Tuesday, July 24, 2007

E-mail Etiquette...Cc or not Cc

The Cc and Bcc features of e-mail are often misused or misunderstood. Either way, the e-mail sender's time, image, and results suffer.

For an article that shows that Cc no longer means "carbon copy" in business e-mail, please visit the following link and then let me know your feelings and experiences with Cc and Bcc.


I will post responses that help people use e-mail most effectively.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Time-saving E-mail Tip

You can save time and create more effective e-mails with a few settings available in your e-mail system.

First, if you haven't already done so, set your e-mail package to automatically spell check your message before it goes out.

And, set it to suggest replacements for misspelled words.

Doing so allows you to take advantage of the full capability of this software feature.

But that's not the best part!

Now that you have these features set, you no longer need to correct your spelling in the editing or proofreading stages.

Correcting your spelling while creating, editing or proofreading your e-mail actually slows you down and could distract you.

Here's where the magic comes in.

The magic assumes two things.

First, we have to assume you actually read your e-mails before you send them.

Reading and sometimes editing your e-mails before you send them is both common sense and common courtesy.

As you proofread it for content, tone, and grammar, forget about correcting misspelled words at this point

As you proofread, you may see misspelled words. DON'T correct them while you're proofreading.

The only words you should correct before hitting the "Send" button are obvious mistakes your spell checker would not recognize.

For example, for some strange reason, every time I try to type the word "from" it comes out "form."

To the spell checker, the word is spelled correctly. Unfortunately, that's not the word I want.

Or, watch out for "your" and "you're."

Also, double check "their," they're," and "there."

Your spell check cannot read your mind.

So this is where you need to be careful.

After you have completed your proofreading stage and spotted the obvious spelling errors and the ones the spell check needs your help on, hit "Send."

Because you have already set your system to suggest spellings, any time the spell checker comes to a misspelled word, it will stop and ask you which spelling you want.

Select the spelling you want and hit okay.

Rather than taking the time to correct it in the writing and proofing stages, you let the computer do the work.

Now for a final word of caution.

I did tell you to proofread your e-mail before hitting the "Send" button. You, not your spell checker, are still responsible for your correct spellings.

I call it "The Porogram Principle."

I once thought I spelled the word "program" correctly in my word processor.

Actually, I spelled the word, "porogram."

Because I had placed the cursor after the word "porogram," the spell checker did not catch the mistake.

When I printed the document, I noticed the misspelling.

I then repeated my original mistake of not placing the cursor in the correct position and again, the spell checker accepted "porogram."

Frustrated by this, I decided to "Google" the word "porogram."

To my amazement, I discovered that Google listed 47,200 listings that contained the word, "porogram."

I checked a half dozen of the listings trying to uncover the mysterious definition of the word.

All I discovered was that 47,200 other people had misspelled the word in their documents and those documents made their way out into the world wide web.

So what does all of this mean?

1. Set your e-mail package to automatically spell check your message before it goes out.

2. Set it to suggest replacements for misspelled words

3. Select the correct spelling of the word when prompted by the spell checker rather than typing the correct word.

If you are a speed typist, this tip may not prove to save you time.

If you type as slowly as I do, you should save time.

And possibly, you could become more effective because you are concentrating on your message, rather than your spelling.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Effective Business Writing Means Getting Rid of Academic Ghosts

Improving your Business Writing may require an exorcism.

Many people struggle with and, indeed, fear and dread business writing.

Overcoming this may require remembering and ridding ourselves of academic ghosts that have long haunted our writing.

To do that, please join me in a mental time capsule that takes us
back in time - back to the fifth and sixth grades.

Back in the fifth and sixth grades, you probably went through the
school system similar to the way I did. You spent all day with
the same person; it wasn't your mother or father. You spent a big
part of your day with your elementary school teacher.

I admire elementary school teachers. They are my heroes. They
face a lot of challenges. They have to teach you science, math,
social studies, English, and geography. They sometimes concerned
themselves with eraser clapping, milk money, and PTA meetings.

One of these responsibilities is to teach you English. When they
put on their English teachers' hats, their primary responsibility
was to teach you the concept of a sentence.

Back then, in 5th and 6th grade, we were young. We were
impressionable. And, coming from authority figures we heard words


Terrifying sounding words, right?

That experience with those four terrifying words left an
everlasting impression on us.

Big People like Big Words.

What other conclusion could we come to? Our knowledge base was
very limited. We didn't know any better. We were young and very

After learning the kinds of sentences, we learned the types of

And we learned:

"This is a simple sentence."

"This is a compound sentence; it contains two independent

"This is a complex sentence which contains one dependent and one
independent clause."

