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Tag Archives: business writing

Answering someone else’s question is poor email etiquette

Email2Back in March, I did a series of blog posts on appropriate email etiquette, and the things people do (or don’t do) with email that negatively affects their credibility and effectiveness.  I even did one post on When email is not the best choice ….  Well, prompted by a conversation I had with a client last week, I have one more “don’t” to add to the list.  Don’t respond to questions in a group email that are not directly within your scope of responsibility, at least not right away.

This “don’t” applies to emails you receive in which you are one of several addressees.  I’m not talking about the single informational email that is sent out to a large group distribution, but rather an action-oriented email in which a few people have action items or questions that are under their area of responsibility.  Continue reading

When email is not the best choice …

For the last few weeks, off-and-on, I’ve been blogging about the things people do when they send email that negatively impacts both their credibility and effectiveness.  My last post was on how it’s critical to offer your phone number as an alternate way for your email recipients to contact you.  Today I thought I’d make one final point that’s been at the back of my mind ever since we started on this subject.

NoEmailIn my opinion, the biggest blunder that people make with email is sending one when they shouldn’t!  There are times when picking up the telephone or walking down the hall to talk to the person is a far better alternative than sending an email.  Sure, email may seem easier at first blush, but if your message is likely to escalate emotions, then email should never be your first choice, or for that matter, any choice.  In fact, email in such situations is more likely to deteriorate into what I call “email warfare” – a rapid-fire exchange of emails, each one more emotionally-charged than the last, and usually cc’d to additional people in each round.  Never a recipe for a positive outcome!  As powerful as the written word can be, it simply cannot reflect the nuances that exist in facial expressions, body posture, tone, pace, pitch and volume of voice.  Which means that emails can be easily misunderstood, particularly when the topic being discussed is emotionally-charged.  The alternative: talk to the person face-to-face, or if that’s not possible, pick up the phone.  Even a voice mail is preferable to an email in such circumstances.

Well, have you observed situations of “email warfare” gone horribly wrong?  Do tell.

Even with email, make it easy for people to phone you

TelephoneSince we’ve been talking about email effectiveness here on the blog for the last little while (getting the subject line right, not sending FYI emails, and the importance of grammar and spell check), here’s one more.  Make it easy for your addressee to get a hold of you.  Make sure your signature line has at least one alternate way to contact you.  You want people to act on what you say, right?  So make it simple.  Sometimes, the other person will realize that a back-and-forth email exchange is not the best way to resolve whatever it is you’re discussing.  Give them easy access to your phone number so that they can pick up the telephone and get things dealt with.  Don’t make them hunt for this information, make it effortless for them.  Here’s the odd thing about this – people may not notice that you’re offering up this alternate way to contact them.  But they sure as heck will notice if you don’t.  Do you really want to be remembered because you irritated them?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  So make sure that you have your phone number or other easy way for people to contact you right there in your email signature line.

Next blog post I’ll have one final idea in this series.  But in the meantime, what else do you have to add to the list of how people (unknowingly) sabotage their credibility through their email communication?  Tell us, so that we can all be warned!

Poorly written emails will sabotage your success

Earlier this month, I penned a couple of posts about things people do that sabotage the effectiveness of their emails – specifically, not getting your subject line right, and sending email that is “Just FYI”.  Given some of the interest it generated, I thought it would be worth covering some more in the next few blog posts.

HandsKeyboardPoorly written emails will hurt you, and hinder your career success.  This one is so obvious that I can’t believe I have to say it … but I do.  Mainly because so many people don’t!  Check your email for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar before you hit “Send”.  Yes, I know it’s only email, but the honest unvarnished truth is that other people are constantly making judgements about you.  About your credibility, about your reliability, even about your intelligence.  And whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, people make judgements about you based on the quality of your writing.  They do.  So if your email is sloppily written, then guess what immediate assumption they’re making about you?  For the few moments it takes to write full sentences and quickly proofread, don’t jeopardize your credibility in the eyes of others by sending out poorly written emails.

It’s just email, isn’t it?  Does it really require the same high level of writing skill as a formal letter?  You know my opinion, but what about yours?  Do you agree or disagree?

Don’t send email that is “Just FYI”!

JustFYILast week I blogged about how you need to get your email subject line right if you want to be taken seriously. Today I thought I’d cover another email blunder people make that just completely destroys their credibility. Don’t send email that is “Just FYI”.

