Two years ago, I was furious about something that a crew member did on the documentary I was making. I dashed off an email about this person's crude behavior to my producer, who I knew would feel the same. I let loose with a sea of exclamation marks and choice words, and felt significantly better when I was finished. I took a deep breath and hit send--and proceeded to send it to the crew member I'd just been bashing.
When I realized what I'd done, my jaw dropped cartoon-style, and I broke out into a sweat. I tried desperately to come up with solutions: I could tell the crew member that I'd sent this email to the wrong person; I could say I was in the midst of a flu that left me delirious; I could tell her it was all just a joke...but none of these made much sense. In the end, I had to call her and explain why I was angry while trying to undo the emotional fall-out of my ticking-bomb email. We never did really recover from that experience. I can tell you that this type of situation has never happened again. I triple-check whose name I type into the "To" field before hitting send. And if there is any thought that my email could create this kind of havoc in the wrong hands, I pick up the phone and leave no trail.
We are all susceptible to making email mistakes in our fast-moving minutes. For working moms--whose brains are overloaded with calendar dates, deadlines, requests, needs, lists, worries and ideas--it's even easier to make gaffs. There is no question we all need to slow down. But I've also learned that many of us aren't altogether sure about some basic email etiquette, so I was excited to talk recently with Barbara Pachter, an expert in business communications training, whose upcoming book is The Essentials of Business Etiquette (McGraw Hill). Barbara was kind enough to answer common questions about email manners.
Is it okay to use email to send a thank-you note?
In today’s business-casual world, an email thank-you note is acceptable. Email still doesn’t replace the personal quality of a handwritten note, but if you want the note to get to the person quickly, you need to use email.
Do I need to use a salutation?
Email doesn’t technically require a salutation, since it is in memo format. And when email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people started adding a salutation to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings.
I received an email that clearly wasn’t intended for me. Should I let the sender know?
If the sender will be expecting a reply, you need to let that person know. One woman in a similar situation wrote: I know you’re very busy, but I don’t think you meant to send this email to me. And I wanted to let you know so you can send it to the correct person.
I need to send an email to a group of people. What would be an appropriate salutation? I have used, “Hi all,” but that sounds awkward.
You could use “Hello Everyone.” You could also just say “Hello.”
I never know at what point I no longer need to respond to someone’s email. Any suggestions?
If the person needs to know that you received the information, or the person has helped you, you need to respond. A quick “Thanks” is usually all that is needed.
Pachter & Associates is an international communications company providing group training and individual coaching in the areas of Business Etiquette, Assertive Communication, Presentation Skills, Women in Business, International Etiquette, Positive Confrontation and Business Writing. Visit www.pachter.com for more info.