The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter, it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning says Mark Twain the famous reporter. Is he right or wrong? I think he is absolutely right because, irrespective of how carefully you proofread your emails, there will always be that blunder that escaped your view the last time you checked.
So here’s the deal, we have put together some helpful tips whether you are writing an email for personal or business purposes. It equally applies to any form of writing you are engaged in, but for what it’s worth, especially in business, sending a spin and span email without mistakes and blunders go a long way in creating an impression.
Hence, for that professional, well-written email that will communicate your intelligence to the receiver; arm yourself with the tips below for proofreading your emails.
Tips for Proofreading Your Emails Effectively
Check Contact’s Name
This is an important step in proofreading your emails. Ensure that you get your contact's name right. Spell it correctly. A misspelled name sometimes shows that the person emailing cares less about typing the correctness of the name which is entirely negative, even though it was unintentional. It also shows that the sender lacks attention to detail.
Therefore, if you find yourself unsure about your contact’s name, then carry out a little research. You either start with an email you received from him or her, or check the website, Google or social media handles. Assuming you make no headway after your research, then address the person without a name. You could start with something like ‘Dear Sir’, Hello, Hi there, etc.
Check the Tone of Your Email
The tone of an email is very important before hitting the send button. When you are through with composing your email, try to read it to yourself and empathize as though you are the recipient. Then, think whether you will feel a negative tone when reading it or not. You want to be sure that your email doesn’t sound overly hostile, even if it’s a ‘demand’ email; you should be firm but polite too. While many people neglect this step, it is wise to pay attention to your tone when proofreading your emails, especially if you take your recipients seriously.
Depending on the discussion of your email, do all you can to be as clear as possible. Give every detail necessary to the recipient so they understand you. Remember that as the sender, you know what you intend to communicate and write, but the receiver will only gather the information on what you are trying to communicate from the words and how you composed the email.
So, when proofreading your email, add every necessary detail for an easy read. Check that your pronouns such as ‘they’ and ‘it’ refer to what they should. For example, if there are two men being referred to in an email, the use of the word ‘he’ must be clear about who exactly among the two males you are referring to.
Avoid the use of long sentences and use everyday grammar rather than dictionary grammar. If you want to mention ‘a dress’, write it in simple English rather than writing the grammatical synonym, which may be too hard to understand by someone unfamiliar with complex English words. However, this will depend on who you are writing to, so choose wisely.
Take a Look at George Orwell’s Rules of Writing
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figures of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Read Your Email Backwards
This is one of the best ways to proofread your emails and kick-out errors. When you read what you have written backward, mistakes that you missed the first time will pop-up. Start from the last word on your email and go all the way up, word by word.
Play with Formatting Techniques
Format the body of your email by capitalizing the first words, changing the colours or making all lower case, whatever way you format your email, it will help you spot out some errors that may have been hiding under the shadows.
Check that Your Facts are Correct
Dates, time, venue, address, and links, all that you need to include in your email must be correct. Read it repeatedly so you don’t send the wrong message. Imagine if you meant to write the letter ‘o’ but wrote the number ‘0’ instead. Minor mistakes like this can go a long way, so double-check.
Never rush the process of proofreading your emails but give yourself enough time to re-read before sending your emails. You may want to go on a brief break or focus on something entirely different from the mail and thereafter read all over. You will be shocked at the new blunders you pick out.
It will amaze you what you will find out when you proofread the hard copy of your mail as a proof-reading technique. Food for thought here is to type your email in a Word processor and print. After you have effectively proof-read the hard-copy of your email, copy to the email box and send it.
Invite a Third Eye
When proofreading your emails, a new set of eyes will spot errors you did not notice at first. Because your mind is already accustomed to what was written, you may not be able to seek out some errors. Moreso, a sentence structure may be correct to you, but in fact, it’s wrong and may need a little re-organisation. This is one step you don’t want to by-pass as it does really help.
Now, let's run through the most common email mistakes for you to avoid at work so you can easily become better at writing emails professionally.
Common Email Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
An average office worker spends about 3 hours a day sending emails. From updates to requests and client emails, none should be short of professionalism, except it is supposed to be informal. According to Radicati Group, as of the year 2015, about 260 billion messages were sent daily. If this is the case since emailing is a formal way of communicating, the larger percentage of the 260 million will be work emails, and therefore for every worker, email etiquette is key.
If you consider yourself a pro already, congratulations, but if you need some brush-up or just about to learn, then follow this post as we take you down the route of mistakes to avoid when sending professional emails.
Omitting a Greeting Line
It’s a fast-paced world, and a required skill for workers is that they can work under pressure. How much pressure a worker is subjected to is unknown until work starts. Now, because you have so much workload, when sending an email, oftentimes the greeting is omitted inadvertently, so you write straight up without a ‘Hi’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam'.
