E-mail Rules – Quick Reminders to Avoid Mistakes

E-mail Rules - Quick Reminders

When you can spend an hour or two (for me it’s more like 3 hours) a day reading, answering, deleting, ignoring and categorizing your e-mails, it is more important than ever that you use your time to wisely handle the impression  you give others through your electronic missives.  Our e-mails are more often than not the first impression we have of someone who would like to sell something to us, buy something from us or make a worthy connection to us.  While you can’t control what others send to you, properly handling your e-mail correspondence sets the impression you give to others. 

All over the internet there are “How-to” and “What-not-to-do” lists about handling e-mail but it is still a frequent question we receive from acquaintances and clients alike.   Here are 10 reminders to keep in mind.

What is this e-mail explosion? Was there a point in time when the entire world decided to use the Internet as their business communication tool of choice?  Are there rules for managing these messages and being a professional and polite user of electronic mail?  There are, but not everyone has gotten the word.


1. Omitting The Subject Line. 

We are way past the time when we didn’t realize the significance of the subject line.  It makes no sense to send a message that reads “no subject” and seems to be about nothing.  Given the huge volume of e-mail that each person receives, the subject header is essential if you want your message read any time soon. The subject line has become the hook.

2. Not Making Your Subject Line MeaningfuL. 

Your header should be pertinent to your message, not just “Hi” or “Hello.” The recipient is going to decide the order in which he reads e-mail based on who sent it and what it is about. Your e-mail will have lots of competition.

3. Failing To Change The Header To Correspond With The Subject. 

For example, if you are writing your web publisher, your first header may be “Web site content.” However, as your site develops and you send more information, label each message for what it is, “contact info,” “graphics,” or “home page.” Don’t just hit “reply” every time. Adding more details to the header will allow the recipient to find a specific document in his/her message folder without having to search every one you sent. Start a new message if you change the subject all together.

4. Not Personalizing Your Message To The Recipient. 

E-mail is informal but it still needs a greeting. Begin with “Dear Mr. Broome,” “Dear Jim,” “Hello Jim,” or just “Jim.” Failure to put in the person’s name can make you and your e-mail seem cold.  Remember, too, that e-mail is not a memo, it is still mail, similar to what you would send by post but much, much quicker and less expensive.

5. Not Accounting For Tone. 

When you communicate with another person face to face, at least 65% of the message is non-verbal.  E-mail has no body language. The reader cannot see your face or hear your tone of voice so choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. Put yourself in the other person’s place and think how your words may come across in Cyberspace.

6. Forgetting To Check For Spelling And Grammar.

In the early days of e-mail, someone created the notion that this form of communication did not have to be letter perfect. Wrong. It does. It is a representation of you. If you don’t check to be sure e-mail is correct, people will question the caliber of other work you do. Use proper capitalization and punctuation, and always check your spelling. Remember that your spellchecker will catch misspelled words, but not misused ones. It cannot tell whether you meant to say “from” or “form,” “for” or “fro”, “he” or “the.”

7. Writing The Great American Novel.

E-mail is meant to be brief. Keep your message short. Use only a few paragraphs and a few sentences per paragraph. People skim their e-mail so a long missive is wasted. If you find yourself writing an overly long message, pick up the phone or call a meeting.

8. Forwarding E-Mail Without Permission.

Most everyone is guilty of this one, but think about it. If the message was sent to you and only you, why would you take responsibility for passing it on? Too often confidential information has gone global because of someone’s lack of judgment.  Unless you are asked or request permission, do not forward anything that was sent just to you.

9. Thinking That No One Else Will Ever See Your E-Mail. 

Once it has left your mailbox, you have no idea where your e-mail will end up. Don’t use the Internet to send anything that you couldn’t stand to see on a billboard on your way to work the next day.  Use other means to communicate personal or sensitive information.

10. Leaving Off Your Signature. 

Always close with your name, even though it is included at the top of the e-mail, and add contact information such as your phone, fax and street address.  The recipient may want to call to talk further or send you documents that cannot be e-mailed. Creating a formal signature block with all that data is the most professional approach.

