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

Take a Tour, A Wine Tour!

As Spring gets into full swing and the weather allows for more outdoor activities, I know many of you will be off to the vineyards for wine tastings! For those of us (including me!) who are not wine connoisseurs, wine tastings can be intimidating if you are not knowledgeable of the different types or what you like. Wine tasting is the perfect time to learn! Here are a few tips to get you ready and help craft you into a wine expert!

Wine and Food Pairing

Wine and Food Pairing

  1. Plan ahead.
    • Schedule your wine tasting ahead of time especially if you are in a large group. This helps wineries plan for guests and assign you the correct number of wine hosts.
    • Plan your transportation. You will be drinking so be sure to have a designated driver or get a limo/party bus/etc to take your group to and from the wineries.
  2. Dress the part 🙂 While wearing something more casual is certainly appropriate, I would at least wear nice jeans and a pretty top (for ladies) and a polo or casual button down (for gentlemen). Depending on the weather, sun dresses are an excellent option! Many wineries have indoor/outdoor tasting areas and/or places to eat so be cognizant of your options. Additionally, some wineries are more casual than other. Do your research and look up the winery prior to your tour.
    • Avoid perfumes, creams, and hair products with overpowering smells. A part of wine tasting is being able to smell the aromas. If you have too much perfume, etc. on it will interfere with the experience.
  3. Give the wine host (the person who describes and pours the wine) your full attention. This is the perfect time to learn more about wine, how it is made, and about the winery/vineyard itself. The wine host will give a thorough description of what to expect from the wine and why it has certain flavors. Often times, you will also be told what foods go well with each type of wine you taste – This is important to learn so you can be an excellent host/hostess and pair your wine with what you serve!
  4. Have your manners.
    • When in the tasting room/area, keep your voice to a conversational tone. There are typically several parties in the area; therefore, you do not want to be the loud group everyone stares at because they cannot hear amongst their own group or worse, hear their wine host.
    • Be aware of how much you are drinking. During a wine tasting, you are given a small amount of each wine. You may not think you are drinking very much, but it starts to add up over multiple wines/tastings. Be classy and avoid the embarrassment of drunken behavior in a refined setting.
    • Sip your wine. Do not gulp the whole tasting at once. (More on this in just bit!)
  5. Hold your wine glass by the stem. It is not only proper to do so, it is also practical. When drinking white wines they are typically chilled; therefore, putting your had around the globe of the glass will warm the wine. Red wines are enhanced by exposure to the air so having a wider globe helps this process. Hold the glass by the stem for red wines as well.
  6. What if I do not like a certain wine?
    • If you know beforehand that you do not care for a particular wine, simply place your hand over your glass when the wine host gets to you and say “no thank you.” The wine host will understand. This way is much more appropriate and discreet than exclaiming “I do not like that wine” to your host and the rest of your group.
    • If you are unsure about a wine, take a small sip first. If you do not like it, do not spit it out. Swallow the small amount you have and then discard the remaining amount in the “dump bucket.”
  7. Will there be food?
    • Eat before you arrive or plan a meal in conjunction with your tasting trip. At most tasting, small snacks of crackers and/or cheese will be set out. These are simply to cleanse your palette between wines, not to act as hors d’oeuvres or a meal. Wineries are a great place for a picnic!
    • If you have selected to do a wine and food pairing, then you will be given food, but it will be small, bite-size samples of each course.
      • Remember: Sip. Taste. Sip. This allows you to taste the wine on it’s own first then taste it again after eating to see how the food influences the flavor.
  8. Do I have to buy a wine after a tasting? While it is encouraged to do so, you are not obligated to buy any wine after a tasting. If you do find you like then by all means go for it!

Have you ever had a wine etiquette dilemma? I hope these tips help you feel more confident as you explore the world of wine!

Happy Tasting!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Tips to Succeed on a Telephone Interview

As if interviewing for a job is not nerve-racking enough, we often have to do it twice with most first round interviews taking place over the phone. Interviewing over the phone has a whole different feel and can cause you to feel anxious for it’s own reasons, but there are also plenty of positives. This week, I am sharing my tips on how to succeed on your next telephone interview.

