When we send business emails to open doors or grow our professional reputation, every word and punctuation mark matter. If we use the wrong word, phrase or etiquette our email fails can turn the recipient off.
That means the emails messages we send, no matter how well intended, could doom new opportunities and restrict our career development.
Yes, this seems harsh… but it happens every day.
So here are 8 simple ways to improve our communication, and our reputation, via email…
1. Don’t Bury the Lead
With most networking emails, we need to include the “big ask.”
- Ask for a coffee chat
- Ask for someone to put in a word about a job
- Seek a referral
The key with the “big ask”: don’t bury it. Otherwise, you sound like a timid rookie. (“Please, won’t you help me?”) But, if “the ask” comes near the beginning, you seem confident and sure of yourself. (“I know what I’m doing.”)
2. Don’t Use the Wrong Name
Sometimes, we need to send the same general email to several different people, but the emails go out one person at a time. In those moments, be extra careful about the person’s name and, if included, the person’s company. Otherwise, it’s awkward to send an email to someone but include the name of the person who received your previous email. Yikes. One of the biggest email fails!
Even if you use a mail merge, check yourself early and often.
3. Avoid Giant, Blocky Paragraphs
Here’s what happens when you write a long email. At first, the reader is with you and can follow each word without much strain. A few sentences, no big deal. Then, as you continue, the tune changes. Th e paragraph grows longer, and the reader begins to think, “OK, this is getting to be a bit much.” Still, the paragraph keeps going and becomes not only cumbersome but also problematic…
Are you exhausted yet? Let’s try the same paragraph again but this time as smaller sections.
Here’s what happens when you write a long email. At first, the reader is with you and can follow each word without much strain. A few sentences, no big deal.
Then, as you continue, the tune changes. The paragraph grows longer, and the reader begins to think, “OK, this is getting to be a bit much.”
Still, the paragraph keeps going and becomes not only cumbersome but also problematic…
Turn bulky paragraphs into breezy sentences. Readers everywhere will thank you.
4. Don’t Capitalize the Wrong Words
The biggest email fails involve job titles and “important-sounding” words.
“I’m a Marketing Coordinator at Acme Corporation,” is incorrect, whereas, “I’m a marketing coordinator at Acme Corporation,” is correct. Because job titles are lowercase unless they come before your name (ex: Marketing Coordinator Jane Doe is…). Don’t capitalize common phrase in a resume objective statement like, “Experienced Team Leader with strong Organizational Skills and a Successful career in Management.” Instead, write, “e
Don’t capitalize common phrase in a resume objective statement like, “Experienced Team Leader with strong Organizational Skills and a Successful career in Management.” Instead, write, “experienced team leader with strong organizational skills and a successful career in management.” We don’t capitalize non-specific career words no matter how important they seem (“Successful”). If you attended the Acme Team Leader Training Seminar, then the words are uppercase because they’re a proper name.
5. Always Remember the Email Could be Forwarded
Email has a mind all its own. A single message can travel from one inbox to another with lightning speed, and before you know it, a note to a friend lands on someone’s screen across town or around the globe.
Once you press “Send” you lose all control. That’s why you should write every business email with the expectation the reader will forward it along.
6. Easy on the Acronyms and Jargon
Let’s say you’re a researcher for a pharmaceutical company and work in a division called RDT. You use the expression “RDT” 25 times a day, and to you the acronym obviously means “Research and Development Team.”
To anyone outside of your team, possibly at the same company, RDT means…well, nothing.
Every time you include an acronym in an email, or resume, cover letter, and presentation, you must follow one basic rule: provide the full name of the acronym on first reference.
7. Never Respond to Emails in Your Head
We’ve all been there. In your mind, you 100% responded to that work email. But in reality, the message never went out and people on the other end might anxiously await a reply. They wonder, “Did she see my email? Did it go to spam? Do I need to send it again?”
A quick, “Thanks, I got it,” and all potential email fails disappear. Keep the emails in the actual computer, not in your brain.
8. Slow Down with the Follow Ups
Finally, when you’re the one who needs a response, how soon is too soon to check back in? If need an urgent response, it’s fine to reach out to the person after 1-2 hours. But if, for example, you requested someone to help you network, give the person at least two days to respond before you come around with a reminder email.
Yes, always advocate for yourself and your business. But also allow people to do you a favor on their own schedule. It’s a fine balance, to be sure.
Email is the most common form of business and professional communication.
Using it correctly, and avoiding these 8 email fails, helps you maintain your professional reputation. It also keeps your from looking dumb.
For this post, YouTern would like to thank our friends at dannyrubin.com.
About the Author: Danny Rubin is a communications expert and author of the new book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, a collection of 100+ templates for networking, the job search and LinkedIn. For more of Danny’s insights and sample chapters from the book, visit his blog, The Template, which highlights the career advice in the latest headlines. Follow him on Twitter.