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The top 12 email mistakes that can sabotage your career

Studies tell us we are now using email more than any other of form of communication It seems to have taken over our lives. When did this happen? Was there a specific point in time when everyone made the switch from phone, fax and face-to-face meetings to the Internet as the communication tool of choice?

When email first invaded our homes and offices, people began sending messages without any thought of how they should look or “sound” and without any rules to follow. Now, we are discovering certain principles for managing these messages and for being a professional and polite user of electronic mail — although not everyone has gotten the word.

Your email is as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear, the postal letters you write (assuming you still do), the greeting on your voice mail and the handshake you offer. If you want to impress on every front and build positive business relationships, pay attention to your email and steer clear of these top 12 email mistakes:

1. Omitting the subject line.

The subject header is essential if you want your message to be read. People decide which email to open based on two things: who sent it and what it’s about. The subject line is the hook.

2. Failing to change the subject line when you change the subject in your email.

When you want to send someone a message, it is all too easy to find the last message from that person and hit “reply.” If you are writing on another issue, take time to change the subject line. It’s not only confusing to open an email with an old subject line, but it’s also difficult to find that particular message after you have filed it.

3. Failing to use “cc” and “bcc” correctly.

Use “Cc” when someone needs to be informed but does not need to take any action. Use “Bcc” to hide a mailing list, but be careful not to use it to “whisper” behind a co-worker’s back.

4. Not personalizing your message to the recipient. Email is informal, but it still needs a greeting. Begin with “Dear Mr. Broome,” “Dear Jim,” “Hello Jim,” or just

“Jim.” Failure to use a proper greeting can make you and your email seem cold.

5. Not accounting for tone.

When you communicate with another person face-to-face, 93 percent of the message is non-verbal — body language and tone of voice. Email has no body language or tone of voice so choose your words carefully. Think how your words may come across in Cyberspace.

6. Forgetting to check for spelling and grammar.

In the early days of email, someone created the notion that this form of communication did not have to be letter perfect. Wrong. It does. It is a representation of you and your organization. If you don’t proof your email to be sure that it is correctly written, people will question the caliber of other work you do.

7. Writing the great american novel.

Email is meant to be brief. Use only a few paragraphs and a few sentences per paragraph. People like to see a lot of white space. If your email looks like the front page of the Wall Street Journal, no one will read it.

8. Forwarding email without permission.

Most everyone is guilty of this one, but think about it. If the message was sent to you and only you, why would you pass it on? Too often confidential information has gone global because of someone’s lack of judgment.

9. Thinking that no one else will ever see your email.

Once it has left your mailbox, you have no idea where your email will end up. Don’t use the Internet to send anything you couldn’t stand to see on a billboard on your way to work the next day.

10. Leaving off your signature.

Always close with your name even though it may appear elsewhere in the email. Add all your contact information just as you would on your business card. Creating a formal signature block with all that data is the most professional approach.

11. Expecting an instant response.

Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with email turned on. People can check their messages when it suits them, not you. If you need an immediate response, pick up the phone.

12. Completing the “to” line.

The name or address of the person to whom you are writing is the last piece of information you should enter. Check everything else in your message first. If you complete the address line first, a mere slip of the finger can send a message before it’s time. You can never take it back.

While email is quick and easy, take time to make it polished and professional. The businessperson who uses the technology effectively and appropriately will see the results of that effort reflected in the bottom line.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business expert, speaker, trainer, author and coach. You can contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to her website at www.mannersthatsell.com to leave a comment or ask a question.

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In Case You Missed It