Nearly all creative professionals use e-mail as a primary mode of communication. But although you rely on e-mail every day, you may not yet have mastered the complex set of rules and customs that govern its use. Sure, forgetting to attach a file to your message once in a while is no big deal, but more frequent lapses could have unfortunate consequences. Poor netiquette could e-nnoy or e-ffend your colleagues and clients, prompting them to question your professionalism or their business relationships with you. Following are some common e-mail blunders to avoid:
Overdoing it on the signature line. Have you ever received an e-mail from someone whose automatic signature rivals the message itself in length? Or what about the person whose signature line still asks people to sign up for an e-newsletter that was discontinued in 2001? The automatic signature feature common to most e-mail programs can be an asset if used wisely. It not only provides your contacts—and potentially their contacts—with all the information they need to get in touch with you, but also serves as a marketing tool by allowing you to attach pertinent news. Just be sure to review your signature every few weeks so the information is up-to-date and continues to draw people’s interest. And don’t go overboard—something short and simple, such as, OCheck out my upcoming interview about corporate logos in the July issue of HOW magazine,O is perfect.
Unprofessional e-mail addresses. Hotstuff@abcxyz.com sent you an e-mail, which you wisely deleted on sight. But little did you realize the message was actually from a contact you met at a conference last week. The e-mail address you choose can lend significant credibility to your services—or cause clients to question who they’re working with. If you’re a freelancer, this small touch is especially important. If possible, secure an address that includes your name or the name of your business: DesigningTrends@abcxyz.com, for example. Even better, inquire about purchasing a URL that incorporates the same information, so your domain name is also associated with your brand: Jonathan@DesigningTrends.com.
Not minding your p’s and q’s. Not to sound like an English teacher, but it’s important to pay attention to the grammar, spelling and punctuation of your e-mails. There’s no need to consult "The Chicago Manual of Style," but do give each message a read-through before sending it. Omitting just one word can cause confusion. Also turn on the automatic spell-check feature of your e-mail program to help catch typos you might miss. For very important messages—like those transmitted to your firm’s top executives—consider asking a colleague to review them first.
Infinite forwards. Chances are you’ve received a message that’s been forwarded to about a dozen people before reaching your desk. You start reading at the top of the message, but eventually realize the most significant information is near the end. Do your coworkers and clients a favor by deleting unnecessary text in a large string of forwards—including the contact information of people who may not want to have it shared. It’s also helpful to summarize main points at the top of the message so recipients don’t have to wade through each person’s comments to find the information they need.
Non-responders. This morning, you e-mail a client an important file. No response. By mid-afternoon, you’re sweating bullets because the deadline is at the end of the day. At 5 p.m., you pick up the phone to follow up and discover your contact received the document hours ago and simply didn’t respond to your message. Always write back when you receive critical e-mails, so you don’t leave colleagues wondering if their messages made it through. If you don’t have time to formulate a thorough response, send a quick note letting the sender know when you will answer in full.
E-mail continues to grow in importance as a primary tool for business communication, so it’s vital that you use proper netiquette. Be thoughtful before launching an e-mail into cyberspace to ensure you send the right message with both your words and actions.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.