"This is a compound-complex sentence and because it contains two
independent clauses and a dependent clause, it becomes a long

In our young, impressionable minds, what then became the standard
by which we thought we were going to be judged?

Long sentences!

First, we learned that big people like big words. Now, we learn
that big people like big sentences.

Those elementary school teachers took a very logical approach.

They started very simply and ended with more difficult material.
This approach showed us the various ways we speak and the various
types of sentences we could use in writing. Unfortunately, in our
young, impressionable minds, we retained only the message:

Big People Like Big Words; Big People Like Big Sentences.

Then, you entered the seventh grade. Maybe by this time, you met
a specialist - a dedicated English teacher. That dedicated
English teacher assumed that the fifth and sixth grade teachers
taught you all these neat things about sentences. Now you have to
put these sentences together into something called a "paragraph."

Think about your first encounter with paragraph writing.

I know the only two things you ever really remember about
paragraph writing. I know those two things because I ask
participants in my workshops, "What do you remember about writing
that first paragraph?" I get eight to ten different answers.
Number one and number two are always the same.

Think back to that first paragraph you had to write. Tell me what
you remember about that first paragraph. (Remember, I asked you
to play make believe.)

Go ahead, say it out loud. Or, if you're reading this in your
office or on a plane, and you don't want people to throw a net
over your head, say it to yourself. Tell me the first thing you
remember about writing that first paragraph.

Agony! Okay, what else? Say it; I know it's on the tip of your

Yes, that's right.


That's number one on the hit parade - Indent.

Of all of the things that people could remember about
writing, what sticks in their brains?


Now, many letters we receive come to us left justified, which
means many people have dropped the concept of indenting.

The second thing people tell me they remember about writing their
first paragraph is that that first paragraph had to be 100 words.
Either 100 words or a certain number of sentences.

Remember how we used to write? We looked at that blank sheet and
uttered the writer's prayer,

"Please God, let words appear"

We wrote that first sentence and then we counted the words.

"12 - yes! We're on our way."

Then we looked for the second sentence and wrote that down. Then
what did we do? We counted the words. We associated writing with
a number.

Then, we entered the 10th grade, 11th grade, or 12th grade.

What kind of writing are we doing now?

Remember those dreaded assignments - term papers, themes,
compositions, book reports?

We are no longer talking 100 words. Now we're talking ten pages!

Remember how suddenly the margins got bigger? We learned how to
play the game.

Remember how our penmanship improved? We used to write small. Ten
pages, wow! All of a sudden, our writing became larger. That's
how we got to 10 pages.

Also, back then, when we had to write that 10 page term paper, we
introduced ourselves to two items - a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Back then, we started doing bizarre things - like utilizing
"utilize" rather than using "use." We wrote the paper and it was
only eight pages long.

That will never do. So we reread the paper and found this little
word "use." That word was too small. So, we looked in the
dictionary and found the word "utilize" - the stuff
dreams are made of.

Early in our education, we learned some valuable lessons.

First, big words fill pages. What was our objective? We had to
fill pages.

Second, we learned a system for good grades. The more big
words we used, the better our grade. The better the grades, the
more big words we used. Writing became a game. We knew how to
play the game. That stuck with us.

In the fifth and sixth grade, we heard words like "declarative"
and "interrogative." When we wrote our term papers, we used words
like "utilize" and "endeavor."

Then some of us entered college.

Do you remember the horror of filling two blue books during the
final exam.

Did those blue books tell what you knew about the subject?


Did they tell how you could apply that information in real life?


All that experience showed was how well we could shovel academic

Throughout your formal education, you had a number associated
with writing, 100 words, 10 pages, two blue books.

Now you get into a business environment to find out that none of
that stuff works. It's a completely different focus.

Because we focused on getting to 100 words, 10 pages and two blue
books, the length of our sentences increased, our words got
bigger, and we used more prepositional phrases.

Because we wrote like that in school, we naturally transferred
that approach to business writing.

In business, our audience does not have time to read two-pages
when one-page will do. Our audience is not impressed by the
length of our sentences or the extent of our vocabulary.

In the past, because we focused on getting to 100 words, 10 pages
and two blue books, we increased the length of our sentences,
searched for bigger words and used more prepositional phrases.

To get better results with our business writing, we need to
reverse that process. We need to become clear, concise, correct,
complete and conversational.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Effective Listening Requires Specific Strategies

Listening does not take place in the ears. Hearing takes place in
the ears. Listening takes place between the ears.


Listening is an intellectual adventure.

We hear words and we can evaluate the meaning, importance, or urgency of what we hear.

