Tips for Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Other Applications
E-Mail and IM, Applications and Etiquette
I'm still working on this piece, actually still trying to figure out what should be addressed here. However, it seems that the problem isn't that people don't know how to use an e-mail application, rather it's people don't think about how to use e-mail.
I'm as guilty as the next, but if I had to isolate 10 things I'd want to think about every time I sent a work e-mail, here's what they would be:
- Every email has to stand on its own. We stress this point with PowerPoint pages and Excel models, but it applies to e-mails as well. Once you send an e-mail, you lose control of who it goes to. It might be forwarded, it might get printed and distributed, so while your original recipient might understand your cryptic references, you cannot guarantee that other people will.
- Be mindful of "Thank you" e-mails. We all know people who get hundreds of e-mails every day. Maybe you're one of them. How many of those e-mails are non-value added "Thank you" or "you're welcome" notes. It isn't necessary to thank someone for every e-mail response, unless you want to qualify it. "Thank you, this is exactly what I needed", lets the recipient know the "to-do" is a closed item.
- Think two or three times before using Reply to All. If the response doesn't apply to everyone, then don't reply to everyone, especially to mass e-mails that were sent out to the world.
- Use a meaningful Subject line. Put yourself in the recipient's shoes. You're looking a 100 unread e-mails and have time to open 10 of them. Which ones would you pick and why? Putting some thought into your Subject line can make the difference between your e-mail being read or not. If it's a simple item, your subject line may be all that's needed.
- Use the Out of Office client when out. Ever send an e-mail then get frustrated wonder why the recipient hasn't taken the time to respond? If you're out of the office and your office supports it, use the Out of Office client. The out of office message should indicate when you'll be back in the office and list your back ups in case the sender has an urgent matter that needs immediate attention.
- Treat every e-mail as a piece of business correspondance. In the world of e-mail, IM, and texting, people have gotten very lazy with their spelling, language, and grammar. I treat e-mail communications like I was talking to the person. E-mails need to be well structured, gramatically sound, and well written. Remember, in your absence, your e-mail style is how you present yourself.
- Be crisp and concise. In the world of e-mail overload, no one has the time to read through e-mails that look like War and Peace. Make your point and make it quickly. Ideally, the "so what" is clearly indicated at the top with supporting points below.
- Avoid overformatting. This includes extensive tables and graphics. Now, more than ever, people retrieve e-mails on Blackberrys and other handheld devices that only display plain text. You cannot count on using formatting and graphics to make your point. If you absolutely need these, then add an attachment.
- Include a signature block. I imagine that most of us have received e-mails which require urgent attention but no contact information. OK .... sometimes the company has an employee directory ... but if it's from an external source, how do you expect other people to get a hold of you. Signature blocks should, at a minimum, indicate your name, company, phone, and e-mail address.
- Think twice, send once. There is nothing more embarrassing than sending an e-mail then follow up after a few minutes with "oops, I forgot ..." This is especially important when you're frustrated or angry. Sometimes we have a habit of dashing off e-mails without fully thinking through the consequences of what we said or how it will be interpretted. It's a useful practice, especially with those critical e-mails, to draft it, save it, and then come back after 30 minutes or so to re-read and edit what you wrote in the heat of the moment.