Can You Use Your Tools of Trade?

You expect a carpenter to know how to use a hammer, right? And you’d expect that a plumber would know how to use a plunger. An accountant should know how to use a calculator. A taxi-driver should be able to read a map.

If a carpenter made mistakes with a hammer, that wouldn’t look good, would it? Similarly, you’d get annoying if your cabbie didn’t know where he was going, and couldn’t figure it out using a map.

So do you know how to use email? It seems there are a lot of people who don’t.

What If I Don’t?

If you don’t know how to use a basic tool of your job, you’re being just like the cabbie who can’t find the street you need to get to. Think about how you’d feel as a passenger in that situation. That’s what you look like when you misuse email.

Many people complain that people like me are annoying pedants when it comes to things like this. Ok, you’re free to think that. However, it’s not just people like me who will snigger at the way you’ve misunderestimated the impact your poor use of language has on the way people view you.

You’re free to disregard what other people might think of you. But don’t be surprised if Johnson over there gets that juicy assignment you were hoping for instead of you.

You MUST Know How To Use Email

Email is a vital tool for many jobs these days. It’s as vital as a hammer is for a chippie. I know I wouldn’t hire a carpenter who didn’t know how to use a hammer.

Now, there is a lot of software that should be better designed, and you could argue that having a Reply To All button is probably not ideal, and you should have to jump through a couple of extra hoops to use it. But if you spend a lot of time reading and writing email in your job, as I do, then it’s your responsibility to learn how to use it properly.

Occasional mistakes will happen. People are human. But a little bit of extra care when you’re about to do something dangerous is always a good idea.

Reply To All Is Dangerous

You’re about to broadcast a message to a lot of people, all at once. You probably don’t know all of them. Are you really sure they all need to hear from you? Is your response really that insightful?

Imagine that you’re inviting all the people in the Reply To All field to a meeting. Is this really so important that all of them have to be there? Does #EntireCompany need to know you’re having cake for your birthday at 10:15 tomorrow?

This is particularly important when passions are inflamed. Sending that witty put-down to an audience of world+dog might feel great right now, but what about tomorrow when you’re all in the one room? Would you feel comfortable saying this in front of the entire group of people in the company boardroom? No?

The anecdote of the amorous lady who sent a risque email to her boyfriend, and mistakenly sent it to the entire company, is legend. Take care when you hit Reply To All, or it could be your email being forwarded all around the world.

The To: and CC: Fields Are Dangerous

Just as sending a message to dozens, or hundreds, of strangers is dangerous, so is exposing all of their email addresses to everyone in the list. When you put someone’s address in the To: or CC: field, they can see everyone else’s address. You may not care, but someone on that list may not appreciate having their address exposed to the entire world.

If you had emailed your resume to a potential employer, how would you feel about receiving a reply from the company with your address exposed to everyone else who applied. Now they all know that you applied, and that you missed you on the job. What if one of them forwarded the email to your boss?

Know Your Tools

Take the time to learn how to use the tools of your trade. If you don’t, you might become famous… for all the wrong reasons.

Check out this thread over at MetaFilter for more examples of email goofs, gaffs and general mayhem.

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