The Contents of a Great Email

Email Etiquette

Photo Credit: Inspired by This

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunching responses together. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “BCC.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only, most likely in person.
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Best Wishes,” “Cheers!,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your office phone number, email address, and company/organization web address. Be sure the signature block template is company/office-wide!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending.

By incorporating these extra touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Email Etiquette: Handling a Busy Inbox

In both our professional and personal lives, we often receive a high volume of emails on a daily basis. On those days when your inbox is so full you are almost scared to open it, how should you handle the massive amount of inquiries that need a response? Here are my tips for managing a busy inbox!

  1. Wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email in the morning
    • Help yourself to start the day on the right foot. No one wants to wake up and start answering emails right away. So, give yourself 30 minutes to get your day started without the distraction of technology. If there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • If you start answering emails, I am rather sure you will never be ready for work on time. Get yourself ready to conquer the day then go conquer!
  2. Skim your inbox to find the high priority subjects
    • When you first open your inbox, start by looking through the recipients and the subject lines to ensure you read the high priority emails first.
    • Make a mental list of the priority of the rest of your emails and work from that point.
    • If you know it is junk mail, delete it.
  3. Read your inbox emails and your written replies more than once
    • If you have an email that you know requires your undivided attention or further research, mark it is as unread and return to it once you have all the information you need. Nothing is worse than responding to an email and realizing you missed the key questions that needed a response or you left out the bulk of your reasoning and needed follow-up questions.
    • Read your reply more than once to ensure you hit the key points and your grammar, delivery, and thought process come across as you wish.
    • If you have an assistant or co-worker, ask them to proofread your reply if you are unsure about something.
    • If you are writing about a sensitive or emotional topic, write a draft response then step away from it for a while. Come back to it when you have thought about it more and then edit it. If you need to, do this a few times to ensure your email reads as you wish.
  4. Unsubscribe to the hordes of advertisements you receive
    • Every store, news outlet, etc. wants you to be part of their listserv… It is OK to say no or to unsubscribe.
    • Keep the places/sources you regularly use and unsubscribe from those that simply clog your inbox with the daily/weekly reminders.
  5. If you are going out town or will be unavailable by email, use an out-of-office automatic reply
    • Not only does this help to manage people’s expectations of when they will receive a response, it will also provide them with contact information in case of an emergency.
    • An example of a simple, yet effective out-of-office reply is:
      “Sir/Ma’am,

      Thank you for you for contacting me. I am out of the office without access to/with limited access to my email and will not return until Monday, 23 February. If this is an urgent matter, please contact my office (or specify a co-worker if he/she is taking over your work in your absence) at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

      I look forward to speaking with you soon. Have a great day!”

  6. Keep all your emails in archived/organized folders
    • You never know when you may need to reference an old email or find someone’s contact information.
    • Once you have responded to an email, move it into the proper folder. This will let you know you have replied to the email, reduce the number of emails in your inbox, and give you a place to look back to if you need to review a message in the future.
  7. Some emails need an in-person or phone response
    • If you receive an email you know you need to respond to, but do not feel it is appropriate to respond via email or that a more in-depth conversation should be had, call the person or schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.
  8. Have a technology curfew
    • Set a time for yourself when you put your phone/tablet/laptop away at night.
    • Do one final review of your inbox and ensure nothing urgent came in or that you missed anything from earlier in the day then turn it off until tomorrow! As I said about the morning email check, if there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • A lot of research has been showing exposure to blue-light (the light in tech gadgets) at night, prevents a good night’s sleep and reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. A recent Washington Post article speaks to research on the matter.

I hope these tips help you to manage your busy inbox more successfully! Most importantly, remember everyone deserves a response, but be mindful of how and when you respond.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Stockings.. To Wear or Not to Wear?

When planning a professional wardrobe, a commonly overlooked accessory (or to me, a basic) is hosiery. While some may think it is “old fashioned” to wear stockings, I find it gives you an extra touch of polish and finishes off a professional look. In a more casual office environment, stockings may not be necessary; however, in a strictly professional environment, I believe they are a must!

