Make Your Emails Count: Follow these 5 Steps Before You Hit Send

158_2798754You may have heard about the Associated Press photo editor who inadvertently inserted part of her cover letter applying for a position as Buzzfeed’s photo essay editor into an image caption for a photo that she then emailed to AP’s client news organizations worldwide. Buzz-worthy activity? Yes. Likely to keep her current job or get the new job-worthy activity? No. She corrected her mistake shortly after sending her initial email, but by then, her secret was out and the damage had been done.

This email snafu imparts not only fun fodder for email nightmare stories, but also an important lesson to us all:


Yes, I’m screaming. Yes, I mean to – because I want you to listen up.

As a communications consultant who works with thousands of business professionals who send and receive millions of emails, I help people write clearly and concisely and avoid potential career-ending mistakes.

Although texts have replaced emails as our go-to mode for personal communication, email remains our main mode of business communication. Clients, colleagues, bosses, and future bosses receive emails from you every day. They judge you based on what you write and how you write it. To present yourself in the best way, follow these email rules:

  1. Put your main message first. Don’t make your readers filter through paragraphs of chatter or supporting details before they know what they’re supposed to do with the info they’re reading.
  2. Use action verbs to engage your reader and move processes forward. Ex: “Review the team’s work” instead of “Do a review of the team’s work”
  3. Enable spell and grammar check on all your emails and attachments. After your system spells and grammar checks, go old school and actually read through your email to confirm that everything is correct and ready to send. Outlook and Word don’t know the difference between “no” and “on” or “form” and “from”, but you do. If you don’t read through your document, you could be misdirecting and confusing your reader.
  4. Keep it short. Just do it. People read short documents.
  5. Check to ensure you’ve attached attachments, reviewed your To: and Cc: list, and read your document aloud – because our eyes edit things our ears don’t – before you hit send.

Mistakes happen. You can lessen the likelihood that they’ll happen to you when you send important emails if you follow the steps above. Now, if only that AP photo editor had read this article before she hit send………

What do you do to ensure your emails clean, clear, and crisp? Share with us in the comments below!

Pam Burns is a Consultant at Exec-Comm. Visit her corporate bio or LinkedIn profile for more information.

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