I like e-mail. It wasn’t always this way, of course. I like to think of myself as the sandwich generation of technology. E-mail didn’t come along in my world until I reached my junior year of high school in the late nineties.
Before 1998, I was a phone junkie. Not cell phones because they hadn’t hit small town Nebraska quite yet – but the ones that hung on walls that can now be found in antique stores.
Seriously. I found an exact replica of the phone that hung on my parent’s wall at an antique store down the street. It had a long curly cord that could likely stretch across the store. Our old phone cord stretched into the coat closet. I know because I spent hours in that dark room full of old coats, games, toys and spider webs.
Maybe a few spiders, too.
My friend and I talked about boys, and school and life as a teenager on that old phone. But that started to fade once e-mail hit the world.
I created my first e-mail account in our high school library. It took me all class period to come up with a catchy title. Instead of using my name (which would have been the best decision) my friend and I crafted a unique combination of words to connect to the internet world.
A bunit is a combination between a rabbit and a bunny and the stud part is self-explanatory. Clearly.
Bunitstud was with me throughout my college years. It was used to talk to new friends, old friends and family across the state. And when my high school friend and I had a falling out – that e-mail address is the one we used to say our final goodbyes.
I used that e-mail until I graduated from college and landed my first real job. It’s OK. I didn’t put that one on job applications.
Not all of them, anyway.
Today I have seven different e-mail accounts. I can talk to you on the phone or in person, but I prefer e-mail. Maybe you can relate?
I received an e-mail last week that was hard to crack. Was I reading a code? There was no emotion to her words and, unfortunately, it came off a bit harsh. I don’t think she meant her note to be interpreted that way. In an effort to help this stranger avoid e-mail disasters in the future, I crafted a list of 5 e-mail tips I like to use daily.
Don’t worry. I didn’t send this list to her.
- Use at least one exclamation point and the words please or thank you! Even if you aren’t thrilled to be sending said e-mail, an exclamation point and basic manners can help both the sender and the receiver. Here’s an example.
“Bob. Please don’t forget to pick up milk after work. Thanks!”
Bob most likely doesn’t want to get that milk. But a “thanks!” at the end with an exclamation point seems like you really care. If you add a please to that sentence, you have an even better chance of Bob picking up the milk. Here’s what happens if you forget this rule.
“Bob. We need milk. Pick it up.”
See the difference? You’re not having cereal for breakfast after that one.
- Don’t overuse exclamation points or flattery. Even the most well intended e-mails can go wrong with too much of a good thing. Here’s an example.
Katie!! You have an awesome car and I love the way you drive!!! Can you please pick me up after work today?!?!
Katie’s not buying it. Stop trying so hard.
- Don’t blind carbon copy people. That just seems like you’re trying to hide something. If you’re trying to hide something, you shouldn’t be sending an e-mail.
- Respond to an e-mail. I like to respond as soon as possible – but within the day if you can. If you’re not going to frequently check your e-mail, you probably shouldn’t have it.
- Put down the technology and pick up a phone. Any old phone will do – although these days, you’re not likely to find the kind with the long cords. Then dial your mom’s number, or your sister’s number or your friend’s number that you had a falling out with years ago. Talk to them. Better yet – set up a time to talk to them face to face over coffee, or wine or whatever pastime you enjoy. We all know personal communication beats an e-mail every time.
I should listen to my own advice. I have a feeling we all should.