8 E-Mail Mistakes That Make You Look Bad
I get an awful lot of e-mail. Sometimes, people are looking for help with their computers. Some of it is fan mail.
Other folks are mad about something I said or wrote. Add to this the barrage of press releases and an occasional blast from the past when a former classmate or ex-boss drops me a note.
After facing this tidal wave of electronic words for several years, as well as owning my own business, I’ve
developed some strong opinions about e-mail and correspondents.
Here are eight easily avoidable mistakes you should know about to keep your image and inbox in tip-top shape.
1. Failing to follow e-mail etiquette.
I believe in the old adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” There’s no point in belaboring the etiquette issue. We all know we should be polite. But here are a few points to consider:
2. Thinking you are anonymous.
If you are sending nasty missives, you might think no one will be able to figure out that the e-mail came from you. After all, you set up a phony Web address. Think again. E-mail contains invisible information about the sender.That information is in the header. All major e-mail programs can display header information. Here’s how:The sender’s revealing information is in the sections that begin with “Received:.” There may be several of these, depending on the number of computers the e-mail traversed. The originating computer is in the bottom “Received:.”That section will have an Internet Protocol (IP) number, such as 188.8.131.52. It can be traced on a number of Web sites. I use InterNIC (www.internic.net). The number is probably assigned to the sender’s Internet service provider, rather than the sender. But the ISP will be able to identify the sender using that number. Remember the header if you’re tempted to send an anonymous e-mail. You may be less anonymous than you think.
3. Sending e-mail to the wrong person.
Today’s e-mail programs want to make it easy to send e-mail. This means that when you start typing the address of a recipient to whom you have previously sent mail, the “To:” field may already be populated. Be careful. Always double-check the recipient is the intended one.In addition, if you’re writing something ugly about Joe Smith, you’ll have Joe’s name on your mind. Don’t send it to him. I once knew an intern at a newspaper who did just that. He didn’t like his supervisor and said so in graphic terms in an e-mail. Then he accidentally sent the e-mail to his supervisor. (The intern kept his position, but the atmosphere was cold, to say the least. And there was no job offer at summer’s end.)
4. Using one e-mail address for everything.
I have four different e-mail addresses: private, public, one I use for online mailing lists, and another for when I go shopping online. These addresses attract mail for those specific areas.I can have as many as I want, because I host my own e-mail server. But if you are using an Internet service provider, you still can do this. Most providers will give you a half-dozen e-mail accounts. You can also use addresses on the Web for personal accounts. Both Hotmail and Yahoo! are good. You can reach those accounts from anywhere, assuming you have Web access.
5. Forgetting to check all of your e-mail accounts.
Checking all these accounts can be a chore, especially from home. So I use ePrompter (www.eprompter.com), which can check 16 different password- protected accounts. Best of all, ePrompter is free. There are other programs that will do this for a fee, including Active Email Monitor (www.emailmon.com).
6. Clicking “Send” too fast.
Reread every e-mail before you send it! I actually get e-mails from job applicants with misspellings and missing words. They all go to the same place: the garbage. This is a pet peeve. I’m not going to hire someone who is careless. Even if you’re not looking for a job, you want to be careful. People will judge you subconsciously on mistakes. None of us is perfect. But you can catch 99% of these problems by rereading the text.And don’t depend on the spell-checker. It will catch misspellings. But if you use “four” instead of “for,” or “your” for “you’re,” it won’t tell you. It also is not likely to catch any missing words in a sentence that you inadvertently failed to include. So take a minute and reread your text. Don’t look like an ignoramus.
7. Forgetting the attachment.
This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an e-mail with a missing attachment. Since we all do it occasionally, it shouldn’t be a huge deal.However, if you consistently make this mistake, people (perhaps important people) may think you’re losing your marbles. They might even hesitate to do business with you in the future. When you get ready to send your e-mail, think: “What am I forgetting?”
8. Using your ISP’s domain and not your own.
Make your company look big. If you use a Web account or an ISP’s name for your business, you’re not going to look professional. You can buy a domain name separately for $20-$30 per year from a company such as VeriSign (www.netsol.com), or as part of a package from a Web hosting and e-mail service such as that offered by Microsoft Small Business. Assuming someone else hasn’t already grabbed it, you can have your company in the domain name.Let’s say you run The BoolaBoola Co. If you use an ISP’s address, you would
have something like JoeBoolaBoola@SomeISP.com. But if you buy your own domain name, it could be Joe@TheBoolaBoolaCo.com. That’s much more likely to impress your customers.
E-mail is almost like talking. We use it so much that we don’t really think about it. But there are rules and courtesies, just as there are with talking. And there are other considerations involved in communicating by written word only.
Giving them some additional thought
could make your e-mail experience more satisfying and your recipients much happier.
By Kim Komando