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Ten things You Should Never Do with Email (Plus One)

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The fact that email is quick, easy, and immediate makes it a great communication tool, but also a potential career-killer. Email presents numerous pitfalls for anyone who is careless, cantankerous, or impulsive. We therefore offer the following list of things you should never do with email.

1. Take the coward’s way out.
Never use email to avoid difficult conversations that should be held in person. This includes chastising your colleagues, reprimanding your employees, or breaking up with your romantic partner. Believe it or not, one unfortunate worker actually received an email from his boss advising him that he was fired.

2. Try to resolve a conflict.
Bruised feelings and serious disagreements should never be discussed at length through back-and-forth emails. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you have had two email exchanges and the issue remains unresolved, pick up the phone or talk in person.

3. Respond when you’re angry.
Email makes it all too easy to fire back immediately when you are aggravated, irritated, or frustrated. Many people have later wished that they could “unsend’ an irate retort. Another helpful rule: if an email makes you mad, wait at least an hour before sending a reply.

4. Forward others’ emails without checking all the content.
Forwarding is fine, but be sure that no hidden bombs are lurking about. One woman was dismayed when a careless colleague forwarded a harmless message about logistics to another coworker, completely forgetting that an earlier portion of that exchange contained negative remarks about that person.

5. Use the CC line as a weapon.
If you want to become quickly unpopular, just make a habit of routinely copying management whenever you send a critical email. Your colleagues will soon become resentful and find creative ways to retaliate.

6. Assume that formatting remains the same.
The fonts and symbols on your computer may not exist in your recipient’s software. When they don’t, the receiving computer will simply substitute something else. For example, the bullets on one resume turned into little lips. And the creative font on a brochure became something completely illegible. So stick with standard fonts in your emails and attachments.

7. Forget to double-check the “to” line.
With auto-complete, it’s easy to type in the first few letters of an email address and wind up with an unintended recipient. One upset girlfriend accidentally sent a long email about their relationship issues to her boyfriend’s mother.

8. Assume that others will appreciate your political, religious, humorous, or inspirational messages.
First of all, many people don’t want their already-crowded inbox further cluttered with emails unrelated to work. But more importantly, they may very well not share your views.

9. Broadcast others’ email addresses.
If you are emailing a lengthy list of disparate recipients, remember that many people don’t want their address shared with strangers. Hiding addresses doesn’t require special software or settings. Just use the BCC line on the message.

10. Provide no other contact information.
All business emails should include a “signature” listing phone number and physical address. People outside your company need to know how to get in touch with you. A signature can be easily added with Outlook settings.

11. Shoot yourself in the foot.
Never, never, never write anything in an email that you would not want to see in print, in court, or in your boss’s hands.

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