Are bad email habits harming your career?
By Heather Dodds, Marketing Communications Specialist, Scott Valley Bank
Research suggests that the average U.S. employee sends and receives a whopping 105 emails daily. That’s a lot of messages to sort through! It’s also a lot of chances to make an electronic faux pas in front of supervisors, colleagues, and clients. If you want to impress your business associates and take your career to the next level, you’ll need impeccable email etiquette. Put your skills to the test and see if you’re guilty of the 10 common email mistakes listed below. (Lucky for you, we’ve also included how to correct them!)
- You write vague subject lines. The subject line is the first thing the recipient sees, and you want to make a good impression. If your subject line is vague (or empty), chances are your message will be skipped over. The key to a well-written subject line is making it clear and concise. Examples: “Meeting agenda update,” “Proposal feedback requested,” “Loan information enclosed.”
- You automatically “reply all.” The only time you should hit the “reply all” button is when your response is pertinent to every single person included in the original email list. If you’re constantly cluttering your colleagues’ inboxes with useless messages, you’re likely to be left out of future communications.
- You hit “send” too soon. Everyone has had that horrifying moment when they realize two seconds after hitting the “send” button that they forgot an attachment or misspelled the recipient’s name. Avoid this embarrassing situation by waiting to add the recipient’s address as the final step. Write your message, run a spell check, and check for attachments before adding the recipient’s name and hitting that send button.
- You’re too brief. Sometimes it’s appropriate to reply with a simple, “OK,” or “Thank you.” But if an email requires a lengthier response, bite the bullet and type one up. (Yes, even if you’re sending from your phone.) Otherwise, that brief answer you typed out of convenience may wind up making your recipient feel undervalued or ignored.
- You don’t name your attachments. If you’re sending attachments, give the files a logical name before attaching them to the message. This goes double if you’re attaching more than one file – nobody wants to open multiple files to find what they’re looking for! It’s also common courtesy to limit file sizes to under 500KB. If you must send a large attachment, let the recipient know it’s coming so that they can clear space in their inbox if necessary. (Or better yet, use a free file-sharing service such as Dropbox so as not to hog their valuable inbox space!)
- You abuse emoticons. It’s probably not a good idea to include a smiley face when sending an important report to the company CEO. (But feel free to insert the hamburger emoji in a lighthearted email about the upcoming company barbecue!)
- You don’t break up your paragraphs. The goal is for people to want to read your email. If they see a massive wall of text when they open your message, they’ll probably flag it to read later (and then forget all about it). A good rule of thumb is to start a new paragraph every two to three sentences: the white space makes it less visually intimidating, even if it takes up more space than one long paragraph.
- You don’t reply promptly. Always acknowledge that you’ve received a message. If you’re too busy to write a full reply, at least let the sender know that you’ve received their email and will get back to them in detail as soon as you can.
- You don’t mirror your reader. Take the time to interpret the tone of the email you’ve received before crafting your reply. Is the sender abrupt and to-the-point? Don’t clutter your message with unnecessary pleasantries. If the sender inquires as to whether you had a good weekend, take a few minutes to add a personal touch to your reply.
- You use email to avoid difficult conversations. It can be tempting to take the easy way out and broach uncomfortable subjects from behind the comfort of your monitor. Emotions and tone can be hard to gauge from an email, which is why it’s best to have difficult conversations in person.