E-mail has been around for awhile now, so you probably feel you have the hang of it. Nevertheless, business people continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Not only can this make you look foolish but it could irreparably harm a business relationship. Here are seven common errors to avoid.

  1. You don’t use your business e-mail address. Typically, you might reference your personal e-mail accounts at work, keeping them open on your desktop. Then you accidently fire off a business e-mail from one of your personal accounts. Besides being inappropriate, the message could be directed to the recipient’s spam folder. Check first before you click “Send.”
  2. You exclude e-mail recipients. This is easy enough to do but just as easy to forget. If you want to keep several people in the loop, remember to hit “Reply to All” before sending out a response. Again, check before you click.
  3. You send a stand-alone response. When you correspond with dozens of business contacts during the day, you can easily forget the details of a prior conversation or even that it occurred. It is helpful to you and others to be able to skim the back-and-forth you have already had. Do everyone a favor by including the entire thread of past communications when you respond.
  4. You don’t reply at all. Sometimes you may forget to respond to an e-mail or simply ignore the communication. When you do not respond, it’s almost like saying, “I am more important than you.” Show your business contacts courtesy by answering them.
  5. You don’t “blind carbon copy” others. The blind carbon copy (Bcc) function has several benefits. It can help inform recipients who do not need to be part of the conversation. The Bcc function can also protect the person’s e-mail address from other recipients. And it is a good way to copy someone on a message without the other recipients knowing about it.
  6. You “carbon copy” too many people. The flip side of not using the Bcc function is overusing the carbon copy (Cc) option. Although it is often helpful to reply to all (see Mistake #2), it is not always sensible to copy everyone under the sun. Ask yourself if this person is a worthwhile recipient or if it is simply bothersome to him or her. Use the Cc with discretion.
  7. You ramble on or you are unprofessional. E-mails should be concise and to the point. If you can’t say what you want in just a few sentences, you are probably better off just picking up the phone (unless you’re stating something that should be documented). Even though the message is short, keep it professional. Also, most business messages should avoid slang and reflect proper grammar.

Is that all? Not really, because other mistakes in the form of commissions and omissions are often made in e-mails. However, if you fix these seven common errors, it will give you a good head start.