Email mistakes - and how to avoid them (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Apr 22, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - These days, with email at the heart of both business and personal communications, your reputation can be established or destroyed through the inbox. That's why it's important to get email right.
Start by becoming aware of some of the most common mistakes people make by email - and learning how to avoid them.
--- Forgetting the attachment
Failing to attach a file when the body of your email message says that you have is all too common. The result is typically that your recipient emails you back to say no file was attached. 'Whoops,' you say. 'Sorry. Here it is.'
The problem is certainly not a career destroyer, but it is annoying if it happens frequently.
You can put an end to forgotten attachments if you use Microsoft's Outlook or Mozilla's Thunderbird.
One of Microsoft's development engineers got tired of receiving messages that were supposed to contain an attachment. His solution: create the Forgotten Attachment Director (http://bit.ly/4rAme), a free plug-in that checks for the occurrence of certain words in an email message - including 'attachment,' of course - and warns you if you try to send the message without something attached.
Thunderbird users have a similar tool in the Attachment Reminder (http://bit.ly/az8A4e), which scans your messages before they're sent to check for keywords that you define.
--- Using 'Reply All'
You may have received an email message along with 25 other people on the CC line. That doesn't mean you need to click Reply All to the message when your response really only concerns the sender. The other 24 people who received that message are likely to be annoyed at having to read another message from you that doesn't concern them.
If you have something to say to the sender, say it to the sender - and leave the others out. Remember: people receive more than enough email today. They don't need another one from you if it doesn't concern them.
--- Not using multiple accounts
Today you need multiple email accounts, for several reasons.
First, if you use just one email account for very long, your inbox will be overrun with spam. Get a lot of spam, and one of two things will happen: your anti-spam filter will surely end up routing legitimate messages into the spam folder, out of your sight, or you'll pay less attention to your e-mail out of pure fatigue with dealing with the spam.
Email accounts are so easy to set up these days that there's little reason not to use one for each of your major purposes: business, retail dealings, and personal use, for example. A free Google Gmail account can be used for all three, and it's easy to keep track of them all with one email client, such as Outlook.
--- Using email too often
Email has its place, but increasingly that place should be strictly defined.
Email is not the best means of communication, for example, when nuance in your communications is required. For that, nothing beats talking over the phone or meeting face-to-face. Email is also not the proper medium to use for short, frequent communications. Instant messaging or text messaging is probably preferable in those cases.
Use email when you need to provide a more formal update to a business colleague or ask a question that cannot be misconstrued. Email also provides you and your recipient with a record of a conversation, so when record-keeping is important for one or both of you, then it's the right tool to use.
--- Failing to spell check
Most email programmes today include a spell checker that will automatically kick in before you send your message out, but too many people fail to use it. Don't be one of them. In an age when written communication by email is the way in which people form opinions about each other, it's more important than ever that you avoid obvious errors.
--- Not backing up
Email probably constitutes the primary record you have of your correspondence over the past decade. It also likely contains more contact information than your rolodex or any other tool you use to keep track of your friends and colleagues. That's why losing email should not be an option.
The only way to ensure that your email is not lost is by backing it up. You need to go beyond simply backing up your email, however. You should also know how to restore it should you ever have to. Find a good email backup program, use it, and become informed about how you restore your email if you have to.
--- Forgetting your manners
It's worth remembering that once you send off an email message, you usually cannot get it back. So be very careful when composing email.
Use this rule of thumb: if you have a question about whether to write something down in an email message to someone, don't.
Err on the side of caution. Don't write messages in anger, and don't write anything that you would not want forwarded to your boss or your best friend - because it could be. Also, unless you know your recipient very well, avoid jokes or comments that could be construed as rude or impertinent.