The average number of business-related emails employees send and receive each day is approximately 120. That number is projected to soar to 140 by 2018. That means you will likely be frequently communicating via email, now and in the future. While the use of email can be efficient and effective, its misuse can be irritating to others at best and damaging to relationships at worst. Avoid these mistakes that can significantly reduce the value of your communication.
1. * Weak or misleading subject line*. When a subject line is vague, i.e. FYI, Update, Meeting, it doesn’t signal the importance of the content, nor does it standout in an inbox that is chock full. Worse yet, when an email stream has gone on for a while, the subject line may no longer relate to the content at all. Remedy this problem by being specific, i.e. Meeting Friday 3 PM Room 6 and making sure you update the subject as the topic changes in an ongoing conversation.
2. Too long and dense. Email that exceeds one screen is less likely to be completely read and understood. Given the volume of email with which receivers contend, the shorter the better. Large paragraphs are also at risk for being too quickly scanned. Consider bulleted lists of key ideas which create more white space and can be quickly digested.
3. * Overusing Ccs*. If you become known as someone who copies everyone on the planet, your email may not be taken seriously. Much of the problem with email volume is indiscriminate copying of email to individuals who really don’t need the information. Only copy those who need to know or who have expressed interest. Excessive copying creates an organizational problem when it becomes the coin of the realm, cluttering everyone’s inbox.
4. Sensitive content. Conflict with individuals should not be handled by email. If you have critical feedback to give, say it face to face. Your words may be misinterpreted when you are not present to clarify, ask questions, and deal with emotions. If you have uncomplimentary things to say about someone, keep it to yourself or share it in person with your closest confidants. Think of your email as a public document. Remember that it can be forwarded to anyone with whom the receiver wants to share it. It can serve as documentation of what you’ve said. Don’t write anything you would be embarrassed or derailed by if it was made public.
5. Sloppy grammar, usage, and punctuation. You’re a leader and your image is conveyed through your writing style. If the mechanics are poor, you’ll be perceived as less professional than those who write well. Using shorthand texting language or abbreviation, inappropriate in business writing, is another way that your image is diminished. Make sure you review and edit your email before you hit the send button.
Hone your use of email by avoiding these mistakes and increasing the impact you make. Write clear, concise, and content-appropriate email that is easy for others to read and you will be known as someone who has mastered this form of communication.