  1. You Can Never Go Wrong With Flesh-Toned Stockings!
    • These are a legitimate staple in my wardrobe year-round! Pair them with a pencil skirt or work dress to finish off your professional look!
    • Find a pair that matches your skin tone and stock up! Unfortunately, stockings do run or get a snag in them so make sure you have quite a few pairs.
      • Word to the Wise: Keep a pair in your desk drawer in case you get a run at work. Also, keep clear nail polish handy to prevent a slight snag from turning into a major run.
    • Depending on the time of year, you may need different colored stockings. Just like you have to change your foundation and/or bronzer depending on how much sun you are getting, you should do the same for your stockings. You do not want your legs to look dark and the rest of you to look pale in the middle of winter!
  2. Does the Time of Year of Make a Difference?
    • Personally, I wear flesh-toned or sheer black stockings year-round. They truly are a wardrobe staple for me and give a more professional feel.
    • During the Fall and Winter, it is extremely easy to incorporate stockings into your professional wardrobe. From the tights and boots look to simply wearing stockings to stay warm, you can always make them work with your outfit.
  3. Colored Tights or Tights with Designs?
    • I caution you to tread lightly in this area!
    • A little color is always a fun way to add some flare to your wardrobe, but ensure your look stays professional.
      • I do not recommend brightly colored tights or wearing colored tights (pink, purple, red, etc.) with a neutral (beige, navy, gray, or black) outfit.
      • Only wear colored tights if they match the color scheme of your outfit and do not stand out in a distracting way.
    • Keep the designs professional!
      • You should never be caught in fishnets at the office.
      • Be careful with lace tights, they may be too sexy for the office.
      • Tights with small polka dots – cute!
  4. Still Unsure If You Should Wear Stockings?
    • The best designator of if you should wear stockings is to look around the office and at your management. If other women are wearing hosiery, that is a good sign you should be too!
    • At the same time, if no one in your office wears hosiery, but you feel more comfortable and professional doing so, then you absolutely can wear stockings.
    • Personal Example: I work in a military settings. Female Service Members are required to wear stockings as part of their uniform anytime they wear a skirt. In order to match this professionalism, I always wear stockings when I wear a skirt or dress.

Overall, you want the stockings/tights you wear to enhance your professional appearance and not take away from it. If you have never worn stockings, give them a try! You may end up loving the way they finish off your professional look!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Being Polite While Using Your Cell Phone

As a result of the tech-age we currently live in, a lot has changed when it comes to social interactions. However, somethings should not change. Being polite during social interactions and being respectful to those around you should always be at the forefront of your mind. Seeing as we use technology, especially our cell phones, in all aspects of our lives, this week I am breaking down cell phone etiquette into the 3 most prominent settings – Work, Social, and General Public usage.

  1.  At Work
    • Put your phone away when you are arriving and leaving work so you interact and say hello/goodbye to those in your office.
    • Silence your cell phone when you are in the office, especially if you work in an open space or cubicles with other people. Hearing your phone ring or alerts go off can be very distracting to those around you.
    • Refrain from using your cell during meetings and other people’s presentations unless you are adding things to your calendar or referring to it in order to review current events. Even with that, be cautious – it may still look like you are texting or not paying attention to the presenter.
    • Take notes with a pen and paper, not on your phone. If you do not have good handwriting, cannot write quickly, or need the information recorded to send-out immediately, use a tablet or laptop to take notes, but be sure not to have any other windows open.
    • If you work in an open space or in cubicles, excuse yourself to take a personal call on your cell phone. It allows you to keep your privacy and also prevents you from distracting your co-workers.
    • If you have a work/company cell phone, use it only for work purposes and never for personal use.
  2. In Social Settings (On a Date, Out with Friends, Visiting Family)
    • Put your phone away and give the people you are with your undivided attention. After all, you are out to be socializing with them and not with other people via your phone or social media.
    • Silence your cell phone. If your phone is continuously ringing and you keep checking it, you will offend the people you are with by making it seem like you are too busy to be there.
    • If you are driving with other people in your car and using Bluetooth throughout the car, make sure whoever you are speaking to knows they are on speaker phone. Also, unless it is an important call, let the caller know you are driving with other people and will call them back.
  3. In Public
    • If you are taking a call in public, use your “inside voice.” No one around you wants to hear your conversation.
    • Do not be on your phone when you are at the check-out counter or someone in a store is assisting you.
    • If you need to take a call that you know will make you emotional (upset, cry, raise your voice, etc.), find a private place to use your phone or stay in your call until the call is over and you have collected yourself. If you are getting heated about something over the phone, it makes people around you feel uncomfortable and quite frankly, you will embarrass yourself.
  4. All the Time
    • Do not text and drive!
    • If you are awaiting an important call and you need to have your phone with you during a meeting, appointment, meal, etc., simply let the people around you/who you are with know. When the calls comes, excuse yourself and take the call in private.
    • If you accidentally text the wrong person, simply send a follow-up text to saying, “I’m sorry, that text was not meant for you. Please ignore it.” Then, be thoughtful and add something like, “But how have you been?”
    • Lock your phone so you do not accidentally call someone while your phone is in your purse, pocket, etc.

