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Thursday, June 15, 2006
What Your Email Messages Say about You
I had a young friend of mine who is twelve ask me to read an email he was getting ready to send to a young starlet upon whom he has a crush (ah, remember those days!). I read it over and corrected some spelling errors and capitalization problems. He was rather irritated because he said he wasn’t concerned about that “stuff”—he just needed a female perspective on whether his message was compelling or not. My response was first of all “Don’t ask a professional writer for a read through and NOT expect corrections in mechanics.” My second response was “Your email message represents you. You need to make sure it does a good job in ALL aspects, not just content.”

That’s good advice for anyone at any age. Email has become so common and so easy to use that it has relegated many forms of traditional communication to the history books. Email might be TOO easy, though, because we become careless in its use. We tend to forget that email gives an impression just like speaking or hardcopy writing. Poor email writing gives a poor impression. In a job search, that can be deadly.

In today’s job search, email will be a central method of communication. It is very important that you write emails well when communicating with potential employers or recruiters. Here are some tips that should help:

Spelling and Grammar
Nothing gives a worse impression than bad spelling. Not everyone is a natural spelling but that’s why God created spell-check. Even I who am a great speller (if I do say so myself) occasionally get a word wrong. The thing to do is to set your email application to spell check all outgoing messages before they are sent. It is easily done and only takes a few minutes to set up. It will make a tremendous difference in the way you are perceived by the person on the other end.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Being a natural speller, I figured spell-checking my emails was a waste of time. That is, until I had an email that I sent to a prominent news anchor published to millions of people with the spelling errors still in it. Oh, the pain of embarrassment! Those two spelling errors gave a very bad impression concerning my writing skills not only to the recipient but also to the readers. Make sure your spelling is correct in all your emails!

As we’ve gotten lazier in email communications, the rules of capitalization have seemed to go out the window. Emails that read like ee cummings’ work are common. AT THE SAME TIME, EMAILS IN ALL CAPS SCREAM YOUR MESSAGE TO THE READER AND ARE OFFENSIVE. Follow the traditional rules of capitalization and punctuation in your email communications.

Abbreviations and Acronyms
Try your best to keep the common Internet communication acronyms out of professional and job search related emails. Of course, you have to judge the tone and the relationship you might have with the recipient on a case-by-case basis, but it’s generally a good idea to write traditionally, IMHO. Always assume that your email with your resume attached will be forwarded to the CEO of the company and write appropriately.

Signature Line
Finally, develop a signature line that includes all your information. It is irritating to receive an email such as the following “Hi Alesia, I just wanted to confirm that you received the additional information I sent to you last week. Thanks! MS” If the recipient deals with tons and tons of emails on a daily basis, he/she probably won’t recognize the email address or be able to remember who MS is. Make sure your signature line contains your name, your email address, and your telephone number at the very least.

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