July 18, 2003
By Phil Stella
(From the series, Power Communicating with Phil Stella)
Communications expert Christine Zust spoke to the Cleveland Chapter about “Power Positioning” and emphasized the concept “Everything you do positions you!” Every time you send an e-mail to an internal or external customer, it positions you. The following suggestions will help you create and maintain the best possible positive impression.
- Keep your intended audience in mind when you write your e-mail message. But, remember, you don’t know who else will see it or who your intended receiver will sent it to.
- With a large distribution list, ask yourself if everyone on the list needs and wants to see this message. Will they all understand the context? If not, delete them from the list.
- If you do have a long distribution list, use “bcc” instead of “cc” so the other names won’t be displayed or printed.
- Don’t send a message that has gone back and forth in house to an external — or internal — client. This can make you look lazy or unprofessional. Either extract the pertinent information and paste it into a new note or write a separate note for the client directly.
- Delete the “FW” in the subject line if you do forward a message and rewrite it to be more specific and personal.
- Remove long strings of e-mail addresses that precede the actual message.
- Always use a specific subject line with descriptive language, such as “Status of Sales Training Video Project – 3/6/02” to make it easier for the receiver to prioritize when opening.
- Since people save e-mails for future reference, messages with nondescript subject lines are difficult to sort or easily recall.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs. Don’t string unrelated sentences together in one long paragraph.
- Make it clear and easy to read and understand in a hurry.
- KISS – Keep it short and simple. If possible, the whole message should fit in a single screen without paging down.
- White space, bullets or sub heads make the message easier to read.
- AVOID ALL CAPS – IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING.
- don’t use all lower case. it looks like you were in too big a hurry to capitalize words.
- E-mail was intended for quick and easy communication, much like voice mail. So, keep it short and simple — write single-subject brief messages.
- If an e-mail thread goes on too long, consider a meeting, phone call or conference call as an alternative.
- Use a conversational tone with plain, simple words because e-mail is a more casual/less formal type of communication.
- Use the receiver’s name at the beginning of the message: “Sue, here’s the schedule for the shoot … “
- Even though e-mail is casual, avoid humor, sarcasm or slang. Such comments can be taken out of context or misinterpreted or appear unprofessional.
- You can use a “branding statement” in your signature to position your department or company. Include appropriate contact information.
- Make is easy for people to deal with your e-mails. Don’t attach long documents or reports unless it is absolutely necessary for the reader. Long attachments can also fill up a mail box quickly.
- Don’t resend attachments when you reply unless you changed the attachment.
- Be careful when you reply to an e-mail from a mailing list so the reply doesn’t go to everyone on the list. Reply to the sender in a separate note directed to that person.
- Only use “Reply All” when everyone on the list needs to see your reply.
- Always use a spell checker. Obvious spelling and grammatical errors create an unprofessional image of you, the sender, so always use a spell checker.
- But, carefully proofread yourself anyway because spell checkers don’t catch all mistakes. If you wrote “to” instead of “too”, some might miss the error.
These simple techniques can help you project a more positive image about the subject matter and about you. Even your e-mails can position you, so take the time to do them like a pro.
(Originally published in the MCA-I/Cleveland Inserts. Reprinted with permission.)
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Phil Stella is a resource for business people who want to communicate with more power and success. He runs Effective Training & Communication, Inc. (phone 440-449-0356, e-mail email@example.com). A founding member of MCA-I/Cleveland, he has been active nationally for twelve years. As a professional speaker, he has delivered popular workshops at many MCA-I conferences and chapter events around the country.