Responding to Email: How to Create a Positive Impression and Save Time

In the last post, we touched on the modern day plague of Email Overload and how you can make your messages more effective. Today, I want to point out a particular shortcut many people use, why it doesn’t work, and an easy alternative that will work.

Have you ever seen an email that looks like this?

email

Many people view messages like this one as rude or off-putting. Even if the author did not intend to send any subliminal message, people “read between the lines” and a negative perception is created.

In this case, Nate responded to a normal email by inserting his comments into Gloria’s original message. Nate’s intent may have been to shave off a few moments’ effort or to be clear about the specific question he was answering. However, the overall effect is that he isn’t going to take the time to respond to Gloria in a normal way… the way she wrote to him. This impression is strengthened by the fact that Nate’s email is unsigned. Although the message format has saved Nate a few seconds, it requires a few more seconds from Gloria, who now has to scroll through the email to read his response. Finally, adding in more text (particularly red text) clutters the message, making it more difficult to read.

Copying and pasting the relevant part of Gloria’s email into a new message and adding bullets is a small formatting change, but it makes a big difference in terms of the impression it creates:

gloriaThis message creates a much more positive impression than Nate’s first response. The email also maintains a clean overall appearance, and no extra work is required of Gloria. The addition of a signature improves the overall tone of the email. These small formatting tweaks take about five seconds, and are well worth the effort!

How to Write Email that People Will Read

If you work in an office, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed by your email at one time or another.

The results of a recent survey by McKinsey Global Institute revealed people spend 13 hours of their work week reading and responding to email. That may sound like a low-ball estimate to some, but that’s one-third of a traditional 40-hour work week. Research by the Radicati Group gives us a little more of the picture:

Steady increase projected

Email volume is continuing to grow, but the number of hours in the day are not. Your message is competing with a growing number of others for the reader’s attention.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 3.46.04 AMHere are a few tips to help your email stand out:

  • Use a descriptive subject line. The subject line is the first point on this list because it is the most important part of your email. People use subject lines to determine whether they will read your email, and if so, when they will open it. Subject lines such as “FYI” or “update” are apt to be skipped over. Think of your subject line like a newspaper headline: it should be short and descriptive of the content, e.g., “Key Points for 2 p.m. meeting”.
  • Keep it short. Have you ever opened an email only to be confronted with a wall of text? It’s a daunting experience! Ideally, a message should be 3 - 5 sentences. Writing short, succinct messages is a skill that takes time and practice. However, the time you invest to keep your email short will pay off. It shows consideration for the recipient’s time, and people are far more likely to read and act on a short message. Note: I recommend drafting your message first, then revising it to make it shorter – trying to make it perfect as you write will disrupt your flow of ideas.

pascal

 

  • Be clear about your expectation of the recipient. If you have a question or are requesting action, use bold or brightly colored font that leaps out at the reader. Include a deadline to respond or act, if needed.
  • Use bullets to communicate the key points of your message. Arrange them in order of importance, beginning with the most important item. Readers appreciate bulleted lists as a way to quickly and clearly communicate multiple pieces of information. It also leaves plenty of white space, which makes the message more visually appealing.
  • Make your subject line the whole message. If you have a short, key piece of information to share, consider limiting your message to the subject line, e.g., “Meeting location changed to the second floor conference room (EOM)”. EOM is a common acronym for End of Message, and senders use it to let people know there is nothing further in the body of the email.

Happy writing!

Invest in Your Success: Tips for Upgrading Your Wardrobe on a Budget

Your appearance is a critical part of how others perceive you, and more importantly, how they react to you. A professional, polished appearance does more than give you an advantage at work – it builds your self-confidence!

And of course, January 1 is always a great time to make a change. No matter when you read this, though, this post will provide some tips to help you achieve your goals and look your best!

How to Change Your Look Without Breaking the Bank
Maybe your wardrobe is a little outdated, or you’ve gained or lost some weight and your clothes don’t fit. Or maybe you’re just ready for a change. In any case, most of us don’t have unlimited finances, so let’s go over a few tips to make your wardrobe upgrade more affordable.

bags

First things first, abandon what is not working, whether that is revealing tops, gaudy earrings, large belt buckles, or clothes that look faded and worn. This is an easy tip because it doesn’t cost any money to stop doing something, and you’ll soon see it pay off.

TIP: Avoid fads.
Trendy items have a brief shelf life and are often expensive.

Second, begin replacing your older clothes with an updated look. As you look to invest in yourself and your future, a good way to start is by purchasing a few classic items that can be mixed and matched. You can start with a few staples and slowly build around those items.

shirt

A white oxford button-down shirt is a great choice for men or women. So are dark pants or skirts.

TIP: Scarves and ties are a great way to dress up a simple outfit. 

Other items to consider are one or two sweaters, vests, or cardigans in versatile colors like red, blue, or gray. Invest in a pair of plain dress shoes (black or dark gray).

Tailored Slim-Fit Black Nailhead Wool Dress Pant - Black

TIP: If you’re on a limited budget, buy solid colors.
They’re much more versatile than prints.

How to Guide Your Clothing Choices 
Take your surroundings and goals into consideration. If you work at a greenhouse, dressing for success does not involve a suit and a tie. If you work at a corporate office, wearing casual clothing can be a career-limiting decision.

What are your goals? If your goal is to move into a different field, observe the people already working there. If you have a desk job but you want a role that requires physical activity,  look for clothes that would be acceptable in either role.

Still not sure what to purchase? Look around you. What does success look like at your company? Ask yourself what clothing or accessories would help you look the part.

Armani suits may not be in the budget, but you can use a picture of one and ask for help finding a similar, less expensive option

That isn’t to suggest that you purchase a Rolex so you can check the time just like the CEO of your company. Stay within your budget and use your observations to guide those choices.

TIP: Buy the highest quality classic items you can afford.  

The bottom line is that it is human nature to make assumptions based on appearance. Too often, this works against people who are bright and qualified. However, you can make this work in your favor by being thoughtful and selective with the clothing, shoes, and accessories you buy.