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The Top Twelve E-Mail Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Business
by Lydia Ramsey

You return to your office from
an afternoon meeting and decide
to check e-mail.  You wonder where
your day went after spending hours
downloading messages, reading some, deleting others, crafting replies and filing
those that you want to work on later. Your e-mail box was full when you arrived at
work this morning and tomorrow promises to be no different.

What is this e-mail explosion? Was there a point in time when the entire world
decided to use the Internet as their business communication tool of choice?  Are
there rules for managing these messages and being a professional and polite user
of electronic mail?  There are, but not everyone has gotten the word.

Your e-mail is as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear,
the postal letters you write (assuming you still do), the greeting on your voice mail
and the handshake you offer. If you want to impress on every front and build
positive business relationships, pay attention to your e-mail and steer clear of
these top twelve e-mail mistakes:

1. Omitting The Subject Line.  
We are way past the time when we didn't realize the significance of the subject line.
 It makes no sense to send a message that reads "no subject" and seems to be about
nothing.  Given the huge volume of e-mail that each person receives, the subject
header is essential if you want your message read any time soon. The subject line
has become the hook.

2. Not Making Your Subject Line Meaningful.  
Your header should be pertinent to your message, not just "Hi" or "Hello." The
recipient is going to decide the order in which he reads e-mail based on who sent it
and what it is about. Your e-mail will have lots of competition.

3. Failing To Change The Header To Correspond With The Subject.  
For example, if you are writing your web publisher, your first header may be "Web
site content." However, as your site develops and you send more information,
label each message for what it is, "contact info," "graphics," or "home page." Don't
just hit "reply" every time. Adding more details to the header will allow the
recipient to find a specific document in his/her message folder without having to
search every one you sent. Start a new message if you change the subject all

4. Not Personalizing Your Message To The Recipient.  
E-mail is informal but it still needs a greeting. Begin with "Dear Mr. Broome,"
"Dear Jim," "Hello Jim," or just "Jim." Failure to put in the person's name can make
you and your e-mail seem cold.

5. Not Accounting For Tone.  
When you communicate with another person face to face, 93% of the message is
non-verbal.  E-mail has no body language. The reader cannot see your face or hear
your tone of voice so choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. Put yourself
in the other person's place and think how your words may come across in

6. Forgetting To Check For Spelling And Grammar.
In the early days of e-mail, someone created the notion that this form of
communication did not have to be letter perfect. Wrong. It does. It is a
representation of you. If you don't check to be sure e-mail is correct, people will
question the caliber of other work you do. Use proper capitalization and
punctuation, and always check your spelling. Remember that your spellchecker
will catch misspelled words, but not misused ones. It cannot tell whether you
meant to say "from" or "form," "for" or "fro", "he" or "the."

7. Writing The Great American Novel.
E-mail is meant to be brief. Keep your message short. Use only a few paragraphs
and a few sentences per paragraph. People skim their e-mail so a long missive is
wasted. If you find yourself writing an overly long message, pick up the phone or
call a meeting.

8. Forwarding E-Mail Without Permission.
Most everyone is guilty of this one, but think about it. If the message was sent to
you and only you, why would you take responsibility for passing it on? Too often
confidential information has gone global because of someone's lack of judgment.  
Unless you are asked or request permission, do not forward anything that was sent
just to you.

9. Thinking That No One Else Will Ever See Your E-Mail.  
Once it has left your mailbox, you have no idea where your e-mail will end up.
Don't use the Internet to send anything that you couldn't stand to see on a billboard
on your way to work the next day.  Use other means to communicate personal or
sensitive information.

10. Leaving Off Your Signature.  
Always close with your name, even though it is included at the top of the e-mail,
and add contact information such as your phone, fax and street address.  The
recipient may want to call to talk further or send you documents that cannot be
e-mailed. Creating a formal signature block with all that data is the most
professional approach.

11. Expecting An Instant Response.
Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with e-mail turned on.  The beauty
of Internet communication is that it is convenient.  It is not an interruption. People
can check their messages when it suits them, not you.  If your communication is so
important that you need to hear back right away, use the phone.

12. Completing The "To" Line First.  
The name or address of the person to whom you are writing is actually the last
piece of information you should enter. Check everything else over carefully first.  
Proof for grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity.  Did you say what needed to
be said? How was your "tone of voice"?  If you were the least bit emotional when
you wrote the e-mail, did you let it sit for a period of time? Did you include the
attachment you wanted to send? If you enter the recipient's name first, a mere slip
of the finger can send a message before its' time.  You can never take it back.

E-mail makes everything easier and faster including making a powerful business
impression and establishing positive professional relationships. The
businessperson who uses the technology effectively and appropriately will see the
results of that effort reflected in the bottom line.

About the Author Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional
speaker, corporate trainer and author of MANNERS THAT SELL - ADDING THE
POLISH THAT BUILDS PROFITS.  She has been quoted or featured in The New
York Times, Investors' Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and
Woman's Day. For more information about her programs, products and services,
e-mail her at or visit her web site Manners that Sell.
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