Yeah, I’m talking to those of you who go “cc crazy” – copying everyone and anyone who might have a passing interest or faintly tenuous connection to whatever it is you’re writing about. Yes, I realize that some of you might do it to “cover your ass”. Don’t. If you want your messages to really matter, word of advice – don’t copy too many people. Think about it, just about everyone today I know gets far more email than they know what the heck to do with! So … if you are cautious and thoughtful about who you send your emails to, if you are judicious in the amount of email you generate, you WILL stand out from the crowd. Consider this – if your track record is that you send out a lot of email marked Just FYI, or just for your information, then people begin to assume that everything you send them falls into that category. And the few emails you send that really do matter simply get lost in the crowd. Prudency in who you choose to cc on your messages will give you a well-respected standing amongst your peers, your staff, and senior executives in your organization.

So … do you agree? Is “Just FYI” creating an email deluge that dilutes a message? Or does it serve a useful purpose? Share your thoughts please.

Get your email subject line right if you want to be taken seriously

EmailI’ve always said that, right or wrong, people judge you based on your writing skills. So today’s post focuses on one specific kind of business writing – yes, email! While there are many situations where email is not the best way to communicate, email can still be an efficient and effective way to convey your message, particularly if you need to get the word out to a group of people. But don’t make the one mistake that can significantly dilute the effect of your message. Don’t botch the email subject line!

If you don’t make your email subject line descriptive enough, not only are you jeopardizing the likelihood of getting the outcome you desire, but you’re also likely to run the risk of losing credibility in the eyes of your reader. Your subject line should always contain enough information to let your reader know what the email is about and whether this is something they need to address now or can defer to later. Continue reading

The bottom-line impact of poor writing

HelenWilkieI’ve said it before – People judge you based on your writing skills. Turns out it isn’t just your character that is at stake, it’s also the bottom line profitability of your organization! Today I am fortunate to have my colleague Helen Wilkie guesting on the blog, writing about the connection between poor writing skills and lost profitability. Helen is a speaker and author of six books about communication at work, and I’m delighted that she’s agreed to share some of her insights with us today on the blog.

Employees’ writing skills — or the lack of them — affect the bottom line in ways you may never have considered. Here are just a few.

  • Badly written instructions can lead to incorrect procedures, lost time, damaged equipment, lost customers — and lost profit.
  • Ineffective email messages, which often took too long to write in the first place, can create a poor company image, wasted time, bad customer or supplier relations, lost customers — and lost profit.
  • Interdepartmental miscommunication — often through incomprehensible e-mail exchanges — can lead to fragmentation of the workforce, loss of corporate loyalty, missed collaboration opportunities, possibly lost employees resulting in more recruitment and training costs — and lost profit.
  • Cold, impersonal “boilerplate” letters in response to customers’ problems or complaints can lead to loss of those customers, bad news spread to their friends and colleagues, loss of present and future income — and lost profit.

Continue reading

Empty Your Email Inbox and Fill Your Team – Part I

DeriLatimer1Deri Latimer is a business colleague, a good friend, AND an expert in positive possibilities for people! So I am thrilled that she has agreed to be our guest blogger for both posts this week. Almost every leader I’ve met recognizes the importance of making investments in their people, but also struggles with balancing operational needs at the same time. Which is why Deri’s posts are so timely. Today, she offers you ten tips to manage the one activity that seems to take up an inordinate amount of time – email! And later this week, she’ll give you ideas to fill up all that free time you’ll generate 🙂 – eleven things that you can do to invest in your team.

“I’m not an email expert”, I told my client. I was sensing that email management was a concern for the managers in this organization, and I wanted to make sure that I understood their expectations for my keynote at the conference. Continue reading

A disappointing interaction with Kraft highlights an important component of written communication

Form letters – we all use them, mainly because it makes life easier. After all, it’s a lot simpler to “cut and paste” a canned response to questions that are asked frequently. But … and this is a big BUT … it’s VERY important to read the question first. Too bad Kraft hasn’t figured this out!

KraftI often visit the Kraft Canada site to peruse recipes, look at new products, and download coupons. The other day I attempted to print off a coupon that required a newer version of Java. But the link on the Kraft website put me into an incorrect subroutine and I couldn’t download the software and coupon I needed. I sent off an email to their technical support and received a response the next day.

Hi Merge,

Thank you for visiting

Unfortunately, this promotion was so popular that the coupons offered were depleted.

Thank you for contacting us and please add our site to your favourites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller, Associate Director, Consumer Relations

Huh? Clearly Kim McMiller had sent me the Dear Coupon User letter – the same one that anyone gets when they write to Kraft asking about coupons. And it was obvious that no one had even bothered to read my email! Continue reading

People judge you based on your writing skills!

HandsKeyboardFair or not, people make judgements about your intelligence, your competence, and even your integrity based on the quality of your writing.  Which is worth keeping in mind in today’s harried world of texting and email.  In the haste to get things done, you’re much more likely to make writing mistakes and use colloquialisms or acronyms, all of which come across as if you are uneducated, uninformed, and even lazy!  So it’s worth the effort to make sure that what you send out in writing reflects your true capabilities.  Continue reading