Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Communicating with Intelligence via E-mail

by Tamara Martfeld

I am sure most of you have read an e-mail and wondered about the intelligence of the person who sent it. I know I have. Here are a few tips to help prevent people from wondering about your intelligence when they receive your e-mail.

First of all, whenever you send an e-mail check the spelling. If your e-mail program has a spell check available, use it. My program is set up to have the e-mail checked for spelling before it sends the message. If your program does not have this function copy your message to a program which does have spell check (such as Word), check the spelling, then copy the corrected message back into the e-mail. An alternative is to compose the message in the program with the spell check, check the spelling, then copy into the e-mail. Also look for words which sound the same but are spelled differently, such as “there” and “their”. I think most people will assume that you did not catch such words when proof-reading, but too many of these words used incorrectly and people will start to wonder about your intelligence.

If you are responding to an e-mail, read the e-mail to which you are responding. This sounds simple, but I can tell you my co-workers and I have had several good laughs at responses which make no sense given the original e-mail. Sometimes the response will ask a question clearly answered in the original e-mail, for example: Original e-mail, “The sky is blue.” Response, “What color is the sky?” Other times the response provides a lot of useless information or requests information not really needed to answer the question but fails to provide the information requested, for example: Original e-mail, “Is there a due date for a challenge to our findings and if so, what is the due date?”. Response, “Who is asking this question? Why do they want to know? Is there going to be a challenge? What don’t they like about our findings?” (Why not just provide the answer to the question asked?) Don’t skim an e-mail before replying. Read it. Taking those few extra seconds can prevent you from being laughed at behind your back.

When responding to an e-mail send the e-mail only to those who really need it. Everyone who received the original e-mail does not necessarily need to have your response, so do not reply to “all” automatically. For example, if the person who places supply orders sends out an e-mail to the entire office asking everyone to let the supply person know what supplies each individual needs, everyone does not need to know that you are out of pencils. Replying to “all” will waste the time of everyone who gets your response except the supply person as they have to deal with that item in the in box. It also takes up server space which can be an issues if you are close to the maximum usage or have to pay by how much is being stored on the server. On personal computers it can slow down the machine (personal experience talking). Of course, one e-mail won’t cause these problems. However, multiply that one e-mail by the number of people it is sent to and the number of similar e-mails which are sent and there can be problems and wasted time.

Additionally, think before including additional people to an e-mail. I have frequently been added to an e-mail which was a simple question requiring a simple answer. I did not need to see the e-mail. Neither did the three levels of supervisors of both the original sender and the responder. If your supervisor requires you to add specific people to your e-mail, that is fine. Follow orders. If there is no requirement, most e-mails can be replied only to those already on the list. This is also relevant if you are asking a question. Don’t include people who do not need to be involved. If someone does not respond timely adding your supervisor and the supervisor of the person to whom you sent the e-mail might be needed to get the information, but give the person a chance to respond first. When I am included in an e-mail such as these or in a response to “all” I consider the person to be disrespectful of my time.

The last item has more to do with customer service and common courtesy than intelligence, especially in an office: keep an eye on what is coming in through e-mail. People who are e-mailing you for information may be waiting on your response before they can continue their work. How you do this depends on your desk. If you have a “customer services” desk where your main function is to serve your customers, check the e-mail at least once an hour and more often if you can. If you do not have a “customer service” desk, check the e-mail at least once every four hours, more frequently if you can. Some time management experts state to only check e-mail once a day. I disagree. Checking more frequently enables you to be more responsive and aware. It also gives you a quick break from your tasks and may actually make you more effective due to that break. Responding quickly when possible also gives you a reputation of being helpful and providing good customer service.

I have a “customer service” desk and I check the topic and sender of each e-mail as it comes in. I respond to requests for information as soon as I can, sometimes only saying that I will have to address the question at a specific time in the future so the customer knows I am not ignoring them. My work done efficiently and is generally up-to-date. I am proof it can be done.

I hope these tips help you show you have intelligence when sending e-mails. Have a wonderful Halloween or whatever celebration in which you participate.