Are Your Emails Perfect?

August 14, 2011

by Justine Parsons
Do your emails ever contain errors?

Your emails represent both you and you’re company and poor content containing mistakes will both create a negative impression while possibly relay inaccurate or incomplete information. An email or document with spelling errors will shift the reader’s focus from the message you are conveying to mistakes picked up.  

Proofreading isn’t about being good at spelling, it is attention to detail and the rewards speak for themselves.

  • You should always re-read your emails before you send them out. Its best if you can give yourself breathing space before proofing by “queueing” emails before you send them, or saving them as drafts. But even if you want to send a message immediately, a second look could be a life-saver.
  • Proofread your emails before sending them for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Use your spell checker to pick up obvious typos and the search and replace feature to find commonly mispelt words (their/there, it’s/its, your/you’re, to/too).
  • Be on the lookout for any ambiguous statements that might easily be misunderstood. Intent and meaning are frustratingly hard to convey by email since the recipient only has the words they’re reading to go by, with no clue about your mood or frame of mind when you wrote them.  When you re-read your email sometime after it was written, often tone or content will differ from what you had in mind.
  • Stay well clear of emotions and tones; sarcasm is particularly dangerous, since it relies on voice clues that are completely absent in an email.
  • If you’re angry, remember that an email sent in haste can’t be recalled. It’s also potential “evidence” that’s out there, effectively in the public domain. After all, you have no control over what the recipient will do with it: they could repost it on a blog or website, send it to the media – or use it as ammunition in building a legal case against you.
  • Is all the information you meant to include in the email actually there? For example, have you included any attachments you referred to in your message? Have you answered the questions you were meant to answer? ALL of them?
  • Finally, is there anything in the message that could come back to haunt you later? Remember that emails can be re-circulated instantly, and they effectively live forever.
  • If you have has problems with accuracy in your emails, try printing them out to proofread.  Read the email backwards in order to concentrate on each word or place a piece of paper over the next line to ensure you don’t read too fast.
  • Read your email aloud to ensure your grammar is correct and sentences flow nicely.
  • Proof for each problem seperately and mark each problems in a different colour.  For example, spelling and punctuation in red pen, grammar in blue and content alterations in green.
  • Ask someone else to proofread your email; forward to another staff member, a friend or a professional.  They will often pick up errors you may miss.
  • Get into a routine of proofreading every document you produce.  While tedious at first you will soon get into a habit and the benefits more than outweigh any additional time you may have to spend.
  • If you don’t have time to proofread yourself, forward your email/documemnt or copy to Your Virtual Assistant.  I will get your document back to you promptly and highlight any corrections or editing suggestions for your approval.
Note: Newsletters and Websites are critical documents to have zero errors.  These documents represent your company and errors will reduce the investment and the ‘professional’ image you are trying to protray.
Pop Quiz: How many errors are there in this document; did they annoy you?

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