You’ve Got Errors: How to Avoid Making the Email Mistakes That We Are All Tired of Seeing.

For most of us, our days start and end with emails. Some of it is spam, some of it is important, some of it is from companies you’ve never subscribed to before–either way, our days are inundated with emails from dawn to dusk.

Email has been around for longer than most of us–“us” as in millennials, who, according to Brookings, make up over 75 million Americans (or a quarter of the total U.S. population). And, even with the rise of platforms like Slack, Glip, or Skype, email still reigns supreme when it comes to professional communications.

So why the heck are we still making simple, credibility crushing errors in our emails?!

For starters, it’s easy to respond to an email. You hear your computer chime with that familiar incoming email sound, you open it, you read it, and you respond in record time with just a few taps on your keyboard. This is where mistakes are made. With quick responses come avoidable errors, and one of the worst times for mistakes is during important communications with clients, coworkers, leaders, or candidates.

To help rid inboxes of these faux pas and sharpen our self-awareness, I’m going to start by sharing some of the errors that we are over.

  • Varying numbers of ellipsis/ellipses: Ellipsis, according to Merriam-Webster, are marks or a mark (such as ‚Äú‚Ķ‚Äù) that indicate an omission of words or a pause. In the real world, an ellipsis is one of the most confusing sets of dots ever, and it doesn‚Äôt help when people use varying amounts of them‚Äìwhat does that even mean? So, if you feel the need to use them, we suggest just three dots. (But, if we‚Äôre being honest, let‚Äôs just omit ellipses themselves!)
  • Double spaces between sentences: D oes. This.  Look.  Right.  To.  You? Spoiler alert: not only is it wrong, but it distracts your recipient. If you were taught to type on a typewriter, then sure, the extra space was needed to delineate the beginning of a new sentence and counteract the uneven spacing typewriters caused. But we are no longer using typewriters, so those double-spaces look a little antiquated in the age of the Mac.
  • Cryptic subject lines: Need I say more? Your subject line should give a glimpse into what the email is regarding. Plus, it helps when you need to go back through your old emails to find something.
  • Subject lines with too many words: Please don‚Äôt put the entire email in the subject line. Utilize that beautiful white space that email offers us and keep it simple.
  • Assuming the gender of the recipient: If you can‚Äôt tell by the name, or you‚Äôve never met the person before, it is not a good idea to assume their gender. If you‚Äôre unsure of their gender, the easiest way to avoid embarrassing mistakes is by using the gender-neutral ‚ÄúMx.‚Äù Mx. is typically used for those who don‚Äôt identify with or don‚Äôt want to identify with a certain gender, but it can also be used if you aren‚Äôt familiar with the other party and you don‚Äôt want to offend or mistake a Mr. for a Mrs.

Avoiding these errors will not only improve your correspondence, but it will also ensure that relationships with new clients, candidates, or leaders start out on the right foot.

Another way to kick off a successful relationship is by avoiding typos in emails altogether.

Tips for No More Typos:

  • Have someone else read it: You know how if you look at a word long enough it looks misspelled? Well, when you read the same thing over and over, it becomes harder to notice the errors because your head knows what you‚Äôre trying to say. Having a colleague or friend read an important email and edit for mistakes is a great way to catch things that you may have missed.
  • Print it and edit with paper and pen: This is an old trick that most people learned in school. Printing, reading, and marking something up offers your mind and eyes a different way to see what you wrote.
  • Read it aloud: Reading it aloud will help with sentence structure, as well as provide a great way to hear if what you‚Äôre saying makes any sense.
  • Use spelling checkers, but don‚Äôt trust them: Yes, they catch most things, but not everything. As The Office taught us when they got their hands on Threat Level Midnight (Michael‚Äôs screenplay), spelling checkers/find and replace only catch things that are spelled correctly. You don‚Äôt want to have a ‚ÄúDwigt‚Äù moment in your communications.
  • Sit on it: This one is the easiest to accomplish. Write up your email, read it over and over, and then walk away from it for a while. When you come back later, it will feel like you‚Äôre reading the email for the first time, so you can catch any lingering typos.

Emails are already innately just the worst, so why make them even more terrible by having avoidable errors? Let’s all try our best to keep email goofs to a minimum–a fresh eye for proofing errors may just strengthen a professional connection.

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