The E-mail Trap

E-mail is a great tool but sometimes we can fall in to several traps that make e-mail our enemy rather than our friend. I thought I’d use this business update to look at a format for business related emails or what many call, “e-mail etiquette.”


  • Spelling and grammar communicates “who” you are
  • Use your spell checker. That’s what it’s for. Don’t rely entirely on the spell checker though. If you’re using the wrong spelling for a particular use of a word, i.e. two vs. to vs. too, the spell checker won’t pick it up. Don’t try to guess the spelling of a word. Look it up. A great tool is the Merriam-Webster Online. Also, keep a dictionary handy! Sometimes it is faster than using the online version.
  • Good grammar is important. I believe in using a conversational tone when writing. It sounds friendlier. Contractions are often okay. Slang is not. Under no circumstances should you use offensive language.
  • Choose the right words. Take your time putting together a well-written message. Once you hit the send button, you won’t have another chance.
  • Be careful with abbreviations. Today there are all sorts of abbreviations — U instead of you, 2 instead of to or too, plz instead of please, and thanx instead of thanks. These may be fine for personal messages; in a business, communication should be more formal. Of course, frequently used abbreviations such as Mr. and Mrs., FYI (for your information), inc., and etc. are fine.
  • Be specific – don’t leave any opportunity for crossed wires or misunderstandings
  • Read and re-read your email several times from the perspective of the recipient
  • If you don’t change anything when you are composing an email, then you are going too fast.
  • Make sure to ask answer all of the questions that have been posed by the client
  • Salutation – Some are very sensitive to being addressed by their first names or worse yet NO NAME! When in doubt, use Mr., Mrs., or Dr. (if appropriate). When you are replying to an email and the sender of the original message has used his or her first name only, then you could safely assume it’s okay to use that person’s first name as well.
  • Avoid writing your message using all uppercase letters. It might be faster to type but it looks like you’re shouting. Don’t use all small letters either. Some people say it will make it seem like you’re mumbling.

Creating the right “tone”

  • E-mail lacks the formatting of print and the body language of in-person communication; the words themselves carry more feeling. Moreover, e-mail messages are read quickly, so an inappropriate tone can distract your reader and obstruct your message.
  • It’s easy for e-mail writers to let their tone slip from professional to edgy or sarcastic. E-mail emboldens writers to express thoughts they would never say to a reader’s face. And e-mail is written quickly then sent.
  • Remember the letters: F.A.R – Come across as Friendly, Approachable and Respectful
  • You don’t want to sound curt or demanding.
  • What three words have only 14 letters yet carry a great deal of meaning? Please and Thank You – these are 2 of the most important words we can use in our emails
  • Sometimes just rearranging the paragraphs will help.
  • If you’re writing to someone you’ve communicated with before, you might want to begin by saying “I hope you are well.”
  • Emoticons are little faces made up by arranging parentheses, colons, and semi-colons. Use good judgment here. If you write to someone frequently and you have a less formal relationship, then emoticons are okay. If, however, you’re writing to a prospect or a client that you don’t know very well, stick to words only.
  • Angry e-mails – Abe Lincoln
  • Try to appeal to the clients personality and language orientation


  • Don’t waste words.
  • When possible, be brief. Get to your point as quickly as you can. However, don’t leave out necessary details. If providing a lot of background information will help the recipient answer your query, by all means, include it. You may even want to apologize for being so wordy at the beginning of the message.
  • Use client folders and sub folders.
  • Careful with “Reply To:” You may be including a thread of previous emails that are inappropriate to the recipient
  • Use the “Blind Copy” feature when sending to a group. Remember Outlook will only support a specified number of blind copies
  • Use links to reference material and to your web site
  • Attachments should be added for more information rather than placing data in the dialog box.
  • Timing is critical when sending emails
  • Always place an appropriate, meaningful message in the Subject Line
  • Don’t get trapped into answering emails instantly unless needed.

E-mail as a Tool of Persuasion

  • Always pose a question at the end of the email.
  • Leverage their curiosity and interest
  • Write a compelling and truthful subject line – As with all e-mail, the first hurdle is to write a subject line that says “must open.” Great subject lines telegraph the content of the message and promise a product, service, or outcome of real value.
  • Smash through preoccupation – Your readers are busy – they don’t have time to figure out what you’re offering. They’re impatient, too. They don’t want a tease, a clever anecdote leading up to the main point. Be direct and succinct. Start with a clear statement of what you’re offering.
  • Many e-mail sales messages open with a lengthy reminder to the reader that he’s opted in to the mailing and detailed instructions on how to opt out. This statement is an important courtesy, but at the beginning of the message it squanders prime real estate, the first screen. You must give the reader the “opt in” information, but put it at the end of your message.
  • Deliver one message – If you are trying to get the attention of a prospect, don’t inundate them with EVERYTHING you have to offer. Less is more! Focus on one topic and end with a question.
  • E-mail readers have short attention spans — long enough to digest one message, no more. The best strategy for delivering multiple e-mail sales messages is to write a separate message for each thing you’re trying to sell.
  • Provide Value – In return for opening and reading your communication, give readers something of value: useful information or a special offer, and perhaps something free or discounted.
  • Show Readers How They Will Benefit – It’s not enough just to tell readers about what you offer
  • Include A Call To Action – Your compelling subject line and customer-oriented lead have done the trick: you’ve gotten the reader to open your message. You’ve offered insider information and showed readers how your product or service will benefit them. Now go the distance and tell your readers exactly what you want them to do.

I hope these tips help you to improve the effectiveness of your emails. Email can be a powerful marketing and management tool. Take the time to avoid the traps and it will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Uncategorized, Web Presence.

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