Whether it’s a client or a co-worker, there is no more efficient tool to fostering misunderstanding than email. Without the benefit of tone and body language, messages can be easily misconstrued and people can take offense to statements that might seem innocuous in person. Here are 5 ways that people often alienate others via email--that you may not realize you’re committing every time you press “Send.”
Just because you can email something, doesn’t mean you should. “Ask yourself, before you send that message, ‘Does this really need to be communicated right now, and is email the best medium?’” suggests Charles Purdy, senior editor at Monster.com. The most common scenario for over-emailing? Group discussions. “Everyone feels the need to get their two cents in, so email threads grow out of proportion to their importance,” says Purdy. If you’re in a group discussion that seems inefficient, consider sending an individual email to the relevant person (or picking up the phone).
Not using BCC
CC’ing should be used rarely, when everyone really needs to see everything--and respond to everybody else. This can get annoying, quickly (see “Over emailing,” above). BCC should be used when everyone needs to see everything, but doesn’t need to respond to everyone. "When mailing to a large group of people who don't know one another and who have no reason to be in possession of one another's e-mail addresses, make sure you put all recipient addresses in the BCC line. The alternative is the equivalent of publishing someone's unlisted phone number,” notes manners expert Thomas Farley, a.k.a. "Mister Manners". [https://twitter.com/#!/mistermanners].
Misuse of the “Urgent” tag
To you, most emails you write might seem urgent. But as with the boy who cries wolf, overuse of the urgent tag or putting the word “urgent” into your subject line repeatedly can lead people to ignore your plea when it’s really necessary. “If it’s truly urgent, email might not be the right medium. And if you’re sending ‘urgent’ emails several times a day, you perhaps need to reset your urgency barrier,” says Purdy.
Using caps for emphasis
“This faux pas (thankfully) has mostly gone the way of 56K modems, but there are still some folks who don't realize that ALL CAPS EQUALS YELLING,” says Farley. Emphasize importance using bold, italics, or a rare exclamation point. If you’re an effective communicator, you’re probably not raising your voice to make a point at work--so don’t do it online, either.
Flaking out on the subject line
You don’t always have to be creative, only clear. And “Hello” doesn’t clarify anything about your email. “It should summarize the topic of the email in a way that the person receiving it will know how to prioritize it,” says Purdy. Once you’re writing the email body, get right to the point. Day-to-day work emails should be concise instead of a rambling story. Brevity shows respect for your reader’s time.