, these things can come back to bite you so when you are rereading for spelling and grammar, double-check to make sure you aren't saying something that could become something more if in the wrong hands.

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