Avoid These Email Pitfalls

In my first construction job, I worked as a Project Assistant to 13 Project Managers.  None of them had computers and I believe my computer was one of the first to use WordPerfect in Windows. (I am definitely dating myself)  The primary focus of my job was to type their letters & to fax/mail them out.  They handed me hand-written letters or sent me dictation recordings.  Most of these “letters” were ramblings about “beating an old horse” or a “fat lady singing”, etc.  It was part of my job, it make it sound professional & format it as a proper letter.  Creating these countless letters, was actually great experience in learning about construction & business letter writing.  As trivial as it seemed at the time, I am grateful to have had that experience.

Email EtiquetteFast forward 17 years later and I cannot remember that last time I created a formal letter.  All my formal communication at work and home are handled conveniently via email.  But with this new technology, we at times lose the respect & professionalism that letter writing provided.  There are several articles outlining proper email etiquette, which I recommend you read.  But here are my top pointers on email writing :

Proof Reading:  It happens quite often, we get upset or aggravated with someone or something.  We decide to the give them a piece of our mind via email.  We rant in the email as if it was a Facebook post on murdered puppies or other injustices of the world.  Now your moment of aggravation is forever documented.  Or worse yet, you are not angry — you are just busy & you replied in such a matter-of-fact way that the recipient reads it & assumes you are upset.  Which is why I recommend implementing a 3 Proof Rule:

1st proof – Read it and ask yourself:  Does it make sense?  How’s the grammar?  Are you being clear & concise?

2nd proof – Read it from the recipient’s point of view.  Business emails are all about informing or requesting something.  So ask yourself, does my email professionally inform or request something, from the recipient.

3rd proof – Read it as if you would be required to read the email aloud to your recipient in the presence of your boss & your boss’s boss.  Are you expressing yourself in a manner that is representative of yourself and/or company?  And yes, we all get upset but are you comfortable with it being documented on your permanent record.

Habitually CCing:  There are times when we need to carbon copy ( cc: )  someone to an email, however there are people that are Habitual CC’ers & all they do is clog our email accounts.  The negative effect of habitually cc’ing, is that eventually your emails are ignored & when you have something important to say it maybe overlooked.  Here are a couple of instances when you should CC others & the rest of time you should refrain:

  1. Direct Requests:  Someone asks you to specifically send an email out and as a courtesy you copy them, so they know it was sent.
  2. Co-workers / Team:  The email is about something that our co-workers or team members absolutely need to be in the loop about, because they will be directly affected by the email exchange.
  3. Your Supervisor:  There is a potential issue or important information, that your supervisor must know about in detail & real-time.
  4. Recipient’s Supervisor:  This should be reserved for requests that cannot be resolved by the recipient alone.  A lot of times, you know the person you are emailing cannot fully process your request without supervisory support or encouragement.
  5. Replying:  If a client or subcontractor sends you an email copying your supervisor and others, as a courtesy, reply all so that your supervisor or others know this issue/request is being handled promptly.

Sign Off:  All business emails should have a signature.  The email signature is to emails, as equivalently important as the corporate letterhead is to letters.  It should include your full name, title, complete contact information (address, telephone, email), company name & logo.  Everyone at your organization should have the same format of email signature (same font, structure, data, etc.).   There is nothing more frustrating than needing to call back someone that emailed you & not having their information right in front of you.

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