By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we said electronic mail, called e-mail for short, is a system that allows people to send messages to each other by computer. We added that e-mail makes everything easier and faster including making a powerful business impression and establishing positive professional relationships.
We however examined some dos and don’ts of email communication. One of them is the omission of the subject line. Another one is the contrasting header. Imbibing 24-hour-reply culture constitutes another of them.
Other dos and don’ts of email communication discussed are the need not to deliver a negative message by email; use of Cc and Bcc; need for thorough editing; leaving off your signature and when to put the address of the recipient. This week, we will continue from where we stopped.
It is noteworthy that e-mail is not a good tool for delegating. This is because it leaves little room for dialogue and a lot of room for misunderstanding. E-mail is a poor tool for providing business updates. This is because there are too many factors people may not understand and want to ask about. Joan Llyod, a career-development expert says it is inappropriate for disciplining an employee except as a follow-up documentation.
Research has also shown that e-mail is not a good tool for coaching and providing feedback as there is too much that is lost. It is not a good tool for communicating sensitive information. Lloyd gives an example of employees getting outraged when they were informed they did not get promotion or their job was being redesigned through email. In Lloyd’s words, “Believe it or not, some people have told me they were fired by email. Email-or email distribution lists- don’t take the place of team meetings and team communication.”
Your e-mail is as much a part of your professional image as the clothes you wear, the postal letters you write, the greeting on your voice mail and the handshake you offer. Experts say if you want to impress on every front and build positive business relationships, pay attention to your e-mail and steer clear of e-mail mistakes.
Always make your subject line meaningful. This is very close to failure to change the header to correspond with the subject discussed last week. Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert and professional speaker says your header should be pertinent to your message, not just ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello.’ The recipient is going to decide the order in which he reads e-mail based on who sent it and what it is about. Your e-mail will have lots of competition.
Even though e-mail is informal, it still needs a greeting. Begin with ‘Dear Mr. Gbenga’, ‘Dear Ayodele’, ‘Hello Femi’, or just ‘Femi’. Failure to put in the person’s name can make you and your e-mail seem cold.
When you communicate with another person face to face, 93 per cent of the message is non-verbal. E-mail has no body language. The reader cannot see your face or hear your tone of voice so choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. Put yourself in the other person’s place and think how your words may come across in Cyberspace.
Another error is forgetting to check for spelling and grammar. In the early days of e-mail, someone created the notion that this form of communication did not have to be letter perfect. Experts say this is wrong. It does. It is a representation of you. If you do not check to be sure your e-mail is correct, people will question the kind of other work you do. Use proper capitalisation and punctuation, and always check your spelling. Remember that your spellchecker will catch mis-spelt words, but not misused ones. It cannot tell whether you meant to say “from” or “form,” “for” or “fro”, “he” or “the.”
E-mail is meant to be brief. Keep your message short. Use only a few paragraphs and a few sentences per paragraph.
Expecting an instant response
Expecting an instant response is also one of the mistakes. Not everyone is sitting in front of the computer with e-mail turned on. The beauty of Internet communication is that it is convenient. It is not an interruption. People can check their messages when it suits them, not you. If your communication is so important that you need to hear back right away, use the phone.
We know that punctuation marks are intended to clarify meaning. But when not used correctly, they can just as easily confuse. One mark that calls for special caution is the simple, ubiquitous comma. Some striking examples will drive the point home. So much depends on choosing the correct mark of punctuation at the correct time. Each little period, each hyphen, each dash conveys meaning to the reader. And when the conventions of punctuation are ignored, readers tend to become confused.
Tracy Peterson Turner, an expert in both written and verbal communication says as I teach every single one of my clients, the point of all business writing is clarity. If a document – whether email, letter, memo, or report – is not clear, no business is going to get done. Period. The various marks of punctuation we have at our disposal can either be used to clarify or confuse. The mark that has the most confusion over is the comma: how and when do we use it. When is it necessary, and when is it over used?”
To be continued
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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