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Seven Easy Ways to Avoid an Email Meltdown

Don't let haste, artistic bent or lack of protocol sabotage your email missives.

By Karin Price Mueller

Email has become one of the most powerful tools in business available. While electronic communication can link you to prospects, fortify your relationship with existing clients and boost your bottom line, email mistakes can lead to disaster. Julie Miller, Ph.D., founder of Business Writing That Counts (, offers these tips that you need to keep in mind before you hit "send."

1. Focus on the reader. Miller says that in this world of "send, then think," writers get themselves into a lot of trouble by not pausing and taking a deep breath to review what they have written before sending it via email. "Money, reputations, relationships and lawsuits could be saved just by slowing the pace down," Miller says.

2. Write concisely. A writer has fewer than 10 seconds to capture a reader's attention, Miller says. The reader should know within that time what the email is about. Remember that your client's time is more precious than yours. Besides being concise, well-organized emails are a writer's best friend. If the message doesn't flow and the ideas are not unpacked logically, again the writer loses.

3. Skip the theatrics. Fancy fonts and colors make your message difficult to read, so forget about them. Miller recommends using the fonts Arial or Verdana in a 10- or 12-point size. Your email is about getting your message across so that the reader will act instead of drawing his attention to an elaborate design.

4. Monitor content: Bad news, confidential information and wedding invitations should never be sent via email, says Miller. "Really, any content that has emotional or legal consequences should be delivered over the phone or by mail," she says.

5. Stop the endless email cycle. If the problem, meeting or action item doesn't get resolved after three emails, walk down the hall or call the intended recipient.

6. Establish an email protocol. It's important for employees to know what is acceptable. Email is an extension of a company's brand, Miller says. Tell your employees how you'd like them to greet and close client messages, how quickly they are expected to return messages and when they're permitted to turn on the auto-responder.

7. Proofread like crazy. There are no excuses for spelling, grammatical and factual errors in email messages. Reread each message several times to ensure accuracy. Turn on the spell checker and use it. Important messages should be printed out and read as hard copy.

Karin Price Mueller is a contributor to Advisor Today.

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