Have you ever sent an email and wished you could get it back? You would do anything for the person to not open and read the email you sent. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s embarrassing.
In most cases, all you can do is “take back” or rescind the message. The recipient still receives the first email but will also receive an email stating the sender rescinded the message. If this happens multiple times (as I’ve seen often), it gets confusing as to which email is intended to be read.
The best way to keep this from happening is to think before you press SEND. Does the email truly accomplish the goal you intended? Here are some steps you should consider before you press SEND.
1. Attachments – Did you intend to attach a file to the email? If so, attach it first. Add the file to the email before you even address it. If you do it first in the process, you won’t forget.
This is the first item in the list because I make this mistake all the time. I forget to add the file in at least 10% of the emails I send that should have attachments. Because of that, I always have to send an “Oops” email with the file attached. If you’re anything like me, you’ve even forgot to add the file to the “Oops” email.
2. Edit – If you want the reader of your email to be focused on your message, keep mistakes to a minimum. I get overly distracted by typos and spelling mistakes. If there is one mistake, there’s bound to be more and I hunt for them rather than focusing on the meaning of the email. Is that what you want your reader to do?
Write your email and then reread it. After you reread it, use spell check. There is no excuse to have misspellings in email or any other electronically written communication. All the systems have spell check. You can’t rely on spell check to catch all mistakes though. Spell check will not identify words used in the incorrect context. For example, if “then” is written instead of “than,” spell check will not catch it because they are both spelled properly.
3. Tone – What is the tone of the email? Never reply to an email or send an initial email if you are upset or frustrated. Even if you think your message will not be construed that way by the reader, it will be. People generally add a tone of harshness to an email when they read them rather than a tone of levity or generality.
If you feel like you have to express your thoughts because of your frustration or anger, type the email in a word processing software rather than in an email. After you write it, let it sit for a few hours. If you still feel compelled to send the email, then you can copy and paste it into an email.
Some people recommend typing the message in an email first but not pressing SEND. I don’t recommend doing that because pressing SEND is a habit and you will hit it unintentionally.
Will you begin reviewing your emails for attachments, typos and tone going forward? Be intentional about your email communication and you will see improvements in their effectiveness. Part 2 of this topic will be posted in a few days. In Part 2, we will discuss email length and whether email is even the appropriate communication method to use.