Although one can say ‘oh I forgot to say hi’ before speaking to people directly, but in an email, once you hit the send button, the email is gone, without an opportunity to apologize or correct yourself. Hence, before starting any email, ensure to include the greeting before going to the subject matter of the email. A greeting sets the tone of your email and equally shows you are professional.
Use of a Bogus Subject line
The subject line of an email shows before an email is opened. So, using a bogus, vague or one-word subject line may send your email to the recipient's spam folder. When writing a subject line, let it be a one-line summary of what the email is about, not a phrase, with the assumption that the recipient should know what you intend to write.
However, this doesn’t mean that the subject line should be too worded, the focal point is that it should summarize in about 5 words what you intend to discuss in your email. Your subject line should be clear, concise, and straightforward, but not in caps.
If there is a deadline, question or action to be taken, then include it in the subject line, that way, you get the reader’s attention as soon as your email is received and sighted.
Also, if you are starting a new email chain that will require the response of a group of people, ensure it has a different subject line from previous emails received so it is easier to locate.
Misusing ‘CC’ or ‘BCC’
Do you intend to copy other email addresses besides the one you are sending to? If yes, then you must be very careful as you type in the ‘CC’ space. Getting the right email means that the copied contact gets the same email at the same time, but an incorrect spelling may leave your email hanging without being delivered, with the belief that it has.
‘CC’ should be used for those who you intend to respond directly to the email or whose knowledge of the email is paramount. For ‘BCC’, it is used when you intend that a contact should receive the email but without the main recipient or copied recipient’s intimation that the person you ‘Blind-copied ‘is aware of the email.
When you need to respond to an email with copied or blind copied contacts, then respond to only the contacts that need the information you desire to pass across. Avoid sending a blanket reply as this may create unnecessary problems you never saw coming.
Do not select ‘reply all’ when you intended to reply to the main recipient or few copied contacts. Be meticulous on purpose by checking that you have not included a contact you didn’t intend to. Nevertheless, if peradventure your aim is to reply all, the role switches, as this time you must check carefully that you include all email addresses before you send.
Lack of Proper Tone and Grammar
An email’s tone can start from the way the subject line is written as much as body of the email. In the first place, your tone must be professional. Think about your recipient before including any form of humour or informal communication.
In addition, watch your mood as you type, so that anger or irritation will not be perceived in the tone of your email. Remember, you are not there to give excuses for any laxity that may be sensed when your email is being read. So you must ensure to send emails when you are not pressured, angry, or irritated, as this may reflect in your email even though it was never intended.
The grammatical construction of an email is equally key. You may want to proofread your email at least once before you send, as this will enable you to dot your ‘I’s and cross your ‘t’s. Be professional in your grammar and punctuations. It doesn’t mean that you should write as though it is an exam but to the extent that the reader can understand what you are communicating without the need to help you correct your email as it's being read.
In a nutshell, it should be sent without grammatical errors.
Forgetting to Include an Attachment
Hi, ‘please find the document attached’, but the recipient checks the email, nothing is attached. Many people forget to attach a document referred to in an email, an omission which often leaves the reader irritated or angry.
It may also put you across as unprofessional and/or forgetful. To avoid this, start by attaching what you intend to attach before composing your email. Thereafter, before hitting the ‘send’ button, check that you have attached the right document so you don’t realize you sent the wrong one after you have sent the email. Having to send a follow-up email is embarrassing, to say the least.
In addition to the above, do take note of the following points:
Do not be Enslaved by Your Email
Try to create mail filters for your email, if for example, your email provider combines all emails together like Yahoo, set filters for different email categories so you can attend to the most important ones before others. If a conversation is better discussed over the phone, such as one with a colleague sitting right in the next cubicle, rather than email, you can pick the phone and call or just walk over there.
Follow Company’s Email Policy
Before embarking on an email journey, mastermind your company’s email policy so you are within the set boundary. You should have these at your fingertips, as violating any of the set policies may cost you your job or the prescribed disciplinary action.
In a professional email, typing in caps signifies that the sender is ‘shouting’. If you will rather lay emphasis on a sentence or phrase, it is better to underline, or make it bold, but never Caps except if it was specially requested. For example, your boss may ask that you highlight a particular sentence in Caps. Only in these circumstances should it be used.
So what if you sent an email before you meant to? No, it is not the end of the world, simply send a follow-up email explaining what led to the inadvertence. That way, you would have corrected your first action. However, just as the saying goes, ‘to prevent is better than to cure’. Hence, to avoid these mistakes, arm yourself with the tips in this post and always proofread your emails.
Do you have some mistakes you made in the past but you now avoid? Please share how you did this in the comment section below.