4. E-mailing complicated information.
If you have to give someone technical, detailed, or complicated information, do it with a phone call and an e-mail as a backup rather than relying solely on the e-mail communication. E-mail is best suited for short messages that don't require a lengthy response. If your e-mail is more than a couple of paragraphs, pick up the phone and talk to the recipient. Use the follow up e-mail to send needed documentation or a recap of your verbal instructions, but don't expect people to read and act upon a lengthy or complicated message.
Additionally, if you are the recipient of a detailed message and need time to work on the reply, send back a short acknowledgment message that states, "I received your message and am working on the needed items." And if the reply requires real discussion, then pick up the phone and talk about it. Don't rely on e-mail for every topic.
5. Writing bad subject lines or not using subject lines.
Unless you're doing e-mail marketing and relying on your messages to sell people, use straightforward subject lines that reflect the true theme of the message. Leave the cute and clever wording to the marketers. For day-to-day business purposes, plain and direct work best. So rather than have a subject line that reads, "Want to pick your brain," write, "Need your input on the Jones project."
Realize, too, that many people use their e-mail as a filing system, and they rely on the subject lines to find key information later. So if all your subject lines are vague (as in "A message from Tom Smith" or "Info you requested"), or if you don't use subject lines, people won't know what the message was about when they search their files later. So always write detailed subject lines, as in "Dates for Singapore conference" or "Files for Smith project." And should the e-mail's subject change as the conversation ensues, then change the subject line to reflect the new theme.
Get Your Message Across
E-mail has certainly come a long way in the past couple decades. What was initially viewed as a novel way to share key information in the 1990s is now the preferred method of business communication. But remember, just because something is commonplace and expected doesn't mean you can become lazy with it. Always use e-mail properly and for the purposes and subjects it was intended. By doing so, not only will you avoid these pet peeves, but you'll also gain productivity rewards as you enhance your professional reputation.
About the Author:
Jean Kelley, president and founder of Jean Kelley Leadership Consulting is the author of "Get A Job; Keep A Job." As the sole owner of Jean Kelley Personnel for 25 years, she personally helped more than 20,000 clients enhance their careers. Coupled with her other book, "Dear Jean: What They Don't Teach You at the Water Cooler," Jean has positioned herself as America's workplace coach. For more information, please visit www.jeankelley.com.