11. Expecting An Instant Response.

Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with e-mail turned on.  The beauty of Internet communication is that it is convenient.  It is not an interruption. People can check their messages when it suits them, not you.  If your communication is so important that you need to hear back right away, use the phone.

12. Completing The “To” Line First. 

The name or address of the person to whom you are writing is actually the last piece of information you should enter. Check everything else over carefully first.  Proof for grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity.  Did you say what needed to be said? How was your “tone of voice”?  If you were the least bit emotional when you wrote the e-mail, did you let it sit for a period of time? Did you include the attachment you wanted to send? If you enter the recipient’s name first, a mere slip of the finger can send a message before its’ time.  You can never take it back.

E-mail makes everything easier and faster including making a powerful business impression and establishing positive professional relationships. The businessperson who uses the technology effectively and appropriately will see the results of that effort reflected in the bottom line.

If you are interested in Business Writing and how to write better, check this page…

http://www.selfpresentations.com/writing-for-business-results/

Building Instant Rapport

The foundation for building rapport is based on the exchange of a few basic communication signals. Here are 4 key ways to build instant rapport. This is based on the book, Get Along With Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Arnold Sanow and Sandra Strauss.

1. Smile. A smile is the connecting point of a relationship, whether personal or professional. It signals interest and conveys care and concern. A smile can make or break a connection; its absence can leave others worried or wondering what you’re hiding behind that frown. Tip: Smile when talking on the phone. The listener can hear it in your voice.

2. Shake it up! A handshake is extremely important in American culture, but you have to know how to shake properly. A limp handshake can communicate disinterest; a bone-crushing one often is perceived as a power play. Be the first to extend your hand. Make eye contact and smile while offering an introductory remark or saying hello. Give about three firm shakes and then release your grip.

3. Play the name game.People love to hear others address them by name. It signals that they are important. But what if you’re one of the thousands who literally forget a person’s name as soon as you hear it? The easiest and most effective way to remember, is to fully concentrate on a person’s name during the introduction and then repeat it out loud immediately: Susan, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Another idea is to look for a personal connection: Angie! That’s my favorite aunt’s name! Use the name frequently in conversation (but not too much). If it’s an unusual name, inquire about its origin: Houston! Does your name reflect Texan roots?

4. Define Your MO (Marketing Opportunity).Create a personal commercial – a concise, clear statement of what you want others to know about you. Your statement should define what you do for a living, who you work for and what results your work provides. For example, instead of saying: I work for XYZ Advertising, say: I produce marketing materials to help businesses strategically position their products and services to consumers.

By Arnold Sanow  (Associate of The Lett Group)

Arnold Sanow is a Speaker, Seminar Leader, Facilitator and Coach. He is the author of “Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere” www.arnoldsanow.comspeaker@arnoldsanow.com

Is Cursive Writing Too Old-Fashioned?

In the United States, cursive writing is disappearing from the basic curriculum in forty-one states. Do we really need to teach cursive writing in the new age of keyboarding, texting and video-mail?

This article shares some of the current

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realities about cursive writing. Please notice the comments at the end from educators and the very practical reasons that cursive should always be taught. Besides, a handwritten note is elegant and gracious when it is written in cursive.

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Face-to-Face Meetings Are Still Important

Report Highlights Strategic Value of Face-to-Face Meetingsperson to person meeting

Even as virtual meetings become increasingly common, a new study from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) focuses on the specific strategic advantages of face-to-face meetings for large groups. The report, The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face, was written by Christine Duffy, President and CEO of Maritz Travel Company, and Mary Beth McEuen, Vice President and Executive Director of The Maritz Institute. McEuen notes that the report identifies three key reasons for face-to-face meetings: 1) to capture attention, especially for new concepts; 2) to inspire a positive emotional climate; and 3) to build human networks and relationships. “Face-to-face meetings possess the unique ability to spur action and drive business results through creating powerful, emotional ties to your business mission and message,” she says. “The fact remains that there’s no substitute for meeting in person when you want to build emotional support and develop relationships.”  The complete study can be found here.

