Smart people can still do stupid things. Case in point: Recently, the head of a major company sent an email with the following subject line, “Please see the attached.” But, the attachment listed names of employees who were going to be terminated the following week, or those who were going to be moved to different positions. It also included information about salaries. The problem was that the employees had not been informed of these changes, let alone of their colleagues’ compensation packages. And yes, it was a company-wide email.
Of course, this was an accident. It’s not as though the company CEO wanted to share sensitive information in such a ham-fisted manner. But accident or not, it illustrates the hard truth that email, for all of its benefits, can be dangerous.
Given that the consequences, you would think people would be very careful before clicking “send.” Yet, time and time again, the opposite proves true. Part of it boils down to the attitude of some people towards email; a belief that it’s a casual form of communication. In fact, I’ve had conversations with quite a few people who just don’t see the point in writing a well-crafted email. Their response, “it’s just an email.”
It strikes me as an odd attitude. I’ve never heard anyone say that a letter is “just” a letter, or a presentation is “just” a presentation. Even though email messaging can be a quick form of communication, poorly written ones really do reflect on the user and the organization.
Some email programs, such as Gmail, do have an “undo send” function. Even then, it comes with this caveat: “Undo send may not work if you experience connection issues.” But human nature being what it is, you may not have been mindful and sent an email that wasn’t ready to be sent — until it’s too late.
We can all use a reminder of best email practices, from time to time. It’s the reason I want to share these two fundamental requirements to ensure you maintain good business email habits.
The Golden Rules of Emailing: Do Not Hit Send Before…
1. Do Not Hit Send Before You Carefully Compose
An email should be well written, and care taken with tone and language. Even if the email you are sending is just between you and one other person, once you hit send, it’s essentially public. Remember; it can be shared with others. And that means any errors or mistakes you’ve made can easily be shared with others.
2. Do Not Hit Send Before You Re-Read
Always re-read any important email, at least twice, before hitting send. Two read-throughs are usually better than one, particularly if you allow some time between your first and second check. Sometimes, you’ll see mistakes more readily if you’ve taken a bit of time between the writing and the sending. And if the email contains particularly sensitive subject matter, you want to have a trusted colleague cast a more objective eye over the message. In the end, it may save you embarrassment.
So don’t fall prey to sloppy email habits that might result in dire consequences, as those suffered by the CEO, at the beginning of this post. You don’t want to end up having to walk out, without any warning, an unsuspecting employee, who has not yet been told he/she has been terminated. Remember, it’s not “just” an email, it’s part of how you do business.
If you need to sharpen up your email writing skills, I can help you. Just contact me at The Language Lab.