Trainer's Tip: Avoid Email Embarrassment

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Great advice on how to avoid the most common email mistakes from Jane Smith.

Emails create more embarrassment and problems than just about any other form of communication - and it's usually the email's great advantages of convenience, speed and multiple connectivity that are the culprits.

The most important rule is, of course, to think before you click.

More specifically, there are three very common problems to be aware of:
1. Message not clear
2. Message open to misinterpretation
3. Selecting 'reply all' in error.

Message not clear: Do you often receive emails that are rambling and incomprehensible? Research shows that it's likely that you will delete the indecipherable ones and skip or spike those where main point isn't clear right at the beginning.

The best way of ensuring that your email gets read is to write a subject header that tells the recipient exactly what the message is all about. So it's not just 'Meeting on Tuesday', it should be 'Must reschedule Tuesday's meeting'.

Next, try to get the details and content packed into the first sentence or two. Are you giving or requesting information? Or are you asking the person to do something?

Keep the message brief and assume that no one will ever read more than the first couple of sentences of your email.

If you want something, be specific about your requirements - say exactly what you want and when.

Message open to misinterpretation: Be aware that if you write or respond quickly without time for reflection, your email may be open to misinterpretation. Offensive or hurtful messages are often the result of lack of clarity or an abrupt tone.

In addition, an email does not have the advantage of personal contact where body language aids understanding.

Selecting 'reply all' in error:
What is supposed to be a private joke can quickly become a public embarrassment if you select 'reply all' instead of just 'reply'. And you could suddenly become internationally famous after accidentally sending an intimate email to someone with a name similar to your partner's.

One of the best ways of limiting the damage is to send an apology straight away entitled: 'We all make mistakes… and I just made a big one!' Failing that you could follow the example of the employee who sent the whole company's salary details to all staff. He immediately set off the fire alarm to give himself time to manually delete the email from everyone's desktops!

But to avoid committing all sorts of mistakes and faux pas, always take time to check what you've written. Always check your message carefully and ask yourself how you would feel on receiving it.

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