Editor’s Note: As social media becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, we have to be diligent to make time for face-to-face meetings.  When we are in the physical presence of others, our emotional selves are fed by the acceptance and challenges of personal relationships.  We feel better about ourselves after we have a positive meeting with another in person.  Why?  Because we know that the other person is responding to our “real” selves, not just our words.

Sidewalk Etiquette

By Kathleen Baines, Columnist on November 1, 2010

Our generation has lost most forms of etiquette — it’s a bold claim, albeit a true one. I have my own theories as to why this decline happened — the substitution of old-fashioned methods of child-rearing with the “I’m your buddy, not your parent” model, the refusal to believe that this is actually real life and that if you say something nasty, MTV won’t

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intervene with a bleep or a conveniently placed commercial break. Or just the fact that we’re all entitled to something.

This lack of etiquette includes but is not limited to the replacement of “please” and “thank you” with “do it” and “I deserved it,” and dropping all formalities and calling your mother by her first name. What happened to apologizing even when you don’t mean it, or offering to give up your seat for an old lady even though you’re extra cozy and would rather lose an arm than move? It’s a matter of principle. And the principle is dying.

I just want to wash out all of these “you-owe-me-one” mouths with soap, mainly because I think the idea of literally cleaning out someone’s mouth is really funny. But because I can’t do that, and given that it would be utterly impractical to try, my goal is to take it one step at a time. Truly. I’m talking about what I like to call “sidewalk etiquette.”

The regrettable decline of chivalry and manners rather blatantly extends into this realm of public walkways. You might not even realize sidewalk etiquette exists — until you break it, of course. Then you’re left sitting on the curb, missing a shoe and your dignity, wondering where you went wrong in life.

To begin, you are part of a moving traffic pattern. Do not impede the flow. I cannot stress this enough.

Human beings are not buffaloes. As such, we do not need to herd. So don’t. Instead of forming a horizontal, impassable line across an entire sidewalk, you might consider walking in twosies. You also might consider not making others walk in the mud.

Instead, commit to one side of the sidewalk. Be an absolutist. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s that awkward hallway or sidewalk game of left-right-left-right-laugh-uncomfortably-and-tango for 15 minutes before committing to a side. You’ll save yourself a considerable amount of embarrassment and confusion — unless you’re into that kind of thing or want to hone your dancing techniques.

This transportation courtesy extends to driving. Put on your turn signal when switching lanes or merging. Don’t text and drive. And on that note, don’t text and walk either — unless you’re like me and can multi-task like a seasoned pro. You will inevitably veer into the other lane of traffic — walking or driving — and cause disaster.

Fair-weather transit is difficult enough, but rain poses an especially potent threat to “sidewalk etiquette.” I feel successful when I make it home with both of my eyes intact after a rainy day on Grounds. The umbrella-point dodging is not an easy game, and I’m sick of keeping a tight perimeter at all drizzly times. Especially uncovered walkways. Using an umbrella under a covered walkway is the equivalent to wearing your sunglasses to bed at night — unless you sleep with the light on, in which case you’re weird and need to insert the analogy of your choice here. I personally boycotted umbrella use for a-year-and-half for these very reasons. Point in case, you can use an umbrella. Just be careful not to impale people. A few drops of water on your head are well worth this avoidance.

Many people don’t follow any semblance of manners on the sidewalk, in the hallway or in life. It’s every man for himself. I once had a cute guy swap places with me and walk road-side during a particularly intense rainstorm so I wouldn’t get splashed with tire-spray. I thought he was deranged. Turns out he’s just a really nice guy. Who knew.
Bottom line, we all have our personal breeches of etiquette, side-walking not excluded. I, for instance, am an aggressive tailgater — some driving tendencies do carry into all areas of life. Just be aware of your environment, respect other people’s space and safety and abide by the rules of the road. McCormick Road isn’t the Autobahn.

Kathleen’s column runs biweekly Mondays in the Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia.

She can be reached at k.baines@cavalierdaily.com.