  1. Look the Part
    • Be dressed professionally, or however is most appropriate for the position. It will put you in the mood of that career opportunity and make you feel more in-touch with the opportunity you are pursuing.
    • Keep the desk or table you are sitting at neat. You do not want to have things cluttered around you or be distracted by other projects.
  2. Body Language – It still applies!
    • SMILE! 🙂 It will help to make you less tense during the conversation.
    • Talk with your hands. If you are someone who does this naturally, it can help you talk through interview questions and it will make you more engaged/lively in the conversation.
      • NOTE: In an interview or any professional interaction, be cautious of being too boisterous with your hand gestures. No one wants to feel like you’re jumping across the table at them or about to accidentally hit them.
    • Focus your eyes. Whether you look at a photo of the person you are speaking to, something directly in front of you, or your notes, try to focus your eyes and keep your head up. Looking around the room because you do not have a person to keep eye contact with can make you “space out” and lose track of the conversation or miss an important piece of information.
  3. Be Prepared
    • The great thing about a phone interview is you can keep your notes and research right near you!
      • Have a copy of your resume, the job description, and any other supporting material you submitted, printed out so you can reference it.
      • Keep the company’s or institution’s website open. You never know if you may have to look something up in a hurry.
      • Read the bios of the company’s leadership – This can help you to connect with them if they are your interviewers or it can help you impress the interviewer by being familiar with your employer’s background and showing your ability to connect on a personal level.
      • Know the mission and vision of the company and have a “plug” on how you can contribute to and enhance it.
      • If you know there are questions you are nervous to answer or think you may stumble over, prepare responses to them and write down bullet points to help you.
    • Prepare questions for your interviewer.
      • Honestly think about the things you want to know about the company, the work environment, the job itself, etc. and make sure you leave with a comprehensive understanding of the position.
      • Takes notes during the interview so you can look back at what you have discussed. If something pops up that you did not understand or did not get a full explanation of, go back to that topic and ask new questions.
  4. How do I end this call?!
    • After the interview is complete, ask about next steps.
      • It is perfectly acceptable to ask how the interview/candidate process works after this point.
      • If the interviewer asks you for additional information, be sure you know how to get it to the interviewer (email, website, in the mail, etc.).
    • Say thank you!
      • Tell your interviewer you appreciate him/her taking the time to interview you and for considering you for the position.
      • Actually say the words, “thank you.”
  5. Follow-Up
    • Send a thank-you note to your interviewer no later than 24 hours after the interviewer – the sooner the better. Express your gratitude and also restate your interest in the position.
    • If you do not hear from the interviewer by the date they say they will contact you, it is OK to follow-up with him/her; however, only do it once. Do not bombard the person on a daily basis trying to get information.

Overall, treat your telephone interview like an in-person interview. Give your interviewer your full, undivided attention, do all the prep work you normally would, and execute with confidence! Good luck on your phone interviews! Wishing you all much success and many second interviews and job offers!

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

The Essential Table Manners

As the holidays approach, we will all soon be gathering around the table with family, friends, and loved ones. In the spirit of enjoying such divine meals, having good tables is an incredibly important asset yet so commonly overlooked. From social to professional settings, food defines our culture and is present everywhere. Whether you are with family, friends, coworkers, a new client, or distinguished guests and dignitaries, it is always important to mind your manners, especially at the table.

This week, I am sharing my list of the essential table manners everyone should follow.

  1. “Sit Pretty” aka Have Good Posture at the Table
    • Sit straight in your chair with your shoulders back.
    • Keep both legs on the ground in front of you. If you want to cross your legs, cross at your ankles.
    • Pull your chair up to the table so you can comfortably reach everything at your place setting and your legs are under the table.
  2. Use a Napkin
    • Place it in your lap when you take your seat and keep it there the remainder of the meal.
    • Wipe your mouth with your napkin, not your hands.
    • If something gets on you fingers, wipe it on your napkin. Licking your fingers is not a good look!
  3. Avoid Gulping, Slurping, and Playing with Things
    • Drink your beverage slowly and smoothly. Do not gulp it down.
    • Avoid playing with your straw, chewing on it, and making sucking noises with it.
    • Leave your utensils where they are until you are ready to use them.
    • Put the spoon in your mouth when eating soup or cereal to avoid slurping it off the end.
  4. Basic Manners Run Down
    • Wait to begin eating until everyone has been served and the hostess begins eating.
    • Use the butter knife to cut a piece of butter from the full stick and place it on your bread plate. Use your own knife to spread the butter on your roll/bread.
    • When eating bread, gently pull off one bite from the roll and butter that piece only. Do this for ever piece.
    • Always pass the salt and pepper together. Even if someone asks for only salt, pass them both. Salt and pepper are “attached at the hip.”
    • If eating “family style,” the Guest of Honor (seated to the right of the host) is served first then pass the serving dishes to your right around the table.
    • Bring food up to your mouth. Do not bend down to the plate to get food in your mouth.
    • Cut one bite of food at a time, eat that piece, then cut another piece. Repeat for the whole meal!
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • When eating spaghetti, use the side of your plate to twirl the pasta on your fork. A spoon should not be used.

Please keep these essential table manners in mind, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. These tips will truly help you in both the social and professional setting by giving you that little extra touch of polish! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send them my way!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Attending a Military Ball or Formal!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote “You Got Invited to a Military Ball!” Well, the time is here! In honor of the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day next week, I am sharing my tips for attending a military formal. Now that you have done all the prep work to get ready, it is time to attend this fabulous and fun event!

