Archive for email

The Modern Day Dear John Letter

The Modern Day Dear John: Telling of Character….or Telling of the Times?

I was watching a delightfully obnoxious sitcom the other night whose topic of interest was the inconsiderate break-up.  Not just any break up, but the curt, impersonal, less-than-40-characters one…you got it, The Text Break-Up.

My mind immediately time-warped back to that episode of Sex in the City when Big broke up with Carrie on a post-it note.  Ouch!  Has this level of disrespectful communication actually become acceptable outside of TV humor and inside of our real lives?  I decided to ask the masses. 

So off to Social Media I went, where I posted the question, “Is it ever ‘ok’ to break up with someone in a text?”  For days I received a barrage of opinionated answers spanning from Facebook and Twitter to emails and…but of course, texts.

Here’s what the majority of responders feel about the subject:

We live in a modern era where time is sensitive and brevity in communication is honored. Beyond a generational thing, most people from pre-teens to housewives and from the small business entrepreneur to the Wall Street mogul prefer sending, reading and receiving messages using brief and direct methods including these we discuss here.  We live in the tell-me-what-you-want-and-don’t-waste-my-time era. These practices are widely understood, accepted and generally cool…No Big D.

Until it becomes personal.

Most folks became a bit heated (and some downright enraged) when they gave my question some introspection. It seems there was initial agreement that there may be circumstances where, says one Facebook friend, “…courtesy may not be required,”…like “if you have a restraining order,” says another. In fact, there were a few reasons (from 10% of the responders) that felt YES, given the circumstances below; it is ‘ok’ to break-up with someone in a text.

  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Stalking
  • Adultery
  • Pre-teen/Teenager

But what if none of those circumstances apply and you thought things were coming along nicely? You had a good rapport, perhaps even a relationship.  What if there had been a considerable amount of time invested…is it THEN acceptable to give the Dear John message, out of the proverbial blue? 

These words were tossed about from the 90% whose impassioned response was of the “no way, no how – it’s never ‘ok’” opinion;

  • Cowardly
  • Immature
  • Disrespectful
  • Ill mannered
  • Thoughtless
  • Ignorant

To be super clear on the math, while 10% of the responders had been able to justify texting the demise of a relationship due to extenuating or unsafe conditions, only 1% of those had said [paraphrasing], “Eh, whatever.”

What’s the communication lesson in today’s story?  We all accept that we want ‘quick and easy ‘, but when it comes to the human component of emotion, trust and love, most people still feel as if taking the time to have the actual conversation is worthy and respectful.

Communication is at the crux of our society, if we cannot effectively exchange positive messages, we find fewer successes along our path.  Exercise thoughtfulness, compassion and consideration in each of the words you choose. If you know your message is going to be hurtful to someone, take the time to deliver it in person…or at the very least, on the phone.

90% of you think it’s “just the right thing to do.”

8 Ways to Write a Better Email Message

Whether you want to increase your email’s open rate, are seeking more positive feedback from your messages or your employee evaluation just came back needing improvement, you can raise the bar on your professionalism by following these simple rules for better emailing.

8 Ways to Write a Better Email Message:

  1. Announce your purpose.  A subject line exists in every email platform or program, use it. Don’t be vague or mislead the reader as to what they’ll find upon opening. Being simple is more likely to get your message opened.
  2. Keep the message simple.  Avoid discussing more than a maximum of 3 topics in one correspondence; any more than that will risk losing the reader’s interest.
  3. Use bullet points or numerals to keep your content brief. Short attention style reading is the preferred format for any email. Be respectful of the reader’s busy day and get right to message.
  4. Stick to the facts. Leave emotion out of your emails – never write or respond while angry, sad, reactionary or in haste. Once you press send it’s out of your hands. Far too often, you might have written it differently if you’d taken more time to think about it.
  5. State a clear and defined call-to-action.  Tell the reader what you want from them. If you need a response by a certain time or date, share that too. No need to be demanding, but be sure to communicate any realistic expectations, willingness for flexibility and thankfulness.
  6. Let the reader know where to find you. Close every email with a variety of ways to contact you. List phone number and website or blog address at the least. If you’re old-school you can even add an address and a fax number. But if you have them, the most valuable things you can promote are your social media platform links (Twitter handle, LinkedIn Profile or Facebook page). Use your emails to grow your audience.
  7. Keep attachments in condensed format. Sending files that are too large can clog up either or both servers, making it an inconvenience to the reader.  Files with too many graphics or video will take longer to download and use more space to save. Additionally, be sure to label each attachment clearly; never use a series of numbers as a file name or omit the date of the latest version.
  8. Copy or Blind Copy only those who need to see it.  Refrain from the urge to Reply All when there has not been a specific request to copy everyone. In cases of a response to a question or an RSVP, it’s more appropriate to reply directly to the sender. Always be cognizant and respectful of the reader’s time.

