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While much of our communication during the pandemic has leaned towards video chatting platforms – like Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and Teams – email remains an incredibly important way to keep in touch, personally and professionally.
And you’d think after using electronic mail for a quarter of a century or so, we’d learn how to use this tool correctly. Alas, open your inbox on a given day and chances are you’ll see many friends, family and colleagues still break “netiquette” rules, such as not using BCC (“blind carbon copy”) to keep your email private when writing the same message to a few people. Sigh.
With this in mind, the following are some suggestions on using email properly – including some clever tips and tricks – which should work with both offline mail clients, like Outlook, as well as free webmail providers, like Gmail and Yahoo Mail (unless otherwise specified).
Have you ever written an email to someone and when you look up at the screen you realize you accidentally tapped the Caps Lock key? Now it seems like you’re YELLING AT SOMEONE IN THE EMAIL? Well, it’s happened to many of us – especially those who look at their keyboard while typing instead of a monitor.
If you’re nodding right now, chances are you’ve manually deleted everything you wrote in uppercase and wrote it all over again in lowercase.
That’s a waste of time when you can simply highlight the text in question, hold down the Shift button on the keyboard and tap F3. Doing so will immediately change the case from lower to upper (or vice-versa).
This little-known SHIFT + F3 shortcut for Windows users will save you time – and frustration – and works in Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft programs.
Talk instead of type
Speaking of saving you time and aggravation, did you know that talking instead of typing could be three to four times faster (and more accurate) than typing?
Regardless of the device you’re on, and within any email program, there will be an option for using your voice to dictate a message.
If it’s a smartphone or tablet, simply press the little microphone icon on the virtual keyboard and start talking. You’ll see the words appear in real-time, and don’t forget to also say punctuation, such as “comma,” “period” and “question mark.” You can talk really quickly, in fact, but talk clearly. Enunciate your words.
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There are ways to do this on a PC or Mac, as well, both at the operating system level and within email programs, too. Windows users can leverage the Cortana assistant, while Mac users can enable speech-to-text in the Dictation pane of Keyboard preferences. There are also free Chrome browser extensions for dictating in Gmail.
But any time you use voice-to-text, remember to always read what was typed before you send. Anecdotally, I once sent a note to an important colleague named Mitch, but because of my cold it sounded like I called him the slang word for a female dog, if you know what I mean. True story. Fortunately, I caught it before I tapped “Send.” Insert facepalm emoji.
Send email at the right time
Entrepreneurs and other self-employed folks should take heed to this: if you want to increase the chances of your message being read, you may want to know when experts say the best time of day is to send an email.
Some say to send messages just before 9 a.m. because most people start their workday then – and thus, it’ll be one of the first emails they’ll see in their inbox.
On the flipside, right before lunch might not be ideal, because people might be more focused on their stomach than the contents of their inbox. If they’re “hangry,” you won’t likely get a reply – or one you want!
According to Pure360, an email marketing service firm, a few good times to send an email is before 10 a.m., mid-afternoon (2 p.m. to 3 p.m.), and even the evenings can be effective (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.), interestingly enough. (They know because of the percentage of people who open a sent email.)
Resist late at night, weekends or holidays, or those messages could end up in the “abyss.”
If you like to get work done during these blackout times, however, get to know how to schedule your emails to be sent later. With Outlook, for example, start a new message, click Options near the upper-middle of the screen, select Delay Delivery and finally, click Do Not Deliver Before. Now select the date and time when this message should be delivered using the drop-down boxes. Write your message, click Send and it’ll hang in your outbox until your specified time. Note: your computer needs to be on for it to send at the specified time.
Another piece of advice is K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid.
Email is not the place to write a novel. With more than 121 emails in a typical inbox a day (source: The Radicati Group), no one wants to read your life story spread out over 17 pages of text.
Granted, your emails needn’t be as cold and brief as an instant message or text (e.g. “C U @ 10 4 java?”) but be sure what you’re communicating is clear and near the top of the email, as studies have shown our attention span tends to drift as our eyes scan down the page.
Friendly is good, but keep your email messages short, simple, and concise.
Oh, and stop sending huge attachments. While most of your email correspondence with someone will likely be via a high-speed connection, don’t attach a 20MB video as it might not reach its destination (especially if there’s a file cap on the sender or recipient’s end). If you need to send something large, use a cloud service and link to the online file.
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