  1. Arriving at the Ball
    • There’s no such thing as being fashionably late in the military. The military is a punctual culture and to them, arriving on time is arriving late.
      • Note: With that said, cocktail hour does give you a little wiggle room. If it starts at 6:00pm, you should arrive no later than 6:10pm. The cocktail hour is meant for mingling and you are expected to do so. The dinner and ceremony will run on a schedule and you typically do not get up to socialize during them.
    • Your date will escort you “arm-and-arm” on his/her right (the place of honor). Since it is a formal setting with a social aspect, it is unlikely he/she will be required to render salutes.
      • Service members are not allowed to hold hands in uniform and PDA in uniform is a “no go.”
    • If there is a receiving line, be prepared to shake hands (potentially a lot of them)
      • The first person in the line is the announcer. You simply tell the announcer your name and do not shake his/her hand. The host is next followed by the guest(s) of honor.
      • You should not have anything in your hands. If the receiving line is not at the front door, make sure you skip the bar and appetizers until after you go through the line. (A purse in your left hand is OK)
      • This is not the place for long conversation. Give a simple greeting and thanks such as, “Sir/Ma’am, it is so nice to meet you. Thank you for hosting me this evening.”
  2. Cocktail Hour
    • Follow your date’s lead on who you need to meet. He/she often has many officers or senior officials who are important to greet.
    • Again, be prepared to shake hands! Always leave your right hand free to shake hands by holding your drink/appetizers (and purse if you have one) in your left hand.
    • Once you are introduced by your date, extend your right hand, say “hello,” and introduce yourself using your first and last name.
    • Under no circumstance should you get drunk. Even though this is a social occasion, it is formal and in no way appropriate to drink too much. It is still the military and your date will get in trouble if something goes wrong or you do something inappropriate. Do NOT be the sloppy guest who needs taken care of and embarrasses his/her date and the host/hostess.
      • If you do not drink, that is perfectly acceptable! Do not let anyone pressure you.
      • If you do drink, I recommend 1 drink during cocktail hour, 1 drink during the course of the meal, and 1 drink post-dinner (dancing and mingling time).
    • During the cocktail hour, check the seating chart/place cards so you know where you to go once you enter the main room.
  3. The Dinner
    • Once you find your table, stand to the right of your seat. If seating is assigned, do not move your place card and rearrange the table. If it is not assigned, you will sit to your date’s right. Also, in social settings, you typically sit alternating men and women.
    • Once everyone for your table arrives, take your seat by entering your chair on the right side.
    • To review dining tips, please refer to my post “8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips.”
    • Be social with your table!
      • If you are seated with people you do not know, be sure to introduce yourself.
      • Do not gossip at the table. No one likes sitting next to the “mean girl” who comments on what everyone is wearing or makes snarky remarks about other people in attendance.
    • If you need to get up from the table, simply say “Excuse me for a moment.” No one needs to know if you have to use the restroom or need to step outside for something.
    • Do not play with your hair or apply make-up at the table.
  4. The Ceremony
    • Read the program! An overview of the service’s and event’s history is typically included as well as the background of your host and guest of honor (their bios will be in the program).
    • Parading the Colors: Stand while the American and service flag(s) are brought into the room and remain standing while they are present. The National Anthem will most likely be played as well. If so, face the flag with your hand over your heart. If the service’s song is played, you continue to stand, but you do not have to keep your hand over your heart. Do not sit until the colors are retired (paraded out of the room) and you are told to take your seat.
      • This is NOT the time to take photos. You should stand in respect of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem, not be snapping photos of the event while this is happening.
    • Invocation: The Chaplain will say a prayer to begin the evening.
    • Toasts: Giving toasts is usually a part of the ceremony. At the beginning of the toasts, your glass will be “charged” (filled with champagne). Typically, several people give toasts and your champagne is expected to last for all of the toasts. Take small sips for each toast to avoid running out!
      • If you do run out, each service has different traditions for this, but typically, you get “charged” a fine and no one wants to be that person!
    • The Ceremonial Cake Cutting (my favorite!):  The youngest person and the oldest person serving at the command or who are members of that service cut the cake together using a traditional military sword.
  5. Time to Dance!
    • Yes, there is a dance floor and yes, you can have fun!
      • With that said, remember there are a lot of “higher-ups” in the room. Reserve your getting low and sultry moves for the dance club.
    • I highly recommend keeping your shoes on. It is much more proper than going barefoot and even if you have not, taking your shoes off may give the impression you drank too much and are not able to keep your balance very well.
      • If you truly cannot dance in heels, you may bring a pair of flats and discreetly put them on in the restroom before hitting the dance floor.

If nothing else, the one thing I want you to take away from this post is: you are an extension and a reflection of your date for the evening. You will be meeting your date’s Chain of Command (his/her bosses) as well as the service members he/she leads and it is incredibly important to leave a positive impression on them. Smile at everyone you meet, enjoy the time with your date, and take this chance to learn about the history and tradition of the Service Branch and the Corps or specialty. Be polished, positive, and poised while also having a wonderful and fun evening!

Lastly, in honor of Veterans Day, please take the time to say thank you to those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces. To the many service members with whom I have the privilege of working, the Wounded Warriors who I am honored to serve, all the men and women who wear and have worn the uniform, especially my Dad and Paps, thank you! Your service and sacrifice are appreciated more than words can express. God Bless America and all of you!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra