Email is fast approaching its 50th anniversary. Almost since its inception, email has been a mixed blessing. While email is instantaneous and paper-free, as compared with what we now call snail mail, it’s also associated with some problematic behaviors.
So here are the 5 main email mistakes and how to correct them.
Emails That Aren’t to the Point or Wander Among Different Subjects
The first of the 5 email mistakes are lengthy emails that meander without ever getting to the point are at best annoying, and at worst, time-wasters. On the other hand, people in a conversation will sometimes naturally steer off-topic. If you’re emailing back and forth with someone and you or others begin to veer off in an unexpected direction, change the subject line to the original matter you needed to address and politely draw attention back to it.
Not Including Resolution Steps in Emails
Many emails cite problems or needs but don’t include any action steps or assign responsibilities to specific individuals. If you don’t list or delegate tasks, everyone will assume someone else took care of them. Then nothing gets done.
If it’s a group email, make sure that the resolution steps are indicated, and get a consensus on who is going to do what and when.
CC’ing People You Think Would Need to Be on the Email
The third of the 5 email mistakes: before you CC anyone you think might need to be on an email, you should make sure. Ask the person or people ahead of time if you should be CC’ing them on a particular email. Most people will appreciate your asking. Chances are, they don’t need to be on the email, and if you CC them, you’re inadvertently adding to the clutter in their inboxes.
Not Reviewing the Email Before Sending
This is possibly the worst offense of all email etiquette. First of all, no one wants to receive an email that’s rife with typos. The recipient/s will spend all of their time mentally correcting your mistakes and not paying attention to the actual message. It’s also not very professional.
Secondly, since email doesn’t accurately convey tone of voice, nuance, or intent, you have to be extra careful about what you say and to whom you’re saying it. Think twice, for instance, about using humor in your emails. Someone may take it the wrong way. You also don’t want to come off as sarcastic or condescending.
Review your email, especially if you’re frustrated or angry when writing it. Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back. You don’t want to write something you’ll regret.
When in doubt, read it aloud to yourself before you send it, or even get a second opinion, assuming the email doesn’t contain confidential information.
Automatically Sending a Reply-All When Not Needed, the Last of the Email Mistakes
Avoid sending reply-all unless absolutely necessary. Many people don’t like to be copied. Not everyone needs to see long threads of responses that don’t pertain to them.
Over-cc’ing, lack of tone, off-topic chatting, and the dreaded reply-all give email a bad name. But email isn’t the real offender. It’s our behaviors around email that are actually to blame. The good news is that, with some small adjustments, you can change your behaviors relatively easily and make email your friend again. I’d love to chat about organizing your email and make it work for you. Follow this link to contact me to set up a call.