E-mail etiquette: Mind your P’s and Q’s

Sloppy messages that are riddled with spelling errors and are irrelevant and difficult to read are major source of lost productivity as employees struggle to decipher cryptic online requests and disorganized sales pitches.

“Email should contain the same attention to detail as a letter with signature on corporate letterheard. It’s a direct reflection of your professionalism,” said Sue Jacques, president of Calgary’s Influence Etiquette & Protocol.

“Unfortunately, we tend to just fire off our thoughts and there’s no filter system between our brains and our fingers.”

A recent US study suggests the problem is getting worse. Some 80% of workers surveyed consider strong email skills “extremely important”, but 40% say they waste 30 minutes to three hours a day reading ineffective messages.

For one thing, business emails should always contain a friendly salutation and farewell. If you don’t, it’s the equivalent of barging into somebody’s office and purging your thoughts, or launching into a speech on the telephone without saying hello. You need a greeting — and the phrase “hey” doesn’t cut it.

The phone is still best for certain discussions.

Though some people admit some matters are better discussed over the telephone – nobody appreciates having to slog through 10 pages of type when the matter can be dealt on a personal level.

Pick up the phone, if it’s something complicated or sensitive and confidential. Remember that an email can be forwarded to anyone by the recipient. Once you hit send, you dont know whose hands it will wind up.

Some say the rise in the popularity of instant messaging and text messages – is further straining email etiquette by encouraging “on the fly” responses.

So why e-mail when you can talk?

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