Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Email etiquette

How many of you have sent an email - perhaps one that was even requested - and never gotten a response? I'm not talking a pitch letter or a query. I'm talking about a valid request for more information from a company or colleague? How many of us are guilty of not replying to a friend or coworker?

Yes, we're all busy. No doubt, email is a boon to speedy communication, but that ability to ignore messages is not professional.

In the early part of this decade, I worked for a web firm. One of the most telling pieces of data I remember is Jupiter Research's statement that people expect an answer via email within four hours. When you have hundred - or more - messages waiting for you each morning, it's simply impossible to respond to each message in such a timely fashion. I don't know what's in your inbox, but about half of my messages are some form of spam. And only a small percentage of the remaining messages actively seek a response. It's these few requests that deserve prompt attention. Whether it's an easy answer or a more involved response, the other person does deserve something from you. If you forget this, so will others. And who wants to be that annoying person who never responds?

It isn't just that you respond to a message, it also matters how you respond. Email is a form of written communication. That means it deserves to be spell-checked at the very least. Better yet, re-read the message before you send it. How many times has a message been misconstrued on the other end? This happens because we don't take the time to read before we hit send.

Finally, make sure you really want to reply to all. I've gotten many private messages that were sent to an entire group. It is up to each of us to police our messages. These relatively small steps go a long way to showcase your professionalism as well as your ability to write English properly.

From now on, I plan to:

1. Respond to requests as promptly as possible. If I am waiting for further information, I will follow up and let the other party know.

2. Spell check every message. Even the ones to my mom.

3. Never use ALL CAPS in an email. Not only is it hard to read, it's the equivalent of shouting and just as rude.

What will you do for yourself today?

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