I was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force (read – brand new officer) and sending an email to my Lt Col Commander (read – not a brand new officer, much higher ranking). I typed the email then boldly clicked send without reading it over. It didn’t take long for that I-hope-I-didn’t-type-something-stupid feeling to set in, so I opened the email I’d just sent and there it was:
Instead of starting the email with
I’d typed (and sent)
There’s really no need to state this but the difference between “Ma’am” and “Mama” is devastatingly huge. Once I regained control of my breathing, I debated my options:
- Get in my car and leave, never to return. This option could easily end in federal prison time; going AWOL is frowned upon.
- Pray she didn’t notice the slip. Right. Not likely.
- Correct my error in some brilliant way. Not possible, short of announcing I was actually her long, lost daughter.
I was left with no choice but to walk to her office and apologize in person. Fortunately for me, she was a commander with a sense of humor. Unfortunately, she found it funny enough to share with others. I learned to respect the power of “Send.”
While I think the topic of email etiquette is overdone, it’s still a topic near and dear to my heart, making it painful to type and post my last entry, Email Gone Bad. (Apologies all around for that one, by the way! Unfortunately, emails like that are sent out daily – scary, right?) A comprehensive list of email etiquette could have over 100 tips; I’m limiting myself to 10:
- Don’t abuse To, Cc’s and Bcc’s. The To field is for people who are directly affected by or need to take action on the information in the email. CC’s are for people who need to be kept informed of the information but don’t need to take action. Bcc’s are used when you need to keep people’s email addresses private. Don’t use Bcc’s to be sneaky – it rarely works and just makes you look shady.
- Be sure your subject line truly states the subject of the email. If it’s an email that’s been replied to and forwarded several times, update the subject.
- Start with a greeting and end with a closing.
- Address people in an email with the same level of formality that you would in person.
- Spelling and grammar matter in emails. Actually, the quality of your writing may matter even more in an email because once you send it out into the world you no longer have control over where it’s sent!
- Don’t use email (professionally or personally) to spread anything that could be considered gossip. Again, you have no control over who ends up reading your words!
- ALL CAPS is yelling so should normally be avoided. Also, exclamation marks and smiley faces rarely (never?) have a place in professional emails. (I’m an exclamation mark and smiley face abuser – I overuse them in an attempt to soften the tone of my words. I’m working on it!!! 🙂 )
- Don’t mix business with non-business in emails. If you want to make lunch plans, type it in a separate email. You don’t want your craving for a burrito forwarded to other people along with the taskings from a meeting!
- Don’t use text type in work emails. Use letters for words, not numbers. All vowels should be included in all words. If you laugh out loud, enjoy the laugh but keep the LOL out of the email.
- Forwarded jokes or political emails don’t belong at work and should be sent out sparingly even in personal emails. There’s a fine line between entertaining and annoying!
Bonus Tip: Don’t refer to a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force as Mama.
Do you have any email tales of horror? Other than reading my last post?!?!?! 🙂 🙂