I attended a baby shower this weekend at which guests were asked to pre-address their own thank you note envelopes. What? I may as well have been asked to write the thank you note, itself. In my book, this is tacky and a major etiquette no-no. If a guest has made an effort to show up at the shower and bring a present, the least the recipient can do is send a personalized thank you card.
Am I a correspondence snob? Probably. When it comes to business correspondence, there are a lot of us. Dozens of business etiquette resources and websites point to the same bothersome trend: that writers have gotten lazy. The days of hand-written letters, even printed business letters, are fading, replaced by email and further degraded by phone texts.
To set you, the sender apart, I suggest the following email tips culled from my own experience and some pretty awesome etiquette websites.
- Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s just a nice thing to do.
- “Please” and “thank you” are common courtesies that will take you far.
- Initially, address your recipient formally: Dear Mr. Pitt, Hello Ms. Jolie. Use first names after a few interactions.
- Know your fields: The “to” field is for those from whom you would like a response. The “cc” field is for those who you are just FYI'ing.
- When replying to an email with multiple recipients noted in the “to” or “cc” fields, remove the addresses of those who your reply does not apply to.
- Refrain from using the “Reply to All” feature to give your opinion to those who may not be interested.
- To be safe, don’t complete the “to” field until you’ve completely written and reviewed your message and are ready to send. How many times have you accidentally hit the “send” button prematurely? “Doh!”
- Take the time to review each email to ensure the message is clear and cannot be misconstrued. Check your tone.
- Refrain from using too many exclamation points. It’s annoying. This is a good rule for any writing – electronic or otherwise.
- If your email is emotionally charged, take a break before you send it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll feel differently in the morning. It’s for the best.
- Just because someone doesn't ask for a response doesn't mean you ignore them. Always acknowledge emails from those you know in a timely manner. And if you cannot respond to an email promptly, at the very least email back confirming your receipt and when the sender can expect your response.
- Keep emails brief and to the point. Don’t lose your message in a sea of filler.
- In a string of emails, feel free to modify the “Subject” field to more accurately reflect a conversation's direction.
- When in doubt, go formal. No abbreviations — use full words and sentences (you, not “u”).
- And for goodness sake, no crazy fonts or fancy backgrounds.
Lastly, if you need to clarify your message, don’t forget the telephone. I know it’s a scary thing to actually talk to people. Maybe my next blog will focus on the lost art of conversation . . .