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Ramsey: Email mistakes can cost you credibility, more

Email errors can cost you your career, your credibility and your reputation. Think about it.

Have you ever written your client a “Dead John” letter? (That’s an intended typo, in case you are wondering.) With all good intentions you sent an email with a glaring typo in the greeting. Once the deed is done, you can’t take it back. You can only switch to damage control and hope it works.

Have you ever

  • Sent an email to the wrong person?
  • Sent an email before it was complete?
  • Misspelled the recipient’s name?

If you were seated in one of my training sessions on professional communication, at this point I would ask you to raise your hand if you had committed any of the above email faux pas. More than a few of you would have your hands in the air and be nodding your head in the affirmative.

You are not alone if you are guilty of any or all of these mistakes plus some. Let’s consider how to avoid email errors and ensure that all of your business correspondence lands you in the category of the consummate professional.

- Use your spell-check, but always spell check your spell check. Got it? Spell check has absolutely no idea if you used a word correctly. It only recognizes if you have the right spelling of a word. For all it knows, John could be dead and not dear. What a mortifying mistake this would be, but it can be easily rectified with an eagle–eye proofing of your message.

- Be wary of the auto-fill feature in your email program. Many programs, including Outlook, will offer up a number of email addresses when you type in the first name of the intended recipient. It will pull up all the “John’s” that you have ever written to, more or less. Before you snatch the first option, don’t assume that it is the correct one. I have committed this faux pas myself and had to do a lot apologizing. Fortunately the unintended recipient had a sense of humor, and I had not revealed any state secrets. That’s the subject for another article.

- Carefully check the spelling of the recipient’s name, especially when you don’t know the person well or when the person has an unusual name. “John”, for example, has a number of different spellings. Your “John” could be a “Jon” or a “Jean.” You can easily find the spelling if that person has sent you an email and you are replying. If you aren’t sure, call the person’s office to verify. No one minds the person who takes pains to be accurate.

- Make it a habit to complete the address or “to” line last. For most people, that is the first thing they do. This can only lead to trouble if you are not absolutely careful. Your email program does not know or care if you proofed your message, it does not know or care if you filled in the subject line, and even more horrifying, it does not know or care if you wrote anything in the body of your email. It only cares that you completed the address line.

To paraphrase the line from the movie, Love Story, waiting until you have checked, checked and double-checked your email before you fill in the address of the recipient, means never having to say you’re sorry.

Your email is as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear, the greeting on your voice mail and the handshake you offer. If you want to be impressive and build positive business relationships, treat your email as the valuable component of your professional image that it is.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based speaker, trainer and author on the subject of professional conduct. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs.

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