I hope these tips help you to be more “Tech-Proper” 😉 Remember, when you are with other people:

put your phone down

If you have questions, suggestions, or comments on this topic or any other topic, please leave a reply for me!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Having a Successful, First Professional Interaction

This week, I have the opportunity to connect with a professional in my field and ask her my questions about her career, the field, and what it takes to “make it.” I want to ensure I make a great first impression so I have put a lot of time into preparing for my phone call with her. Part of my prep has been to think about what goes into making this a great conversation so, I am sharing some tips on how to have a successful professional interaction.

  1. Do your research!
    • Find the professional’s bio and be familiar with his/her backgroud and professional story.
    • If the professional has started their own company, business, etc., research that as well.
    • Check out his/her social media (TV appearances/interviews, LinkedIn, Twitter, Professional Website or Blog, Professional Facebook page, Pinterest etc.).
    • Pull out some “fun facts” or things you have in common to show you are interested in him/her as an individual and not just a professional. This also helps ease into the business conversation.
  2. Be prepared
    • Once you have done your background research, create a list of questions and topics you want to discuss. Come up with new and inventive questions! By this, I mean make sure your questions are not answered by the information readily available to you in the research you did in step one. If you have questions about career progression, ask for suggestions on how to gain experience, what credentials are important in the field, and what training/educational opportunities are available.
  3. Be persistent, yet patient and polite
    • It may take a few tries before hearing back from the person or being able to schedule a time to meet with him/her. Make sure you ask the professional, “When is best for your schedule?” and find a way to meet the time they give you.
    • It may not be possible to meet the person as quickly as you hope. The fact you are establishing contact via email or phone before being able to meet in a person is a great accomplishment and first step so keep in touch with the individual!
  4. Be focused
    • Whether meeting in person or speaking over the phone, environment is key. Be sure to choose a location with minimal distractions and not a lot of noise: You want to ensure you will stay engaged in the conversation (and be able to hear!).
      • If the meeting is taking place in person and not at the professional’s office, choose a small, quiet coffee shop or bistro where you can sit and talk easily.
      • If you will be speaking over the phone, be sure you are sitting somewhere you will not be distracted by other people.
        • Close the door to your office, room, etc.
        • Silence notifications on your phone
        • Do not have things open on your computer which will distract you
  5. Express your gratitude and thanks!
    • The professional you are connecting with no doubt has a busy schedule because he/she is successful in the field (after all, that is why you are making the connection!). Be sure to thank him/her each time you connect.
      • For example, “Thank you for be so willing to speak/meet with me. I greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule.”
    • You can always send a thank you note! People appreciate you taking the time to recognize their effort.

I hope these tips give you a boost of confidence to make a positive and successful professional interaction. Now get out there and start networking! If you have questions about any of these tips or something I did not mention, please leave a comment!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra