Hey there stranger!

and

Hey y’all!

After moving into a new position with USO-Metro, I thought I would take a little time off to focus on the new role. Well… That hiatus ended up taking on a year (plus) life of its own. I have FINALLY had some time to work on new and creative pieces which I am excited to share with y’all.

As I continue to work on new material and pull from the experiences I have had, I am also looking to collect more ideas from my readers. What questions do y’all have and what do y’all want to know more about in the world of protocol and etiquette? Send me your questions and suggestions! You can submit them to my “Contact Me” page or comment directly on this post. I love being able to write posts directly focused on my readers and I look forward to seeing what y’all are interested in knowing more about!

Keep your eyes out for a new post next week!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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

Tailgating with Class and Style!

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Football season is officially underway! As a BIG fan of college football (Go Terps! 🐢 Go Navy! ⚓️), it is one of the many reasons why Fall is my favorite season! As if the game itself is not enough to get you excited, having a well-planned tailgate is the best way to start the day! Here are my tips for how to kick-off your game day experience in the best way:

  1. Get in the Team Spirit!
    • Tie in your team colors and symbols to the table, tent, and lawn decor.
    • Dress the part! It’s time to break out those team tees, dresses in your team colors, and accessories that add to the team spirit (hello turtle earrings, anchor adorned purse, and team koozies!)
    • Football shaped food and mascot inspired trays or desserts are always a hit!
    • Make a signature cocktail that ties into your theme or your team, use festive drink stirs, or serve a beer that ties into your team name!
  2. Be Inclusive, Not Confrontational
    • While we all have our favorite teams and love our alma maters, be inclusive of those who may be cheering for the other team. Add a little of their team color or invite them to bring a dish tied to their team.
    • While a little bit of friendly competition is always fun, avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with fans of the other team. Remember, you are there to have fun – not to “bad mouth” others!
  3. Plan Ahead
    • Tailgates can range in size from small and simple to large and extravagant (I’ve seen it all!). No matter what size your tailgate, the following always apply:
      • Be sure to have an accurate count of how many people will be attending and buy/make your dishes accordingly. Running out of food and beverages is never a good thing!
      • Bring plenty of ice for drinks and food. Keep any food that needs refrigerated in coolers and ensure it will stay cold the duration of the day or else you will end having to throw it out (you do not want anyone to get sick).
      • Label your coolers to avoid confusion.
      • Remember trash bags and clean-up as you go.
      • If you are hosting, make a timeline for your set-up and when you need to start cooking. No one wants to miss kick-off!
      • Bring chairs for people to take a rest. You do not need enough for every person, but a decent number is always appreciated!
      • Here is a great checklist for all your tailgating needs!
      • Plan for the weather! If it’s a chilly day, bring along your favorite team sweaters and stadium blankets. Rain in the forecast? Get ready to set-up those tents!
      • Noon kick-off, how do you tailgate for breakfast?! Get those donuts, bagels, egg bakes, grilled bacon/ham/etc, and mimosas ready!
  4. There Is More to Tailgating than Eating
    • While the food (and drinks) usually take center stage at any tailgate, there are plenty of other fun things to do as well!
      • Just as you would in your home, be an excellent host/hostess and introduce guests to those who do not know each other.
      • Bring lawn games! Corn hole, ladder ball, bocce ball, and playing football in the parking lot are all fun ways to get people up and moving.
  5. Not Hosting, Just Invited to Tailgate?
    • Ask what dish, dessert, or drinks you can contribute to the tailgate.
    • Always help with clean-up!
    • Be a classy attendee – Dress for theme/your team and as mentioned earlier, avoid confrontation with others (especially from the opposing team).
    • Be social with the others at the tailgate and make an effort to meet new people!
    • If you have your own chairs, it is always a friendly gesture to bring them along.

For more tailgating inspiration (decor, food/drink, and games), visit my Pinterest board! Happy Fall and Football y’all!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Time to Hit the Gym!

Gym EtiquetteIt’s that time of year… When we all the hit the gym extra hard to get ready for the summer and beach weather! With this in mind, here are my tips for being a courteous gym member and workout buddy!

  1. Greet the front desk staff when you sign-in for the day!
  2. When using the locker room:
    • Be sure to leave room for others. Do not spread out all your personal belongings across the bench.
    • When changing or heading to the showers, avoid being totally naked. Use a towel or at least stay in your underwear.
    • Place all your personal belongings in a locker, do not leave anything laying out.
    • Use a lock for your locker.
  3. Personal Appearance
    • Wear appropriate gym clothes.
      • For the ladies, avoid booty shorts (NOTE: there is a difference between yoga shorts and booty shorts) and letting the girls hang out. A supportive sports bra is not only appropriate, but you will thank yourself later for investing in good undergarments.
    • Use deodorant! Let’s be honest, we all sweat, but let’s try to keep the smells to a minimum.
    • The mirror in the class studio and weight-room is to check your form on exercises. Avoid checking yourself out and/or fixing your outfit, hair, or makeup.
  4. Be conscious of a busy gym and/or if there is a wait for machines.
    • Do not be a “machine hog.” If someone is waiting to use the same machine as you, take turns alternating sets.
    • The gym can get pretty crowded, do not try to wedge yourself into a tiny space between people. Be sure you have enough room for your exercises, but also be aware of taking more room than you need. NOTE: This is especially true during fitness classes!
    • Leave your cell phone behind! The gym is not the place to be snapping selfies, checking emails or Facebook, or responding to text messages especially when it is busy and people are waiting.
    • If you know an exercise class fills up fast, arrive early to ensure your spot in the class.
  5. Respect other people’s privacy.
    • Some people do not like to socialize while at the gym. If someone has headphones in or you can tell they are super serious about the workout, let him/her be and speak to him/her after the workout.
    • Try to avoid staring at people or watching others workout. If you are interested in the workout someone is doing, ask him/her about it after he/she completes the workout.
    • With that being said, still be a friendly individual. Smile and/or say hello as you walk past people.
    • Keep your comments to yourself.
      • Unless you are a personal trainer or member of the gym staff, do not critique other people’s workout.
      • If someone is not in shape, DO NOT make fun of him/her. They are there working hard to get in shape, encourage them!
  6. Control the Noise.
    • Avoid dropping weights on the ground when you are done with your set. Not only is it distracting, it’s not good for the weights or the gym floor.
    • Keep your headphones to a level at which you can hear them and get pumped up, but not motivate the entire gym (not everyone enjoys the same music).
    • Limit the grunting, groaning, and other expressive noises. Your goal should not be to have everyone looking at you, take Kevin Hart’s advice and do not be one these guys. 😉 (click bolded material for video links)
  7. Clean up after yourself!
    • Wipe down the machines and mats you use when you are done. All gyms now have sanitary wipes ready for use!
    • Put back all the equipment you use (free weights, medicine balls, kettlebells, etc.) to where it belongs.
    • If you used a towel from the gym, be sure to place it in the hamper.

What gym etiquette questions/suggestions do you have? I hope these tips help improve your exercising experience!

Happy Fitness!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How to Have a Friendly Debate

I recently had a difference of opinion on a “manners moment” with someone close to me. We both believed different actions should have been taken and that got us to talking about seeing other people’s points of view. As a result, we had a casual, light-hearted banter to present our own viewpoint. After our discussion, I got to thinking… How do you have a “friendly debate” without it turning into an all-out brawl where every stakeholder has dug in and refuses to agree or see another opinion?

***NOTE: This post is indeed about “friendly debates” and not about matters of great importance such as financial issues, health matters, family decisions, political debates, romantic relationships, or business deals. However, some of these tips may help!***

  1. Keep the Topic “Light”
    • A common saying is, “Never discuss money, politics, or personal life (aka sex).” If a topic you are uncomfortable with gets brought up, politely decline to engage in the conversation.
    • Ensure the conversation/debate stays on topic and does not turn into a discussion about other issues or previous grievances.
    • Laugh about things, laugh at yourself! Sometimes when you get into a debate and outlandish ideas are being discussed, you have to take a step back and just laugh at the crazy debate you have somehow ended up having.
      • NOTE: If someone is strongly expressing an opinion, be cautious about laughing. Some people get extremely offended if they feel like they are being laughed at or mocked for their viewpoint.
  2. Present Your View Strongly, Yet Democratically
    • If you are expressing something you truly care about, ensure you express that sentiment while still making it OK for the other person to potentially disagree with you.
    • Do not force your opinion/viewpoint on the other person.
    • Be knowledgeable of what you are discussing. If you are not knowledgeable on the subject, politely decline the conversation and never make up information you are unsure is true.
    • Never act like you are better than the other person’s opinion and be sure you are truly ready to hear their side.
  3. What Do You Do If Someone Offends You?
    • First, ask him/her to clarify what they meant by the comment. Sometimes, people say something without thinking about how it will come across or they simply use the wrong words. Before getting upset with someone, be sure you have the same understanding of what was said.
    • After clarifying, if what was said truly offends you, stand up for yourself. Be confident in yourself yet gracious when you say, “Excuse me, the comment you just made is extremely offensive/hurtful/unkind of you to say.”
    • Explain why. It does not have to be a lengthy or personal description, but explaining why something is offensive/hurtful in a polite way allows the other person to learn how to correct the behavior in the future.
    • If the person refuses to back-down from the comment, it is time to end the conversation.
  4. When It Is Over, It Is OVER.
    • After both parties have described their thoughts/viewpoints allow each other to ask and answer questions.
    • Once the conversation is done, move onto something else. Do not continue to rehash the same argument.
    • Do not be the person who has to “have the last word.” No one likes someone who always has to prove a point or have the last say on a matter.

Often times, you most likely will not come to a solid answer/compromise. What is important to recognize is that you have the ability to not only standup for your own opinions/viewpoints democratically, but you also have the ability respect for others who may be different than you. Many of these “friendly debates” will teach you something new and push you to think in ways or consider things you have not. Just remember to keep an open-mind and always be cordial during a difference of opinion.

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

Sharing the Love!

Photo Credit: Parrot Design Studio

Photo Credit: Parrot Design Studio

In honor of Valentine’s Day on Saturday, I am sharing the love this week and highlighting some of my favorite etiquette experts and notable figures for their Valentine’s Day articles. Here are my top 5 picks – There is a little something for everyone no matter how you are celebrating this year!

  1. All My Single Ladies! Check out “Cupid’s Corner: The Single Girl’s Guide to Valentine’s Day” by Allison Norton of LaurenConrad.com
  2. It’s Just a Date – If you are going out with someone new or it is just a date for the evening, read “Dating Etiquette: 7 Ways to Engage in Intellectual Foreplay on Valentine’s Day” by Jacqueline Whitmore
  3. For the Couple – Be sure to read “7 Commons Mistakes Couples Make on Valentine’s Day” by Jacqueline Whitmore
  4. Girl’s Night In! Get some great ideas from “A Valentine’s Dinner Party with Your Girlfriends” by Diane Gottsman
  5. And for all the gentlemen out there, read a great article from Good Guy Swag titled “Valentine’s Day Checklist: 5 Things to Make it Instaworthy” by Kris Wolfe

Wishing you all a wonderful day full of love, laughter, and lots of pink! Happy Valentine’s!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra