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The Trouble With Email

Despite its convenience – or actually, because of it – email causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people. Much has been written on this subject. This article highlights a few of the hazards of email and offers tips for avoiding them.

  1. Proofread carefully. Professional emails should be every bit as polished as mailed correspondence and formal office memoranda.
  2. Email is not appropriate for every message. For a variety of reasons, a hand-written note, a mailed letter, a telephone conversation, or an in-person discussion is often better than an email.
  3. Avoid sending emails to unintended recipients. Auto-fill features frequently cause writers to distribute their messages to the wrong people. (In other words, reconsider tip 1: proofread everything – including the TO line – carefully.)
  4. Think about your tone. Humor or sarcasm can easily be mistaken for anger or a sense of entitlement. (In other words, reconsider tip 2: think about whether a telephone conversation might be a better way to share your message.)
  5. As you reach out to peers, mentors, employers, and other professional contacts, do not write an email that could embarrass you. Waiting a day to reply to a disappointing message can help. Frustrated job seekers have been known to write snarky emails that then spread like wildfire, causing real and lasting damage to the writers’ professional reputations. Many folks realize their mistakes as soon as they hit “send,” but they can do nothing to stop the damage at that point; writing a note to put in the mail gives you more time to think through and adjust your approach. In addition, redistributing an unprofessional hard-copy letter takes much more effort than forwarding an outrageous email, and therefore it happens less often. (Boiling this down, then, reconsider tip 2.)
  6. Recognize that because some people receive hundreds of emails every day, emails can be overlooked. Polite follow-up may be necessary, and a telephone call may be more effective than email communication.  (Just another version of tip 2.)

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Oregon Law » » Career Center » February 21, 2012 » The Trouble With Email