Getting a Grip on the Stupid Stuff We Do With Email At Work
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This summer in San Diego at the PBUS Mid-Year Meeting, a small dedicated group of us gathered Tuesday morning to do what else—but VENT about the stupid stuff even professional bail agents do with email!
Email is the number one most widely used communication tool in business today. It surpassed the cell phone six years ago. Professional surveys reveal that perhaps more than 90 percent of all follow-up required communication is now handled via email rather than by phone. Apparently we don’t want to have to call and talk to a real live person anymore. There seems to be a trend in “hiding behind email.” It’s just easier these days.
Yet while email is the number one most widely used communication tool in business today, it is the number one most abused and misused tool as well. We began our PBUS training session that Tuesday morning by airing our professional email pet peeves. What are some bad habits people have with email at work? What do people do with email that makes them look less than professional? Here’s what our little venting session revealed:
- Careless spelling and grammatical errors because “it’s just an email”
- Emails that drag on and on and on
- Messages that blur the line between texting and email (taking texting shortcuts in business emails)
- Too many emoticons (smilies)
- TYPING IN ALL CAPS, THEREBY YELLING AT YOUR READERS
- Using no caps at all
- Overusing Reply To All
- Using Reply To All to tell people to stop Replying To All
- Using the RED EXCLAMATION to mark every email as URGENT
- Forgetting the attachment
- Forwarding silly chain emails at work
- Ping-pong emails back and forth
- Using an old out-of-date subject line for a unrelated message
- Even worse, leaving the subject line blank
Do some of these bad habits drive you absolutely banana bread as well? We had some fun discussing best practices and solutions during the training session. The most popular discussion involved how to handle email subject lines. Incorporating the idea below will bolster your professional image as you communicate with family members, attorneys, insurance agents, and even judges.
Never leave your subject line blank. It is a tool that really works for you and your readers. Gone are the days of just filling in your subject line with “hey” or “Hey, girl” or “Whassup!?!” It obviously should reflect the topic of your message. I equate leaving the subject line blank with newspapers leaving the headlines off their articles. Imagine during football season picking up Saturday morning’s paper after all the Friday night football games, and where the headlines are supposed to be, it’s just blank space. You’d have to read the article to find out who won the game. That’s the purpose of newspaper headlines—and that’s the purpose of email subject lines. To write a complete subject line, use this formula: Reason + Subject. Start with your reason for writing followed by the subject of the email. Here are some examples you may wish to emulate:
Completion of Cash Surrender Form
Correction to Application Deadline
Permission to Process John Doe’s Surrender Request
Attention to Kentucky License Numbers
Invitation to Speak at Upcoming Bail Bonds Seminar
Appreciation for the PBUS Mid-Year Conference Participation
With all of these examples, you’ll see the reason for writing (Completion, Correction, Permission, Invitation) followed by a preposition (to, of, for) connecting it to the subject of the email (Cash Surrender Form, Application Deadline, Upcoming Bail Bonds Seminar). When you include all three components of a complete subject line—the reason, the preposition, and the subject matter—your reader won’t have to play guessing games. This is helpful when you receive 300+ emails a day. Plus, many times we file emails under ongoing cases, and having a complete subject line makes these messages easier to find when you need them.
Use the formula of Reason + Subject for your future email subject lines, and as the saying goes, you’ll have them at “Hello.”
About the Author:
Mississippi-based Mandi Stanley, CSP, travels and speaks at conferences and for corporations on “Hair-On-Fire!” Communication Skills. She’s the award-winning business author of The No-Panic Plan for Presenters: An A-to-Z Guide for Speaking Confidently and Compellingly Anywhere, Anytime. Learn more at www.MandiStanley.com.
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