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Business Emails: R U Righting Em Good?

Monday, November 23, 2009

By Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

Email.  You love it.  You use it all the time.  You probably can’t even remember life without it.  You email your friends, your coworkers, your parents – basically everyone.  Chances are, however, you don’t think about anything other than content when you send an email out.  You certainly aren’t sweating the punctuation, spelling and format details.

In the office, you also use email constantly, but there are some serious differences. Emails in the business world are considered to be business communication, and like all business communication, there are some basic rules to follow. For instance, you need to spell check these emails, capitalize, punctuate, and write in complete sentences. You don't WRITE IN ALL CAPS TO MAKE YOUR POINT MORE EMPHATICALLY, and you don't put in lots of smiley faces, even if you are very, very happy. Finally, you don't address people you don't know with a "hi" or "yo."

Essentially, you need to treat email like any other form of communication in the business world - with professionalism. The reason why is obvious. Email is a reflection of you in the workplace. If you load your emails with typos, make them incredibly casual, and send them to the wrong people, you'll be viewed as someone who is not serious, dedicated, or competent. That's not a formula for getting the next big raise.

Now that’s not to say you need to treat every email like you are crafting The Declaration of Independence:

Pursuant to the aforementioned document, I am hereby declaring my affirmative resolution on the consensual decision to congregate in a fortnight for the distinct purpose of adjourning in reference to our fiduciary obligations.


Bradley Robert Karsh

It’s fine to email something like:

Courtney –

I received your email, and I am free to meet with the team on November 21st to discuss the budget.

Talk to you soon.


On the other hand, you need to stay away from:

Yo homeslice –

The big dawg will be howlin’ with yo peeps at da parteeeee in Nov as long as that jerk Linda aint their.  You know homie don’t play dat game.

Catch ya on the flipside sugar.

Big daddy

Now maybe that might seem a bit overboard, and you’re thinking you’d never do anything like that, but you’d be surprised at what some people think is appropriate!

Business is business, and remember that you’re being judged based on more than just your actual “work.”  You’re also being judged on many business etiquette issues, and email is one of them.  The scariest thing about email is that it’s permanent, savable, and searchable.  Watch out.

Beyond typos, here are the three biggest email mistakes new hires make:

1.  Putting something in email you don’t want the whole world to see. 
As I just mentioned above, email is permanent.  Disparaging a co-worker, saying something inappropriate about a customer, or even complaining about your job via email is a bad idea.  You never know where those emails may end up. 

Tip:  Never put anything in writing that you don’t want the whole world to see. 

Which leads us to our next mistake…

2.  Sending an email to the wrong person.
I think we’ve all done that before.  Can you recall that sinking feeling in your gut when you accidentally sent the email about Bobby to Bobby?  Now imagine that happening in the working world.  This actually occurs more often than you think and many, many people have lost their jobs over it.

Tip:  Type the email address in last and be very careful of the dangerous “Reply All” button.

3.  Overuse of email.
Email is one form of business communication, but it’s certainly not the only one.  Many offices have devices called telephones which also can be quite handy at reaching people!  There are times when a face-to-face meeting or phone call can be better than an email. 

Tip:  Don’t use email to send sensitive feedback, to argue with employees, or when previous emails have not done the job.

When used appropriately, email can be an amazing workplace tool, but it’s also led to the demise of many employees.  Handle with care.


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