5 Common Email Mistakes & How to Solve Them
By Bristol James
If you’re like most of us, your job likely involves countless hours of reading and sending emails. And, in fairness, email is how we keep things moving day-to-day in the business world. According to DMR, the average office worker receives 121 emails every day. That’a lot to juggle, but we’re here to help make sure you’re not spinning your wheels.
Emails in the workplace are meant to be a professional means of communication. We’ve all received that email—the one that makes us roll our eyes at the lack of professionalism and clarity. Keeping that in mind, here’s an office motto we should all follow:
Do unto others (over email) as you’d want others to do unto you (over email).
There’s a lot of dos and don’ts to consider, but we’re not going to bore you with an endless list of faux pas. Instead, we’ve got five common mistakes that—if you can avoid them—you’ll bring your email game from mediocre to amazing. Ready? Let’s go!
1. ‘To whom it may concern’
This, in itself, is a major email concern. If this is the first time you’ll be landing in someone’s inbox, the least you can do is take the time to do a little research to find out their name. Generic, unpersonalized emails are much less likely to be answered. Would you answer an email that looks as if it had been copy-pasted and sent to someone’s entire contact list? We’re going to go ahead and say probably not.
Personalizing your email will not only make them more likely to respond to your inquiry, but you’ll also know you’re addressing the best person for your request, rather than sending aimless emails to the wrong people.
2. Partially responding
We all want to avoid any unnecessary back-and-forth when it comes to email. It’s important to take the necessary time to read the request to completion and understand what is being asked.
A best practice when answering emails with multiple questions is to actually copy/paste the initial email in your reply, and respond to each part of the email in a different colour font. This makes it easier for the person who sent the initial request to clearly see your answers, and it’s a great way for you to ensure you don’t miss anything.
3. Lack of structure
There’s nothing worse than opening an email and seeing one continuous paragraph. Treat your email like a short Word Doc—don’t be afraid of spacing, bolding, underlining, headers, and lists—whatever it takes to make your information clear and concise. When you’re finished, double check that your email is professionally written and free of run-on sentences and spelling errors.
4. Changing the topic and not the subject line
This is likely the most underrated tip when it comes to sending emails. Often times, the thread in single email can vary from topic to topic. Someone will ask a new question unrelated to the initial focus and things spiral into a new topic. To ease the headache of sifting through emails trying to find information hiding in unrelated subject lines, simply change your subject line once your information changes. Game changer.
5. Writing an email instead of speaking in person
Last, but certainly not least, this is something we’ve all been guilty of. Although it is usually the most convenient and efficient route, not everything is best said in an email. For example, if you’re giving sensitive, negative, or even constructive feedback, it can be very difficult to convey your tone over email. Sometimes it’s best to approach the person face-to-face to avoid confusion or hurt feelings.
Another instance is when you notice some confusion among the thread. Rather than trying to explain your point over and over again, consider picking up the phone or popping by the person’s desk to quickly chat through the message in person.
We hope these tips and tricks were helpful as you continue on your email journey. For more, check out our piece on protecting your most precious asset—your time.
Bristol is a Social Media & Content Strategist at VERB Interactive — a leader in digital marketing, specializing in solutions for the travel and hospitality industry. Find out more at www.verbinteractive.com.