We need to evaluate more than just the words. We need to become aware of the communicating styles, learning preferences and personalities of the people speaking. That information guides us in how we receive, accept and react to what we hear.

We need to think through how the messages affect our business and personal lives and we need to create plans for what to do with the information.

If we do not understand the words and their meanings, we need to ask questions, make comments, or seek clarification so we can make correct decisions.


Listening doesn't just involve hearing the words. We need to watch the person's body language and facial expressions to ensure the nonverbal messages match the oral ones. If we become distracted, we can miss an important clue that indicates what we
are hearing does not truly relate to reality. This is not to say the speaker is lying. What the words say and how the person delivers them might indicate uncertainty, confusion or doubt on the speaker’s part.

For example, if you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" the response might be "Yes."

However, the word "yes" might be accompanied by eye movement, a facial gesture or a shrug of the shoulders that might signal you are hearing what you want to

On the other hand, if you do not maintain eye contact while you are listening, you can send many mixed signals to the speaker.

This may indicate you are not interested in what the speaker is saying, you are distracted by your personal agenda, your don't agree with what the other person is saying, or that you flat out don't like the person. It could also signal that you feel intimidated or embarrassed by the person or the message.


listening does not involve total silence on the part of the listener. As listeners, we need to prove to the speaker that we are listening and understanding. We don't have to agree but we do have to understand the other person's position. We cannot understand it if we don't truly listen.

We listen with our voices by giving appropriate responses as the person speaks. This can be as simple as the sincere guttural sound, "Uh huh."

It could be a response like," I see," "I hear you," or I'm with you."

Or, you can display your understanding by repeating or paraphrasing the speaker’s words.


Listening is an attitude. To be a truly effective listener, "Ya gotta wanna."

That's a phrase I heard many years ago when I first started my sales career. To really listen to someone, you must think at least as much about the speaker as you do yourself. You have to adopt a mindset that whatever the speaker says may contain some value for you.

Is this always true?


But you will never be able to know this unless you truly listen carefully to what the person has to say. If you miss something, it's your fault, not the speaker's.

We all like to think we have value. When you show people you care about them, you gain their respect and their attention. Listening effectively creates a Win-Win situation that carries value way beyond a casual or even a highly structured listening encounter.

Employers who stress, model and train employees on listening skills own a competitive advantage. Employees who take responsibility for effective listening become valuable assets to a company and, generally, are the ones promoted faster and more often.

Listen between your ears. If you don't, you lose.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Business Writing Can Become Challenging

Many people struggle with business writing.

And, because of that, they waste a lot of time, become frustrated, and do not get the results they want or expect.

Let me share with you a couple of reasons why so many business professionals struggle with their business writing.

Let's talk about "how" we communicate.

We communicate in only two ways - verbally and nonverbally.

The word "verbal" means written and spoken. Many people think the word "verbal" only means spoken.

That's not true. The word "verbal" means written and spoken.

The verbal part includes the words you use and the tone you project with your words. If people do not understand those words, that communication will go nowhere. If your readers understand those words, then the tone you use - how you say it - might become more important than the words.

The nonverbal signals we send with our body language reveals much more than the actual words we use. When we slam doors with frowns on our faces and let out exasperated sighs of disgust, we are letting people know we are not happy. We don't say a word, but people get the message.

Another example of nonverbal signals is eye contact.

Have you ever walked into someone's office and said "Hey Joe. I've got a great idea."

Joe responds in a low, monotone pestered sounding voice, "Yeah, go ahead, tell me about it."

And, Joe never looks at you. He continues looking down at the pile of papers he was working on.

Or, he gets up from the desk by placing both hands flat on the desk to push himself up. Once he's up, he folds his arms behind his back (I guess that's so he doesn't hit you).

Then he starts pacing. While he paces, he checks the floor, checks the ceiling tiles, looks out the window to see if anyone stole his car, and finally checks his watch to make sure he brought it with him.

All this while, he never looks at you. Does that mean he's not listening? No!

He hears every word you say. How does that make you feel?

Right! About one inch tall.

Volumes of evidence show how nonverbals affect communication. For now, let's focus on how the nonverbal affect your writing.

When you write a letter, memo, report, or proposal, do you have the benefit of these nonverbal signals? No. We've wiped out more than half your ability to communicate.

Now do you understand why writing becomes so difficult?

We have grown so accustomed to communicating by using the nonverbal of our body language. We become frustrated when we cannot communicate as effectively on paper.

This is also why you would prefer to talk to someone, rather than write him or her a memo or letter.

In speech, you have the benefit of reading that person's nonverbals or having them read yours.

In writing, we must rely on words and tone. That's it, words and tone.

