8 Email Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb
When we send business emails to open doors or grow our company/organization, every word and punctuation mark matter.
If we use the wrong word or phrase, we can we turn the recipient off. That means a single writing gaffe could doom a new opportunity. Seems harsh but it happens every day.
In previous columns, I’ve covered eight spelling/grammar mistakes and eight punctuation mistakes.
This time, I discuss simple ways to improve our email copy and send/follow-up on important messages.
1. Don’t bury the lead
With most networking emails, we need to include the “big ask.”
- Ask for a coffee chat
- Ask for someone to put in a word about a job
- Ask a colleague to connect you to another person
The key with the “big ask”: don’t bury it. Otherwise, you sound like a timid rookie. (“Please, won’t you help me?”)
If “the ask” comes near the beginning, you seem confident and sure of yourself. (“I know what I’m doing.”)
2. Don’t use the wrong name or company
Sometimes, we need to send the same general email to several different people, but the emails go out one person at a time.
In those moments, be extra careful about the person’s name and, if included, the person’s company. Otherwise, it’s awkward to send an email to someone but include the name of the person who received your previous email. Yikes.
Even if you use a mail merge, check yourself early and often.
3. Avoid giant, blocky paragraphs
Here’s what happens when you write a long email. At first, the reader is with you and can follow each word without much strain. A few sentences, no big deal. Then, as you continue, the tune changes. Th e paragraph grows longer, and the reader begins to think, “OK, this is getting to be a bit much.” Still, the paragraph keeps going and becomes not only cumbersome but also problematic…
Are you exhausted yet? Let’s try the same paragraph again but this time as smaller sections.
Here’s what happens when you write a long email. At first, the reader is with you and can follow each word without much strain. A few sentences, no big deal.
Then, as you continue, the tune changes. The paragraph grows longer, and the reader begins to think, “OK, this is getting to be a bit much.”
Still, the paragraph keeps going and becomes not only cumbersome but also problematic…
Turn bulky paragraphs into breezy sentences.
Readers everywhere will thank you.
4. Hold back from capitalizing the wrong words
The biggest culprits: job titles and “important-sounding” words.
Incorrect: I’m a Marketing Coordinator at Acme Corporation.
Correct: I’m a marketing coordinator at Acme Corporation.
Explanation: Job titles are lowercase unless they come before your name (ex: Marketing Coordinator Jane Doe is…).
Important-sounding career words
Incorrect: Common phrase in a resume objective statement — Experienced Team Leader with strong Organizational Skills and a Successful career in Management.
Correct: Experienced team leader with strong organizational skills and a successful career in management.
Explanation: We don’t capitalize non-specific career words no matter how important they seem (“Successful”). If you attend the Acme Team Leader Training Seminar, then the words are uppercase because they’re a proper name.
5. Always remember the email could be forwarded
Email has a mind all its own.
A single message can travel from one inbox to another with lightning speed, and before you know it, a note to a friend lands on someone’s screen across town or around the globe.
Once you press “Send” you lose all control. That’s why you should write every business email with the expectation the reader will forward it along.
6. Easy on the acronyms and jargon
Let’s say you’re a researcher for a pharmaceutical company and work in a division called RDT. You use the expression “RDT” 25 times a day, and to you the acronym obviously means “Research and Development Team.”
To anyone outside of your team — possibly at the same company — RDT means…well, nothing.
Every time you include an acronym in an email — or resume, cover letter and presentation — you must follow one basic rule: provide the full name of the acronym on first reference.
7. Never respond to emails “in your head”
We’ve all been there. In your mind, you 100% responded to that work email. But in reality, the message never went out and people on the other end might anxiously await a reply.
They wonder, “Did she see my email? Did it go to spam? Do I need to send it again?”
A quick “Thanks. I got it.” and all those questions disappear. Keep the emails in the actual computer, not in your brain.
8. Slow down with the follow ups
Finally, when you’re the one who needs a response, how soon is too soon to check back in?
If need an urgent response, it’s fine to reach out to the person after 1-2 hours. But if, for example, you requested someone to help you network, give the person at least two days to respond before you come around with a reminder email.
Yes, always advocate for yourself and your business. But also allow people to do you a favor on their own schedule. It’s a fine balance, to be sure.
What other email mistakes should we include?
November 30, 2015
The Three-Second Trick to Impress on Phone Calls
Advice from Adele.
May 9, 2013
Why You Should Respond to Every Work Email
The third installment in the ongoing NTLB series: ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Young People.’
January 8, 2015
How to Transform Any Sentence So It Jumps Off the Page
Be like Stuart Scott and go one layer deeper.