Sending E-mail Made Simple

E-mail has dramatically increased the speed of communication. Present day, people expect instant replies, which has forced us into hastily crafted responses, rash decisions and sometimes poor judgment calls. Taking the time to employ some old school wisdom, common sense, and logic to your e-mail will automatically filter out and eliminate many such potential errors.

Here are Fourteen Tips for Excellent E-mail:
  • Keep it brief. Your reader will mentally check out, neglect to read until it's too late, or even delete what could be a very important message if it's too long. Make no more than three points or ask three questions in any e-mail. Use the amount of screen you can see as a guide when crafting an email. If someone can read your e-mail in under one minute, you're most likely to get and keep their attention, as well as get a response.
  • Include the original text with your reply. That way, if you do use a one-word response (not advised), the original sender (and now recipient) will know to what you're referring.
  • Have "in writing" standards. Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Remember, you never know who will be the ultimate recipient of your e-mail and you always want to be seen in the best light.
  • DON'T YELL. No-one likes to be yelled at, and ALL CAPS gives a sense that you're YELLING.
  • Fresh topics need a fresh e-mail. It can be confusing if you reply to an old e-mail with a new subject. If you must, delete all of the old text and then compose your new message.
  • Make your subject line clear and captivating. What is the subject of your e-mail? Why should the recipient open it and read it right now? Rev up those creative juices when composing to ensure the recipient will be compelled to read and respond right away.
  • Know when to use CC and BCC. Copy only those who absolutely need to be copied. When broadcasting to more than three (yes, 3) people, use BCC to avoid blasting everyone's e-mail address to everyone else on the list (this, in turn, will prevent a host of other potential challenges).
  • Add a greeting. Include at least a "Hi, Susan," at the beginning. The best e-mails I've seen have the date at the top. It just adds that extra bit of professionalism.
  • Have a signature. I have lost count of the number of times I've had to search for someone's phone number or address because it wasn't included in their email. Unless the recipient is your mom or best friend, they won't have your information memorized. Alleviate the need for someone to "track you down" and provide the information they need each and every time you reach out to them.
  • Market mindfully. If you use e-mail to send e-zines or e-newsletters, be brief, to the point, and add instant value to your reader. Raise your hand if you get 200 e-mails every single day (me, too). I want to read pertinent, informative and valuable e-mails. All of the others are deleted. Aren't you the same way?
  • Reply in a timely manner. Don't say you're too busy, everyone's too busy. Take one minute to reply, rather than making the sender wait for your response. It is entirely within your right to respond with, "Thank you, I'm not interested at this time." Just as it's important to return phone calls within 24-48 hours, the same holds true with e-mail. If you must set aside 30-45 minute each day to respond to e-mails, then do just that.
  • Be mindful of your tone. Be as polite as your possibly can. When in doubt, read your message out loud and if there's any room for doubt about your tone, change your words, syntax and possibly your punctuation.
  • (Almost) Never use "reply all": At the very least, use "reply all" sparingly and only when you're completely sure that everyone on the original recipient list has an interest in, and/or needs to receive your response.
  • Don't hide behind e-mail. If you have something important to say, have the courage to say it over the phone or in person. It is considered passive-aggressive and unprofessional to send your "true feelings" in writing over e-mail. I also advise against using profanity. You just never know who will eventually see your email!
  • Anger is one letter short of danger. Would you want the email you're about to send to be seen by your parents, best friend, children, boss, be printed on the front page of your local paper or highlighted on CNN? If the answer is no, compose away ... go ahead and get all of those negative thoughts and feelings out ... and then hit "delete!"
Using the tips outlined above give you an edge, quite possibly just the edge you'll need to get that new client, keep your clients satisfied, and make the right impression at just the right time.

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