Top tip on email etiquette: punctuation matters, even on the least formal email and the apostrophe is one of the least-understood marks. One of the difficulties in writing email is that it has replaced so many forms of business communication from the telephone conversation, through the informal memo, to a letter even a short report. Whatever the formality of the document, it is the punctuation that gives your words voice tone and makes your meaning clear.
Over 90% of the people who attend my in-house workshops on punctuation name the apostrophe as the mark they would most like to understand and be able to use correctly. Whether it’s whether one is needed at all, whether to place it before or after the ‘s’ and how to use it when names end in ‘s’.
Most people look blank when faced with rules such as, place the apostrophe after the ‘s’ on a plural unless the plural is not made by the addition of ‘s’ in which case the apostrophe is placed before the ‘s’. And who can blame them!
One of the best-kept secrets in punctuation is that there is actually only one rule that matters, because it encompasses all the other ones and ensures that the apostrophe is always in the right place.
Before you can use the rule you have to answer three simple questions:
1.Is anything owned?
The apostrophe is a hook, it hangs on a word to warn the reader that it is not a plural, the ‘s’ indicates ownership.
2.What is owned?
This might be something tangible like a pen or laptop, or something less so like an office. It might be a mood, feeling or advice. The terms ‘owned’ or ‘used’ are generally used to loosely describe this.
3.Who is the owner?
This might be a named person, a group, and organisation, etc.
So the punctuation rule that everybody needs? Draw a circle around the name of the owner and the apostrophe will always go on the circle.
Good email etiquette and punctuation means its easier for people to read your email and less scope for mis-understanding. All this saves time, reduces email overload and hence helps improve productivity and well-being.
Joanna Gutmann, author of Readability and leader of in-house workshops on punctuation and the mechanics of writing gives a useful tip to get the apostrophe right every time.
Effective email management – a new series of videos with top tips on effective email management and etiquette. These will enable you to save time and raise performance. Each is about 45 second long and focused on one simple action you can take to improve your well-being and mental health by reducing email overload.
Don’t forget you can always benchmark your email etiquette. Click here to start.
To check your your email management click here to see if there is scope to save time.
2. The Greeting. Casual or formal? What is the best email etiquette for business emails?
3. The closure. Casual or formal? What is the best email etiquette for business emails?
4. Thank you emails. Should you send them or do they just raise the current email overload factor? What’s the alternative?
5. Calendar management. How to deal with unexpected meeting invites in order to better manage your time.
6. Think Before Hitting Send. Top tips to save yourself time and improve compliance with GDPR
7. Quiet Email – the effective way to gain the recipient’s attention without shouting and using high priority markers etc.
8. Think Five. Five top tips to improve productivity and save time dealing with email by sending the right message right first time.
Watch this space for more each month.
Tags: Calendar management, Effective email etiquette, Effective email management, email etiquette, Email greetings, Email management to improve well-being, email overload, email sign off, Email thank you, GDPR, Mental Health and Email, Quiet Email, Save time dealing with email, Smart Email Management, Subject-line, Top tips
Will Google Smart Reply function help us save time or waste time as it drives up email overload? Anything which can help us save time dealing with email surely has to be welcome. The idea of being presented with three possible templates of text to use to reply to an email is very appealing. It is useful when replying from a mobile device as it avoids typing mistakes and saves you time crafting your own reply.
However, either hit the wrong one and an email might ping back at you as the recipient does not understand what you mean. Or they might misinterpret your response. After all ‘Thanks’ can have many meanings from genuine gratitude to ‘so you just dumped me in it’. Result, increased email overload as we play endless rounds on unnecessary email ping-pong.
When we run Smart Email Management workshops one constant request is to educate participants to write short simple emails (responses) which portray a professional image of themselves and their organisation and communicate unambiguously what they are saying.
Why does this need exist for good email etiquette? After all most employees have had a good education and should have a basic command of the English language. Perhaps because the majority of today’s younger generation are so grounded in text speak that they quickly forget the basics of good grammar and spelling. Therefore will Smart Reply help? Or will it just exacerbate the situation?
Then there is GDPR. Forget email overload. An email is forever despite the fact you deleted the reply you sent in haste and now regret. Smart Reply might just offer lawyers a field day.
Templates of text are a great way to save time and especially when you need to reply to a stack of emails with the same response for example acknowledge an invite, receipt of a CV, invoice, revise project plan etc. And maybe, just maybe the old fashioned way of either cutting and pasting from a pre-prepared template of text is still the best option (in Word, Google Docs etc). For Outlook users you can use Quick Parts to create such templates.
This is the best way to reduce email overload and improve business email etiquette and hence performance.
Sadly an email sent is rarely if ever deleted. There is always someone somewhere who will have kept a copy and produce it just when you least expected.
Yes, in Outlook you can recall an email. However as soon as one sees that recall message I defy anyone not to be tempted to open the offending email!
Here are a few recent email scandals where the sender is probably bitterly regretting they ever sent the original email.
There is nothing new about emails you wish you had never sent. It is that somehow we never seem to learn good email etiquette and that email sent, is an email kept for life. Within everyday business you can take three easy steps to reduce the risk of creating an email scandal.
1. Resist hitting Reply All – check who is in the To and CC address box and make sure you are sending it to the right people.
2. Think and re-read your email before hitting send. Ask yourself what if this turned up on the wrong person’s desk?
3. Practice the art of ‘slow email’. Write a rule to put every email into a holding pattern before it leaves your inbox.
For more suggestions see Mesmo Consultancy video on how the manage the risks of cyber crime and leaking confidential information.
How do you have a preferred way to manage these risks to ensure you have no regrets about the emails you send?