Top 10 E-mail Mistakes

Robert Half International

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If you're like most professionals, you use e-mail in the office on a regular basis. Because of its immediacy and relative lack of intrusiveness, it's the communication method of choice for many workers, including, chances are, your boss. According to a Robert Half International survey, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of executives polled prefer e-mail over other forms of communication.


While hitting "send" may be an effective way to get your ideas across, doing so too quickly or without a lot of thought can send the wrong message. Here are 10 common e-mail mistakes and tips for avoiding them:


1. A vague subject line.
The subject line not only lets the person receiving the message know what it's about but also provides him or her with a reason to read it. Some people -- and your boss is probably one of them -- get hundreds of e-mails each day and may not have the time to open each of them. The subject line acts as the window into the message and can also indicate its urgency, so be specific with what you write there.


2. No sign-off.
A weak signature is almost as bad as a weak handshake: Both convey a lack of professionalism. A signature at the end of your e-mail should include your e-mail address, physical work address and phone number. Including these details gives recipients multiple means of contacting you. This information is especially important for people to whom your e-mail might be forwarded or individuals either outside the company or in another office.


3. "Im writing re: the meeting @ 3."
Many people take a casual approach when using e-mail. But what you write is a reflection of your professional self, so take the time to craft complete sentences, use proper grammar and check your spelling. And don't depend solely on your computer's spell-check function, which won't find misused words; review your e-mail carefully before sending it.


4. Going on and on and on.
This strategy might work for the Energizer Bunny, but your goal when crafting a message should be to keep it short. You don't want to write the e-mail equivalent of a novel, so get to the point as quickly as possible, using both short sentences and paragraphs. At the same time, you don't want to write too brief of a message, which could make you appear curt.


5. SHOUTING IT OUT.
Some people like the ease of typing in all capital letters. What they may not realize is this is the online equivalent of shouting, so avoid the temptation of using the caps lock button.


6. Striking the wrong note.
Unfortunately, it's easy for tone to be lost with the written word, especially in shorter messages. An attempt at humor, for instance, may be read as something offensive or inappropriate. If you're not sure how something you wrote will be interpreted, err on the side of caution and leave it out.


7. Weighing others down.
If your e-mail inbox is continually clogged, you know how frustrating it can be to receive large attachments, especially when you don't want them. And, according to a survey we developed, executives agreed, ranking the receipt of large, unsolicited files as the most annoying aspect of communicating via e-mail. Limit the distribution of massive files to people who absolutely need them. 


8. Sending to the wrong box.
Before you send a message, always double-check the list of recipients. Many e-mail programs automatically fill in information you've previously typed, such as the e-mail addresses of frequent contacts. If you have multiple people in your address book with similar names, you could mistakenly choose the wrong person and send him or her a message intended for someone else.


9. Mixing business and pleasure.
When the information is confidential or sensitive, this move could limit your career. Any time you use your work e-mail account, the message should be business-related. After all, you are using your firm's resources, and the company has the right to monitor your communication. Get to know your organization's e-mail policy, and have your friends send non-work-related e-mail to your personal account, which you can check at home.


10. Over e-mailing.
Do you find yourself typing a long message in order to avoid confusion on the recipient's part? Do you hesitate to click Send because you think your contact might forward your message to someone who shouldn't see it? E-mail is best suited for quick communication, and, in situations like these, it's wise to call your colleague or speak to him or her in person instead.


With e-mail correspondence becoming increasingly important in the workplace, you can only benefit from learning how to craft an effective message. So keep the above tips in mind the next time you sit down at the keyboard.




Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.


Last Updated: 09/07/2008 - 2:19 PM


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