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E-mail is one of the most convenient means of communication; however, like all workplace tools it must be used in the correct manner in order for the individual and the organisation to benefit from its use.

Follow these guidelines to ensure that your e-mails are effective:

1. Add a clear subject line. Give your e-mail a brief subject line that conveys the gist of the e-mail and identifies its purpose. For example, the subject line ‘Report’ doesn’t mean much, but ‘2nd Quarter Sales Report’ communicates the purpose better, while ‘Quarterly sales increased by 30%’ is even clearer.

2. Don’t use uppercase letters. Using uppercase letters in an e-mail is equivalent to shouting; needless to say this is rather rude. For example, typing, ‘PLEASE BE PRESENT AT TOMORROW’S MEETING’ will be perceived as a command rather than a request.

3. Don’t CC unnecessary people. One of the most common complaints about e-mails pertains to adding and replying to everyone in the CC list. This reflects badly on the sender (showing a lack of attention to detail and confidentiality). Therefore, don’t CC anyone unless necessary and do not reply to everyone in the list unless it is required.

4. Choose your words wisely. Avoid using angry or harsh words. If you can’t soften the blow via e-mail then consider having a telephonic conversation or meeting in person. Remember, if you send something in writing that is rude or obnoxious you cannot take it back.

5. Don’t e-mail confidential or inappropriate information. If you are using your work e-mail address to send confidential information to someone, remember that it can be accessed by the system administrator and forwarded to other people without your knowledge. Therefore, avoid sending confidential documents via e-mail. Similarly, don’t use workplace e-mails for romance or to gossip.

6. Double check. Recheck your e-mail message for typos, subject line, attachments and CC options before hitting the send button. Read the e-mail before sending it to ensure that it is precise and communicates your message clearly. This is particularly important for people who use their mobile phones to send e-mails.

– Zeeshan Lakhpaty
The writer is a professional corporate trainer. zeeshan@peopleexcellence.biz

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 8, 2012.

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