Lazy email habits leads to inaction, misunderstandings, wasted effort, frustration, and diminished reputations. But you can break such habits once you are aware of them. Consider the lazy habits below:
1. Sending out email without proofreading or running a grammar- and spell-check. If you send out an email without reviewing it, you risk sending it to the wrong person, misspelling the other person's name, including an incorrect date, and writing sentences like this one: “Is their a time earl nest week we could meet.” If you regularly make such errors, people will wonder about your ability to handle important details. Proofreading is a necessity–just ask people who have written “Hell” when they intended “Hello.”
2. Using a vague or outdated subject. Emails with subjects such as “Update” and “Good Afternoon” go unread in inboxes because readers are too busy to guess what the message is about. An old subject like “Where to Meet for Lunch” confuses readers when the lunch took place last week and the email is really a budget announcement. Making readers figure out what you are writing about diminishes their performance and yours.
3. Communicating in one huge paragraph. Email readers cannot find your main point or action items in a sea of sentences, so they won't respond the way you intend. They are likely to write back with questions about something you already provided–they just didn't see the information in a crowded paragraph.
4. Leaving out courteous language. Getting to the point is an excellent habit in email. But not taking time for a please, thank you, and the other person's name can come across as bossy or cold, neither of which leads to effectiveness on the job.
5. Not supplying necessary information. Too many emails go out without providing what readers need, such as the answers to these questions: What action is required? Why? Who is responsible? When–what date and time? Where is the event? Who is the contact? What is the priority level? Where is more information available? Not taking the time to provide essential information threatens the success of projects.
6. Replying without providing the information requested. If an internal or external customer asks two questions and you answer only one, you create more work for everyone–and you may weaken the relationship. Replying without at least scanning the other person's email to the end can lead to frustrating, incomplete messages.
7. Replying in a word or a phrase when more is required. Smartphones and work stress have led to very short messages. But when an email asks, “Which do you prefer?” and the unthinking reply is “Yes,” the person reading that “Yes” may end up yelling–or ignoring the writer's messages. And “Thanks” is too little in response to a detailed, helpful email. Its brevity comes across as ungratefulness.
8. Using abbreviations other people don't know. Acronyms and other abbreviations save time for writers, but they can waste time and lead to confusion for readers. Unexplained abbreviations are a big irritant for people reading email.
9. Replying to All when not all need the reply. It's quick and easy to click Reply All, but that ease results in other people's effort–to open, read, and delete the email. The effort is not worth it when they didn't need or want the message.
10. Using “See below” or “FYI” without telling why. Employees receive “See below” and “FYI” emails daily and wonder what they are supposed to see or know. They take time trying to figure out why they received an email, when one sentence from the sender would have answered that question.
11. Not answering email. A major aggravation at work is sending a legitimate business email (not spam or an unsolicited message) and not getting a response. If you don't answer work email, you risk having people go around you. They may also damage your reputation with remarks like “She never answers her email.” Both possibilities hinder your effectiveness on the job.
This material is a compilation of tips from the monthly e-zine sent out by Better Writing at Work, http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html. Posted to the SEND bulletin board by Don Johnson.
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