Your Email Image
What first impression and lasting image are you creating with your email correspondence? In March, we talked about your "website image". There is another important image we create on the Internet, your "email image".
Electronic mail has changed the way we communicate forever! It is fast, easy, effective, efficient and inexpensive. It has taken the burden and expense from communication one-to-one or with large groups. Email has become one of our primary means of communication.
It is important to keep in mind, just like print or verbal communication, our email is making an impression. Your email messages are silently speaking about your intelligence, integrity, communication skills, and attention to detail.
Email seems to have its own rules. It has almost become acceptable to have little or no regard for grammar, punctuation or spelling. Many use a form of hieroglyphics, abbreviations, and language to get their point across quickly and easily. Although email may never take on the same form as communication on paper (letters, memorandums, etc.) it is important to keep the "basics" in check. In addition, there are new guidelines that apply to our cyber world of communication.
The Old Rules
Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation still apply. Just because it's an email doesn't mean the rules you learned in English Class should be disregarded. Misspelled words, poor grammar, or lack of sentence structure will send the wrong message. It also makes it very difficult for the reader to understand what you are trying to say.
Most email has the same purpose as a memo (memorandum). It should have the same rules.
Proofread every email you send. Have someone else read it if necessary. Avoid sending immediate answers without thought or preparation. Email is a permanent, written document with your name attached to it. Be sure you are not damaging your credibility with an email sent in haste.
Email Subject Lines
Consider your Subject Line to be your headline. Be sure it lets the reader know what the message is about. We all get a multitude of email daily. It is very helpful to know what the message is about without having to open it.
Change the subject line if the subject changes. Your topic of conversation may have changed, adjust the subject line to reflect the new topic.
Answer Your Email
First, answer it. Just like any other type of communication, it is important to answer email in a timely fashion. On the sender side, if your message is urgent and needs a response in less than 24 hours, accompany your email message with a phone call. On the receiver side, it is very rude and unprofessional to let email that requires a response, go unanswered for more than 24 hours. If you are unable to provide a complete answer, send an acknowledgement and short message indicating that you received the email and are working on the reply. If you are not going to have access to you email for a couple of days, (vacation, computer problem, etc.) let those you communicate with frequently know.
Be polite; write as if you are speaking to the person face-to-face. Don't use the façade of email to be bold or rude.
Use the spam filters. We are bombarded with too much junk email just as we are bombarded with too much junk "snail mail". Using the software filters available can help you manage your time answering email. It will also keep you on track, allowing you to give your attention to the important subjects.
Reply To All
The Reply All command is a very effective, timesaving communication tool for group communication. It allows one response to go out to an entire distribution list. Do not reply to all unless it is important everyone hears your reply. Be sure everyone is interested in your reply before you click on Reply All.
Blind Carbon Copy (bcc)
Use the bcc function to send email to groups. This function will send a copy of your message to a group but will not list their names and email addresses.
Be sure the information is intended to be forwarded. It may be necessary to get permission before forwarding an email. Treat the conversation just as you would if you were repeating or quoting a conversation.
Do not forward other people's email addresses. When you need to forward email with a distribution list attached, delete the list from the body of the email before you forward the message and use bcc for the forwarded distribution.
Include Previous Conversation
It is helpful to include the previous email communication when replying to a message. This will refresh your reader on the conversation and is a great record of what has transpired to date.
Don't Bury Your Response
Don't bury your reply within the original email. Make it clear by placing your response at the top of your reply message or changing your font color, style, size, etc. so it stands out within the original message. Note, everyone does not read their email in HTML format and may not see special formatting (color, style, etc.). The safest way to respond is at the top of the reply message.
As with all communication, if you wouldn't say it to their face, don't say it. You never know where your email will go. It is very easy to distribute email quickly. We see it all the time, jokes, hoaxes, viruses, and news travels around the world in an instant. Think twice before sending negative comments or gossip.
Use a Signature
It may not be clear who you are by your email address. Be sure your reader knows who sent the message by including a signature (your full name typed) at the end of your message. This signature can also include pertinent information to get in contact with you like phone number, website address, etc. It is not necessary to use a signature every time you email if the conversation is sent back and forth within a short period.
Don't Make Your Signature Too Long
A simple tagline can be a very effective marketing tool when included with your email signature but don't make it too long. A wordy advertisement or sales pitch at the end of every message you send can be annoying.
What Is The Tone Of Your Message
USA Today reported that email causes many communication problems. Be very careful what you say in your email. Your tone of voice, laughter, facial expression, etc. are not communicated in a text message the way they are in face-to-face communication. It is easy to take a message the wrong way. Be sure you are not sending a message that will be misunderstood, causing hurt feelings. That little "smiley face" may not be enough to let your reader know you were kidding.
Electronic mail is a wonderful communication tool when used properly. Don't be afraid to use it. Email has streamlined communication. It is now simple and cost effective to keep in contact with others in a much broader area of the world. Many are communicating with business associates, friends, and family they have not kept in contact with for years. Group communication for business, charity work, board responsibilities, etc. is no longer as time consuming. There is still a need for phone, fax, mail, and face-to-face communication but email is a welcome addition and here to stay.
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In the News
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly (OOQ) considered Lori Johnson’s image consulting business to be “interesting and unusual”, worthy of an article in their Fall 2005 publication.
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