Have you ever sent an email, only to go into full-panic mode a minute later—like this guy? Too bad there isn’t an “undo” button for sending email.
It happens to the best of us, but an inappropriate or poorly written email can make or break a business deal or ruin a first impression. As communicators, we are held to a higher standard, so here are a few tips to help ensure you don’t lose a client, disappoint a supervisor or just generally make yourself look bad.
The dreaded “Reply All”
Before you even begin to respond ask yourself, “Who really needs to read this?” Very few emails actually warrant a blanket response. Even if you do decide to “reply all,” check the recipients one more time before sending. Just imagine the repercussions if you accidentally bad-mouth a client or your boss and send the email to them.
Whoops, wrong Sara
In a PR agency, you work with a number of clients, with long lists of contacts for each. It’s not uncommon for contacts from different companies to have similar names. And, it’s easy to confuse names when Outlook automatically populates the To field.
I have sent emails meant for a contact named Sara K. to our wonderful office assistant, also named Sara K. My colleague once invited a contact named Kate W., based in New York, to lunch instead of our very own Kate G. Luckily, those mistakes are easy to fix.
Getting too personal
It sounds easy, but sometimes people just don’t think twice about what they write. There are things you can say to a colleague, that you would never say to a client. And, some things, you should just keep to yourself. One of my cube mates recently worked with a reporter who shared way too much information about his personal life. Don’t be that person.
Don’t be so forward
While I think most of society has finally gotten over the need to forward emails of cute kitten and chain letters, it’s important to consider what you are forwarding. Somewhere in a long chain of emails, you may have written something less than complimentary about the client.
Those red squiggly lines
Don’t ignore them! They are there for a reason. If you haven’t already, set your email account to automatically spell check before sending. Sometimes, even the spell check won’t save you, so be sure to thoroughly proof your emails. My favorite story comes from a former career counselor at my college who spoke of the email in which “public” in public relations was consistently spelled without an “L”—and a recent article on PR Daily showed that some of our peers are still falling victim to that particular typo.
Here are a few more tips:
- Beware of autocorrect. My phone even tries to auto correct my name. I never want to sign a client email as “Emily Rotund”.
- Don’t overuse ellipsis marks (…), abbreviations and acronyms. Please spell out “pls” and “thx.” Thanks.
- Use the high importance indicator sparingly. If you mark every email you send as “high importance,” people will assign it to the category of “no importance.”
- Email is great, but nothing beats the power of personal interaction. Pick up the phone, step away from your desk, meet for lunch. From time to time, employ a different method of communication.
If you do make a mistake like a misspelled name or including the wrong recipient, don’t panic: apologize. While it’s true that once you hit send, you no longer have direct control over that message or where it ends up, a simple apology can prevent your email error from ending up in anyone else’s inbox. Forgetting a letter in your coworker’s last name will probably not require our expertise in issues management, a brief email acknowledging your mistake will be much appreciated by your clients and colleagues.