Have you been in the middle of an e-mail misunderstanding? They happen every day. Most misunderstandings can be avoided by one side or the other not rushing through their e-mail activities and making sure their e-mail will be received, read and perceived with the desired meaning by the intended recipient.
Here’s my checklist of the items I have found are the biggest trouble makers that need to be checked before clicking Send:
How to Avoid E-mail Misunderstandings
- Make sure your e-mail includes a courteous greeting and closing. Helps to make your communications not appear to be demanding or terse.
- Address your contact with the appropriate level of formality and make sure you spell their name correctly!
- Spell check to reflect that you are educated and can communicate clearly with the written word. E-mails with typos are not taken as seriously.
- Read your e-mail out loud to make sure the tone is that which you desire. Try to avoid relying on formatting for emphasis; instead choose the words that reflect your meaning. A few additions of the words “please” and “thank you” when apropos go a long way too!
- Be sure to include all relevant details or information necessary to understand your request or point of view. Generalities can many times cause confusion and unnecessary back and forths.
- Are you using proper sentence structure? First word capitalized with appropriate punctuation? Refrain from using multiple instances of !!! or ??? to avoid being perceived as rude or condescending.
- If your e-mail is emotionally charged, walk away from the computer and wait to reply until level heads can prevail. Review the Sender’s e-mail again so that you are sure you are not reading anything into the e-mail that simply isn’t there.
- If sending attachments, did you ask first when would be the best time to send? Did you check file size and format to make sure you don’t unnecessarily gobble up the other side’s bandwidth and that they have the software to view your file?
- Refrain from using the Reply to All feature to CYA or give your opinion to those who may not be interested. In most cases replying to the sender alone is your best course of action.
- Make one last check that the visible address or addresses in the To: field are those you wish to send your reply to (and in the case of multiple addresses that they know each other — otherwise use the BCc:).
If the above issues are considered in your day-to-day e-mail activities, misunderstandings will be avoided and you will be known as a pleasure to communicate with. It’s a win-win!