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Email Messages: Proof and Revise

Business email messages have replaced letters – and sometimes phone calls. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to make sure your email messages are accurate and effective. We cover email writing from start to finish in our online course Email Writing that Counts! and focus down to details like email best practices and avoiding snafus in several of our business writing webinars.

Why Proofread an Email?

I would argue why don't you proofread EVERY email?! This critical form of digital communication can lead to misunderstandings if not handled correctly and not proofread for tone and errors.

So, the first answer to the question is this: Email messages have built-in pitfalls that can cause more damage to business relationships than improvement. When email replaces in-person or telephone communication, it lacks verbal and nonverbal cues we rely on to ensure understanding, or at least avoid misunderstanding tone and purpose. This magnifies the need to proofread and revise – to make sure the recipient clearly gets your meaning and intent, and doesn't read into it, especially in emotionally charged situations.

Second, your email message is a written record. If it contains and errors or an inappropriate statement, you can't just "take it back." The recipient can forward the message to others. So, the damage is done to the relationship and maybe to your or your company's reputation.

Proof for Accuracy and Tone

Proofreading written communication always has been important. For some reason, however, we tend to shoot off email messages without the same thought and proofing we would have given to a letter we typed, signed and mailed. Just because you can write and send email messages faster doesn't mean you always should.

I propose it takes much longer to backtrack and correct an error in an email; we've all seen that second email subject line from a business – "Disregard our previous message" – and it never makes the sender or organization look good!

Errors are one thing. Shooting off a message with emotionally charged language or failing to see how your tone might be misinterpreted takes even longer to correct. You can't as easily send a second message that says, "I didn't really mean what you think I meant." The damage is done and takes much more of your time to try to repair than if you had spent 5 minutes or less proofing and revising.

So, before hitting the send button on an email message, take these crucial steps:

1. Check your subject line for accuracy and tone or whether it spurs the positive action you desire.

2. Proof and revise your greeting and closing. Did you address the right person or copy the body of the message and forget to change the name? Did you spell the recipient's name and company correctly? Were you polite in your open and close?

3. Have you adequately covered the topic, including filling in those who are copied, but weren't part of the original conversation? Is everyone up to speed?

4. Read the entire message for tone. How would you feel if you received this message? Did you say anything to the recipient you wouldn't want your boss to see? Do your ideas flow logically?

5. Proof facts and figures. Are your dates and dollar amounts correct?

Be sure to revise your email as needed, not just for facts and typos, but for tone and clarity. If you use email frequently at work, be sure to learn more about email etiquette, best practices and writing email messages that get results. See our webinars page to learn more or give us a call at (425)-485-3221.

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