Do a search online and you’ll find endless resources on communication skills. There are even books and seminars dedicated to perfecting the art of the presentation. And yet, when it comes to the most basic workplace function – email – there has been considerably less written about it. Which is problematic, considering how many people are not very good at it.
Here are the most common bad email habits you should avoid.
Not reading it twice
It’s the golden rule: don’t be sloppy. Forgetting to proofread an email can result in unprofessional spelling errors and mistakes – or worse, email copy that just doesn’t make sense. Take the time to do a quick scan to make sure everything is in order (including any attachments). You’ll be thankful you did.
Deleting the email thread
This mistake is often done with the best intentions. You want to keep things clean and concise, so you delete everything below your current message. But people receive a lot of emails in the run of day, and keeping the thread attached to the bottom of your email allows people to quickly reference what you’re talking about. Yes, the recipient could hunt down the previous email for reference, but why make things more difficult than they have to be?
Using unnecessary words
Writing a clear, concise paragraph isn’t everybody’s forte. But consider it an investment in your career to learn how to condense what you’re trying to say. Here’s an example:
Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, or if you need further clarification on any issues, and I’ll be happy to send over the appropriate materials at a time of my earliest convenience, or to set up a meeting for us to discuss an appropriate course of action for your concerns.
What did you gain from reading that paragraph? Almost nothing. It could easily be pared back to:
Let me know if you have any questions.
Always make sure there is an actual purpose for every line you include. And if you’ve written more than six paragraphs, consider cutting it down or even consolidating your information into an attachment. Nobody wants to read a novella in email form.
CC’ing unnecessary people
Choose wisely, and be ruthless with who you include. Once you become known as that person who adds everybody into an email thread, people will start dreading your name in their inbox. And that’s not something you want as the owner or manager.
Not prioritizing answers
Yes, everybody has their own way of prioritizing and responding to emails. However, everyone needs some kind of system, or it will all get lost in the shuffle. Separating external client emails from internal ones, for example, might help you to respond to customer needs first. A good rule of thumb is to respond to small queries right away (before you forget), and add the larger requests to your to do list.
It’s also worthwhile clarifying the email protocol with your team once in a while. Make sure they (and you) are clear about things like the appropriate amount of time to wait for a response, and when you should be marking emails urgent.
Sending an email and immediately following up with a phone call
There’s nothing worse than someone asking, “did you get my email?” when they sent it five minutes ago. The digital age has us expecting an instant response from emails, but that’s usually not going to happen. Be patient.