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Tips For Effectively Communicating Through E-Mail

by Aaron Turpen

For most everyone in business, whether for themselves or working for someone else, e-mail has become a large percentage of their communications. For most people, the workday begins by logging into their e-mail client and retrieving e-mail. The first few minutes of the day are occupied drinking coffee and responding to e-mails received.

For some businesses, e-mail is the most critical type of communications—surpassing even the old standby, the phone.

No matter how often you use it, e-mail is probably an important part of your personal and corporate communications. Despite this, many are not trained or do not understand the proper "etiquette" involved in using this powerful tool. After all, you can send and receive e-mails to and from any part of the world is seconds, but if you aren't using the medium well, you may not be communicating effectively.

Here are a few tips to enhance your e-mail communications that will save you time, increase your effectiveness, and make you appear much more professional.

1) Make your subject line actually mean something.

I'm amazed at how many people use subject lines like "Cool" or "Good Stuff" to describe their email. These types of messages invariably end up at the bottom of my "to read" list in favor of more descriptive subjects such as "Project Quote Needed" or "CGI Problem".

2) Keep your message short.

Of all the e-mail rules, this is the one I break most often. I am, after all, a good talker and since I type 80wpm, I can translate this into long e-mails. This is not usually a good way to communicate. I compromise by making sure the gist of my e-mail is inside the first few sentences and go from there.

3) DON'T TYPE LIKE THIS.

That's considered yelling and is very rude and annoying. Enough said.

4) When you reply, include some sort of "recap" of the prior message.

When responding (replying) to a message, make sure that at least enough of the original message is included that the receiver will remember what was being said. If you're an AOL user, this is even more important since AOL's e-mail client does not quote the original e-mail by default.

5) Watch your spelling.

Use a spellchecker if you can, but watch your spelling. Common typos and other "hurried" mistakes can really undermine your professionalism. Take the extra few seconds to re-read what you've typed at least once before you hit the "send" button.

6) Don't use HTML email unless it's REALLY necessary.

I can't count the number of emails I receive with those nifty "themes" included—graphical backgrounds, sidebars, signatures, etc. Funny thing is, most of them appear as an email with a bunch of graphic file attachments and probably don't look anything like what the sender expected. I usually make sure to thank the sender for sending me their clipart, even though I really have no use for it.

7) Use the BCC tag to send your jokes, chain letters, etc.

I can't stand seeing an e-mail that starts off with a huge chain of "To" and "Cc" e-mails at the top. Not only is this unsightly, it is also an open invitation for the one bad apple in the bunch to gather the e-mails for his/her SPAM list. Send the e-mail to yourself and include all of those people in the "Bcc" field (Blind Carbon Copy). This way, each recipient sees only his or her e-mail and yours. Much cleaner and much safer.

8) Answer e-mail quickly.

Obviously, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Don't ruin your productivity by jumping every time the e-mail sound is made on your computer. Make sure, however, that you answer e-mail in a timely fashion (within a working day is best). I personally check e-mail first thing in the morning, mid-day, and at the end of the working day. I also periodically check during the day as time permits or as a distraction to freshen my mind.

9) Use a signature file.

Your e-mail signature, which most e-mail clients can insert automatically, is a great way to communicate not only who you are, but also what you do. I keep a list of rotating signatures which include quick (one-line) marketing copy and a link to my website. In this way, no matter who you send e-mail to or when, you are letting them know who you are and even where you are.

10) Don't believe anything that someone forwards to you.

In my experience, 99.99% of the stuff you receive in your e-mail announcing that some big company is giving money to people who forward the e-mail for a test; announcing that some guy in any country starting with "N" needs you to "store" millions of dollars for him; or that if you send this e-mail to 100 people, you'll have good luck, love, or whatever else—is B.S. Save the rest of the world (and your friends) from this crap and just delete it when you receive it.

These tips should get you on your way towards more effective communication. E-mail is a great tool, but is generally not used very well. By streamlining your use of it, you can make your corner of the 'Net less cluttered and much more useful!

Aaron Turpen is the proprietor of Aaronz WebWorkz, a web services company providing consultation, development, and more to small businesses online. Aaron publishes several newsletters regularly and is the author of many e-books, including "The Layman's Guide to Doing Business Online" and "The eBay PowerSeller's Book of Knowledge".

 

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