July 12, 2012

Email faux pas revisited

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Back in March, I wrote a piece on four things you shouldn't do, or "faux pas," while emailing people. The list, while short, included important things like not writing the most important topics at the top of the email, not having a good subject (either not one at all or having one that is nondescript), not responding in-line, and not changing the subjects when needed.

Those are indeed a few things that need to be avoided, but this topic needs to be revisited, and we've got some vital knowledge below!


Not using BCC - OK, this is kind of a big one. It's interesting knowing how many people aren't fully aware of how CC'ing and BCC'ing actually works. The problem can either be using it too little, or using it too much So how do you know when to BCC someone? One question to ask is "do all the recipients know each other?" If the answer to that is no, then you should BCC. And if you're looking to CC someone, ask yourself if this person is actively involved in the conversation or on a "need to know" status? If they're the latter, CC them. If not, include them in the "To:" field.

Using the "urgent" tag too much - Is your email really that urgent? As the sender, it's easy to put the blinders on and think that the email is more pressing than it really is. Marking mail as urgent should be used seldom, if at all. Gmail doesn't support marking mail as such, which helps stymie overuse of the tag, so this mainly concerns Outlook users.

Not knowing who you're emailing - Just as you would when calling a client, knowing a bit about who you're emailing is invaluable. Especially in writing, it's good to know what kind of language to use. The general rule of thumb is for your email to read as if an actual person wrote it, but knowing what tone to write with is also important. If the person has a public social network profile, that'll help you judge which tone to use, whether it be something more serious, more informal, or somewhere middle of the road.

Subjects - This is the first thing a person sees, and within just a few seconds the recipient can decide whether or not to open the email. So how do you grab their attention? It's virtually the same thing journalists and bloggers do to get you to read the story. Make it compelling. Make it eye-catching. Do not mislead. But most importantly, do not use ALL CAPS, ever. If you're unsure how to spice up the subject, don't worry. But do make sure that it is indicative of what's in the body of the email -- misleading will do the exact opposite thing you wanted to do.

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