You've probably noticed how email can bring out the worst in people. Don't let it tempt you to misuse it.
Keep all your communication the picture of professionalism — The Business Communication Toolkit: Volume 1
Steer clear of these:
1. The temptation to send. That means avoid forwarding messages that begin with comments such as, "Please send to 10 friends." Even if it is to draw attention to a worthy cause, most people who receive these messages don't appreciate the interruption.
Bottom line: When in doubt, don't reroute.
2. The temptation to respond. Sometimes, people feel the need to fill a communication void by sending a "thank you" to acknowledge receiving a message. The trouble is, it tends to clutter everyone's inboxes.
Tip: When requesting something by email, end with "Thank you in advance." If you must send an appreciative reply, type "Thank you" in the subject line.
Here's an easy way to improve everything you write, from emails that need to make the right impression to proposals that can make or break deals — and careers. Simply follow the guidelines in Business Communication Toolkit: Vol.1, Written Communication — Your Guide to Professional Editing, Proofreading and Grammar.
3. The temptation to react. Some email is composed in such a brusque manner that we react emotionally first, fire off an incendiary reply, and then regret it later. We hit "Send" and feel triumphant for a few minutes ... before realizing that we then have to conduct face-to-face damage control.
Bottom line: Wait at least an hour before responding to a message that gets your dander up.
4. The temptation to hide behind email. Have you ever received an apology or reprimand by a manager and felt that it should have been delivered in person? If so, you know about this misuse of email, which tends to strike when people don't feel confident of their communication skills.
Bottom line: Always deliver apologies in person.
5. The temptation to send bulky attachments. How do you know when a file or group of graphics/photos are too big for the recipient's inbox? You don't.
Solution: Exercise "attachments management": Send executive summaries when possible, warn recipients in advance of a file's size, extract and send only the needed information, or give recipients the option of receiving the document in another way such as a hyperlink or even an old-fashioned print copy.
Why do we call it a toolkit? Because it contains not one but three sets of tools designed to be used every day, just like your word-processing software:
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- Creating Polished Business Documents. From key concepts such as adjusting your style to your reader, to basic sentence structure, to troublesome hot spots to avoid.
- Developing a Style Guide, Proofreading to Perfection. Every organization needs a style guide, and creating one is easier than you think. As for proofreading, our easy-to-follow tips cover everything from spelling to punctuation to protocol.
- Grammar and Word Usage Errors: 21 Red Flags. From misused words (among/between, hopefully, imply/infer) to dangling and misplaced modifiers. A quick scan for these red flags can prevent misunderstanding on your reader's part and embarrassment on yours.
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