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Email Reflections: 10 Simple Courtesies

Email ... 10 Simple ... you are super busy or you are down to your last ... heading home. Maybe itís first thing in the ... have a full in box to read and handle,

Email Reflections: 10 Simple Courtesies

Okay, you are super busy or you are down to your last email
before heading home. Maybe itís first thing in the morning,
you have a full in box to read and handle, all before your
meeting starts in 10 minutes. Itís easy to be in a rush and
dismiss the little things, however...

...have you ever thought how your email looked from a
receiverís viewpoint? Of course you have, every day,
haven't you? It is so easy in our fast-paced lives to let
the little things go.

When you receive a poorly formatted email and you don't know
where each paragraph starts or finishes -- the thoughts are
scattered and jumbled -- hereís the readerís self chatter in
action: "What the heck, it'll take me hours to decipher
this. I don't have time for this. Can't X be respectful?
I'll just pretend I didn't get it and maybe their follow-up
email will be clearer." Click and delete. Of course, you
have never done this -- chuckle.

By chance, your next email receiver is nicer and doesn't
delete and pretend. They just move onto the next email and
leave yours for the "someday in the future" stack. And
maybe it will or will not ever be answered. Their response
may even miss your point entirely or only provide feedback
to half of the items that need addressing.

If you have difficulty getting quick responses or any
response at all, the receiver could be sending you a silent
message. They could feel that you are wasting their time or
do want to educate you on common email courtesies.

Recently, after receiving ten emails in one day from
separate independent professionals, with their personal
pronouns "i's" in lower case besides other items. I asked
them to enlighten me about their lax protocols. I received
a wave of negative responses. In order to keep this a
family-available article, here are a few responses cleaned
up: "i don't have time, too many emails." A few others
added, "i do it to everyone." I particularly loved the "to"
in the last two emails -- I do it "to" everyone.

A human resource director client shared with me that every
day she deletes ten or twelve applications, about 12% of the
total number she receives daily, that omit common email
courtesies. A majority come from individuals with higher
degrees. I chuckled at the irony. She didn't and just
heavily sighed. She found it even more serious on the
number of emails she received from recruiters that also
lacked these simple courtesies.

"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" is a book I read a few years
ago if I recall correctly. Normally I wouldn't care much
about the small stuff either. However, coherent
communication, whether verbal or written, still represents
who we are and shows respect. Using history as an
indicator, communication started and stopped wars.

Recently, I attended a speaking engagement with Michelle
Singletary, author, "7 Money Mantras," and columnist, The
Color of Money, for the Washington Post. In the
presentation, she mentioned several times, "You had better
sweat the small stuff." Of course, her reference was to
money. Yet, it was an important point. It takes pennies to
develop into dollars, dollars to add up to ten, and so on up
the monetary ladder. Doesn't it hold true that if we leave
out the small common courtesies and respect in emails, will
it not block the dollars -- directly or indirectly?

When thinking over the given benefits for taking care of the
"small stuff" in emails, here are three powerful mantras:

* A professional email attracts a professional response.

* When you respect other peopleís time, they usually will
respect yours.

* When communication is thought through and clear, the
chances increase significantly that the response will be
returned in the same manner. Stinkiní thinking attracts the

10 Simple Courtesies, gathered from reading 2,000 emails,
and feedback from the human resource director:

1. Focus on one topic per email. Keep the email simple so
the receiver can focus in fast and easy. This improves the
chance of a faster response, maybe any response. If you
write to someone regularly, ask what he or she prefers.

2. An appropriate subject line will help reduce accidental
deletion. It will also help locate that specific email
faster if needed. When forwarding or responding, change the
subject line to reflect your response. You can also add
your first name in the subject line as an added identifier.
I like to start mine with: "Personal note from Catherine"
or follow after the subject with: "From Catherine." If you
are dealing with deadlines add: "Please respond by."

3. Keep each paragraph to one thought even if the
paragraph turns out to be one fragmented sentence. You will
want to limit email paragraphs to six sentences. A natural
way of reading from a computer screen is with a scan-read
process. Screen reading dries out the eyes and reduces
blinking causing eyestrain.

4. Add subheader titles into the email when more than
three paragraphs are in the email or more than three
paragraphs follow the subheader. You can add subheaders as
you type or while rereading. This keeps the eyes moving
fast and easy. It also allows the mind to shift from topic
to topic without developing cobwebs.

5. Re-read your email no matter how long or short. We
always think faster than our fingers can type. Thus, what
is typed isn't always what was swarming around in our mind.

6. Does the subject flow or was it choppy? Flow in an
email isn't the same as flow from one chapter in a book to
another. Flow allows the reader to easily transition and
comprehend the material. If choppy, the reader might
daydream or take a break and formulate a different answer
that might not fit the material, creating additional emails
on your part to clarify. Frequent places to check for flow
in your material are where you start or stop a message or

7. Is there any type of priority or order needed to follow
so that the receiver follows along with the material? Are
there steps or information that build on the previous
message? Before you can pour a glass of milk you might want
buy the milk -- chuckle. When we are extremely familiar
with how to do something, itís easy to write past something,
a common mishap by IT experts. Do you know the receiver and
their level of knowledge or experience on the topic? My
favorite saying is, "When in doubt, write it out."

8. For goodness sake, turn on the spell check feature on.
If you want to write pronouns in small letters, at least let
spell check catch them for you.

9. Who are you? You would think that this one was common
sense, at least I did. Yet, every week I receive 10-15
emails asking me a general question without telling me who
they are or giving me some background. They are huge, open-
ended questions that would take me years to answer. This
falls into the lack of respect category.

10. What do you need or want? Forwarding an email that
doesn't ask for what you need makes the receiver try to
guess. Not cool. Speak up, don't be shy. If you take
rejection personally, hire a life coach to work on this with
you. Statements don't automatically ask anything.
Questions do. My dad had a saying, "Squeaky wheel gets the
grease. If you can't ask, squeak somewhere else. I can't
guess what type of oil you need." A little harsh yet it
makes its point. Go ahead and ask, and no this isn't a
reflection on you.

We all believe we have good communication skills. There
could be some real surprises when you start practicing these
10 Simple Courtesies. Take your time, slow down in order to
speed up. Tackle it slowly so that the lessons stick. You
will be glad you did. The next email you send might be to
your next boss, client, or forwarded to the President. You
never know. It happened to me and it could happen to you.

Catherine Franz, a Certified Professional Marketing &
Writing Coach, specializes in product development, Internet
writing and marketing, nonfiction, training. Newsletters and
articles available at:
blog: http://

Source: Free Articles from


Catherine Franz, a Certified Professional Marketing &
Writing Coach, specializes in product development, Internet
writing and marketing, nonfiction, training. Newsletters and
articles available at:

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