How to Manage Your Email Professionally

Here are 8 steps to make sure you're on top of your game when it comes to e-mail.

Steps

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    Follow e-mail etiquette. Consider the old adage, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." There's no point in belaboring the etiquette issue. We all know we should be polite. But here are a few points to consider:
    • Don't write when you're angry--wait 24 hours and calm down. Be reasonable.
    • Have someone else edit your e-mail.
    • Don't use sarcasm. You may think you're clever, but the recipient will be put off.
    • DON'T USE ALL UPPERCASE! That's the e-mail equivalent of yelling, and your recipient won't be appreciative.
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    • Go easy on the exclamation marks, too. Overuse dulls their effectiveness.
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    • Use clear subject lines. That will help people decide whether to read the e-mail now or later. We're all busy. Your correspondent will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
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    • Keep it short. If your e-mail is more than two paragraphs, maybe you should use the telephone.
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    • Change the subject line if you change the topic of a thread.
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    • Unless the recipient has previously agreed, don't forward poems, jokes, virus warnings and other things. You're just wasting valuable time and bandwidth.
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    Don't think you are anonymous. If you are sending nasty missives, you might think no one will be able to figure out that the e-mail came from you. After all, you set up a phony web address. Think again. E-mail contains invisible information about the sender. That information is in the header. All major e-mail programs can display header information. Here's how:
    • In Microsoft Outlook, double click the e-mail. Then click View > Options. In Microsoft Outlook Express, click the e-mail. Then click File > Properties and select the Details tab.
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    • In Eudora, double click the message. Then click the Blah Blah button.
    • In Netscape, click the message to open it. Then click View > Message Source to display the header.
    • The sender's revealing information is in the sections that begin with "Received:." There may be several of these, depending on the number of computers the e-mail traversed. The originating computer is in the bottom "Received:." That section will have an Internet Protocol (IP) number, such as 124.213.45.11. It can be traced on a number of Web sites.
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    Avoid sending e-mail to the wrong person. Today's e-mail programs want to make it easy to send e-mail. This means that when you start typing the address of a recipient to whom you have previously sent mail, the "To:" field may already be populated. Be careful. Always double-check the recipient is the intended one. In addition, if you're writing something ugly about Joe Smith, you'll have Joe's name on your mind. Don't send it to him.
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    Don't use one e-mail address for everything. Have several e-mail addresses--for private use, public use, for online mailing lists, and for shopping online. Most providers will give you a half-dozen e-mail accounts. You can also use addresses on the Web for personal accounts. Both Gmail and Yahoo! are good. You can reach those accounts from anywhere, assuming you have Web access.
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    Remember to check all of your e-mail accounts. Checking all these accounts can be a chore, especially from home. To cut down on time, you can use ePrompter (www.eprompter.com), which can check 16 different password- protected accounts. Best of all, ePrompter is free. There are other programs that will do this for a fee, including Active Email Monitor (www.emailmon.com).
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    Don't click "Send" too fast. Reread every e-mail before you send it! Even if you're not looking for a job, you want to be careful. People will judge you subconsciously on mistakes. None of us are perfect. But you can catch 99% of these problems by rereading the text. And don't depend on the spell-checker. It will catch misspellings. But if you use "four" instead of "for," or "your" for "you're," it won't tell you. It also is not likely to catch any missing words in a sentence that you inadvertently failed to include. So take a minute and reread your text. Don't look like an ignoramus.
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    Set a timer. You can do that in Outlook by adding a rule that delays sending, preferably by 1-5 minutes, during which the email is in your outbox and can be deleted. This prevents you from hitting the wrong button and accidentally sending a half-finished mail, as well as giving you one minute to gather your bearings and delete that litany of florid insults you've typed up in your fury before it makes it to the boss.
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    Remember the attachment. Since we all do it occasionally, it shouldn't be a huge deal. However, if you consistently make this mistake, people (perhaps important people) may think you're losing your marbles. They might even hesitate to do business with you in the future. When you get ready to send your e-mail, think: "What am I forgetting?"
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    Use your own domain name. Make your company look big. If you use a Web account or an ISP's name for your business, you're not going to look professional.
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    Assuming someone else hasn't already grabbed it, you can have your company in the domain name.

Tips

  • If you are asking more than one question, number each question. This clearly defines the reply that you seek from each question. For example:

  • If your email involves a call to action, provide a deadline. For example: "Please respond by Monday, June 2, 4:00pm." Making the date stand out in bold type helps as well. The point is to allow the reader to pick up the most important information immediately, and to avoid ambiguity.
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Article Info

Categories: Email and Instant Messaging