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10 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email Communications

Posted by Jane Turkewitz on March 20th, 2013 at 6:56 am

Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with email? Yes, it does make life easier. Instead of picking up the phone to confirm a meeting, we can simply send a quick note, and that’s a beautiful thing. If we have to get a message to a “gabber,” email is our savior. If we want a communications exchange documented for the future, email is king.

But sometimes email makes me want to scream. Because it’s just so darn easy to use, people tend to abuse it. They are sloppy with their correspondence, incomplete with their thoughts, not to mention sentences, and scatterbrained in how they communicate. As a recruiter, whether it’s working with a candidate or a client, email sparring can sometimes be exhausting and frustrating — especially when thoughts are not expressed clearly and the person on the other end refuses to get on the phone. So, keeping that in mind, here are some recommendations on how to clean up your emails, get more e-organized and, frankly, be more buttoned up.

#1 — Don’t Assume the Person on the Other End Knows What you Are Referencing

Don’t use one word responses. If you are confirming a meeting, for example, don’t simply write back “yes.” The initial email chain could have listed multiple dates and times and then all parties could be confused as to the final decision. Instead send a note that says “Jane, we are confirmed for Wednesday, March 20th at 4pm EST.”

#2 — Include Time Zones as a Norm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set up bi-coastal meetings that have had to be rescheduled due to a miscommunication regarding time zones. To avoid this, always put EST, or whatever your timezone is, in your email. Bolding it is not a bad idea either.

#3 — Customize Subject Lines

Make sure you use subject lines in all emails so that the recipient knows what you are reaching out to him or her about. And, as you go back and forth in a long string of email exchanges with one person, try to remember to change the subject lines to reflect the subject of the e-string. If you are scheduling a meeting with someone, the subject could read something like: “Meeting, 3/20 at 4pm — Jane and Eric to discuss ABC Tactics.” If you are giving someone a business address, the subject line could say: “.comRecruiting’s Address.” Simple things like this make a huge difference when someone is searching thru their emails for specific information.

#4 — Read, Read Again, and, Yet, Again

I’m not bothered by a typo or a missed “the” in an email. But when someone sends me an email from an iPhone seemingly from a moving bus, and it says “we are all vet, and seat you in Amsterdam,” instead of “We are all set for our meeting on 75th and Amsterdam,” it’s annoying and a waste of everyone’s time.

#5 — Make Your Emails Concise

Emails should not take the place of a meeting where you can dig deep on a subject. Don’t send a client, co-worker or associate an email chock full of information, pages long. Make sure you are clear in the information you are presenting by breaking up content into short paragraphs — using four at the most. I recommend keeping each paragraph to approximately two to three sentences. And, if possible use bullet points so it’s easy on the eyes and the person on the other end actually reads the email, vs. putting it aside for some later time where it will most likely gather e-dust.

#6 — Make Sure Your Signature Appears on Every Email

I can’t tell you how many times I have conducted a search in my inbox to look for someone’s phone number, which I expect to find at the bottom of an email, only to find that the person in question didn’t have contact information in his signature. In fact some people don’t have an email signature at all. To rectify this, and make it easier for people to reach out to you, go into your email settings, under “general” and create a signature that includes your email address, cell phone, land line and all other relevant contact information. If you are using Google mail, make sure to check the box underneath your customized signature that says “Insert this signature before quoted text in replies...”

#7 — Respond Immediately or Save as “Unread”

The only time I ever fall down on an email exchange is when I open up an email and neglect to respond right away. If I open it and read it and it goes into the “already read” section, it’s a goner. If you know you are not going to be able to respond to an email immediately, mark it as “unread” so you don’t forget about it.

#8 — Confirm Receipt

If someone sends you an email with information you need that does not necessarily warrant a response, send a quick note to say “thank you,” just so the sender knows you are on the same page and that the email was received.

#9 — Watch What You Say

Don’t ever put something in an email that would make you wiggle in your seat in discomfort if it fell into the wrong hands. By now, we all know the power of Facebook and Twitter.

#10 — Disconnect and Pick up the Phone

If you have to get an important message across that might come off in a way that could be perceived as combative or potentially have a negative consequence, pick up the phone. Emotions and context can not be conveyed in an email. It’s time to unplug.

Carpe diem

Jane Ashen Turkewitz is the President and Chief Talent Officer at .comRecruiting where she helps senior level candidates in sales, marketing, media, editorial and e-commerce find their next career moves. She has been active in the digital media space since 1999.

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