Ultimately, these 8 simple rules will keep you organized, effective and courteous.

Other related links on this and similar topics:

Got any other ideas? Send them over in a comment! 

In Celebration of Really Bad Email

Every now and again something you’ve hoped for happens and you simply have to shout it from the rooftops, knowing full well that it is WAY more exciting to you than it is to anyone else.

This is one of those moments. After all…we’re told to celebrate our accomplishments, right?

The following article was chosen in the 2010 Writer’s Digest writing competition within the “Magazine Feature Article” category. Not only will it be listed as such in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine, but it brings me one step closer to a couple of my writing goals.

I welcome you to a “virtual clink” as I raise a very deep glass filled with rich purple notes of plum, cherries & oak.


The Writes and Wrongs of Email Messaging

Communicating via email is as commonly used as the remote of a TV. In fact, this extraordinary tool has become quite the ordinary, in both personal and professional communications. Consequently, using effective, creative messaging methods while remembering your online e-manners can help increase business, strengthen relationships and introduce convenience practices into your professional habits.

Emails can, for instance;

  • Create a paper trail (proof when it is needed)
  • Serve as quick, convenient reminders (to both you and to your recipients)
  • Be less time consumptive than leaving a voicemail or waiting for return calls
  • Allow you time to consider your message and revise where necessary
  • Allow you to eliminate emotion from potentially awkward interactions
  • Enable conversations with multiple recipients with the effort of only one interaction

Nevertheless, the tendency to become too comfortable can lead to sloppiness. Learn to monitor your email practices and AVOID these writing wrongs;

  1. Using the TO: section for multiple addresses. This is the biggest business faux pas in email history. Never use the TO: section to send a mass email…that’s what they make the BCC: section for (which stands for Blind Carbon Copy). Not only does this practice indicate an impersonal correspondence and a lack of knowledge on how to use email, it also invades the privacy of every name on that list. Mass emails left open for all to see create the serious potential for contact piracy and the spreading of electronic viruses.
  2. Vague or non-existing Subject Lines. Differentiate yourself from spammers by “fessing” up to what you want to talk about.
  3. Failure to choose your words wisely. Emails do not have the liberty of communicating emotion, tonality or inflection. Your words are the only tool you have when writing; always double check for synonyms, generalizations or double meanings.
  4. Tendency to answer too quickly. Brevity and accuracy are important, but miscommunication is a risk when answering in a rush or from your smart phone. Take time to review before pressing the ‘send’ button.
  5. Being too relaxed with grammar, spelling and slang. If you want to use acronyms, abbreviations and phonetic contractions, send a text or an instant message. Email is still the preferred way of sending business messages and should be treated with professionalism.
  6. Sending lengthy or unorganized information. Keep correspondences to one per subject – that means limiting each email to its own message points, attachments or links. Send a second email with the content of another subject. In the age of professional attention deficit disorder, an email with more than one message may not be read in its entirety and the risk of miscommunication increases.
  7. Relying on the auto-spellchecker. Many misspellings actually do make accurate words…they just might not be the words you intended to write. Don’t assume that your spell-check knows you meant “know” rather than “no” or “dessert” rather than “desert”.
  8. Overlooking your contact information. Even when corresponding to familiar people, it is a point of convenience and courtesy to include a signature with contact information at the end of each message. In the event that someone wants to respond with an immediate phone call or view your website, you don’t want them to waste time looking up your information.
  9. Placing personal information on company networks. Any email should be sent with the knowledge that at any given point, millions of viewers may have access. Companies always have the right to enforce compliance policies regarding privacy. If it can’t be read by your boss or your mom, save it for a phone call or for happy hour.
  10. Failure to delete long trails of pointless and unformatted content. Emails lose their convenience when someone must scroll endlessly to get to the intended message. If forwarding an existing message or a series of replies, do everyone the favor of deleting the unnecessary text. Stick to the point.
  11. Hitting “Reply All”. Unless each recipient of an email must be privy to all responses, your reply should only be sent to the email originator. It is time consuming and careless to include each person in a correspondence intended only for the sender.

Now let’s work on that second celebratory glass.