You do have some nonverbal. If you wrote an important letter to a customer in pencil, wrinkled it while putting it in the envelope, spilled coffee on it while you were writing it, misspelled the person's name, and sent it four weeks late, I think that's nonverbal.

For the most part, when you write, you do not have the benefit of nonverbal signals. That's why writing is so tough.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Three Telephone Tips Provide Exceptional Customer Service

To provide exceptional Customer Service, common sense and common courtesy should go hand in hand. The following telephone tips offer both.

First, help eliminate the biggest time waster in business communications.

When you leave a voice mail message, say your name and telephone number clearly and slowly at least two times. Depending on your message, you may want to say them three times.

If you do, you win! You will sound more professional and you will save time and get better results for yourself and the person you called.

Next, when dealing with customers on the phone, avoid multi-tasking. Yes, you are capable of doing a number of tasks while on the phone. But, to provide Exceptional Customer Service, you should use telephone time with customers as the one Exception to your multi-tasking tool box.

Exceptional Customer Service means total focus on your customers. Besides, unusual pauses, noises and comments tell the customer that you are distracted and not paying attention to them.

Finally, the telephone skill that seems to scream for common sense and common courtesy says, hang up last and gently.

For some reason, the number of customer contact people who throw, slam, or drop the telephone receiver on the cradle seems to be on the increase.

Even though we are in the age of cell phones, many businesses still use the conventional handset phone.

For this reason, customer contact people should be reminded to be sure customers hang up first. That ensures that the customers have completed their thoughts and are satisfied with the discussion.

But, as an added measure, customer contact people should return the handset to the cradle gently and softly. Slamming or dropping the handset sends a piercing sound through the wires and into the ears of customers who have not yet hung up.

The telephone is an extremely useful communication devise. Used properly, it becomes a powerful business tool.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Quickly! Name three things that drive you nuts about Voice Mail.

Let's see how close you came to my three.

1. People who ramble on and seldom get to the point

2. People who don't leave a message

3. People who mumble their telephone numbers so that I have to
play the message five times to get the number

I'm sure your list included little irritations such as:

1. People who do not leave their number

2. People who assume you know who is calling and don't identify

3. People who are not sure or clear why they called

But the message here is clear.

A lot of people are missing a great opportunity when they use
Voice Mail.

To ensure you never fall into one of the categories above, please
consider Five Rules for Using Voice Mail Correctly.

1. Approach Voice Mail with a positive attitude.

The chances are extremely high that when you call someone, you
will hear that person's Voice Mail message. Consider these
circumstances a great opportunity.

If you are making a business-to-business call, you should welcome
Voice Mail. This is your invitation to present a 30 second
commercial for yourself.

This is your chance to exhibit the true professionalism that
creates rapport, builds trust, and forms relationships. It is
your chance to show the person at the other end of the line that
you value and care about her or him.

When you commit one of the six sins mentioned above, you destroy
all sense of professionalism.

2. Expect to leave a message.

If you approach Voice Mail with a positive attitude, you will
save time. You will save yourself time and you will save time for
the person on the other end.

Let me explain. Before picking up the phone, prepare yourself for
the possibility of leaving a Voice Mail message by thinking
through or scripting out what you plan to say.

For example, if you are calling someone to ask them a question,
ask the question. Doing so can prevent a long game of telephone
tag because it allows the person at the other end to think
through or research the answer and then call you back.

That person may have to leave the answer on your Voice Mail, but
at least you now have an answer. That scenario is much better
than playing an endless game of telephone tag.

3. Do a Core Dump.

A Core Dump is a three step process I teach Business Writing
participants in my workshops that helps them organize their
thoughts before writing. It works equally well before picking up
the phone.

The three steps are:

a. On paper, dump all the thoughts you have running around in
your head about the reason you are about to call someone. You need to do this
to help you focus on your message.

You spend a lot of time multi-processing during the day. The Core
Dump will help you cut through everything going on in your
business and personal life to concentrate on what you need to say
to the person you are calling.

b. From everything you've dumped on that paper, select no more
than three things you need to tell or ask that person.

c. Rank those three things in the order in which you wish to
express them for maximum impact.

Now, you are ready to make the call. Now, you are ready to leave
a clear, concise, complete and conversational message.

4. Slow down; speak clearly; show respect.

You show respect for that person and that person's time by
clearly and slowly stating your name at least twice and repeating
your call back number at least twice. Remember, slowly and
clearly, twice.

5. Remember those two magical words.

I am embarrassed that I even have to remind you about this. But,
so many people neglect to say these words nowadays, I must end
this article with them.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Grammar Checkers Improve Business Writing

Someone once said, "There's no such thing as good writing, just good re-writing."

I prefer to say, "There's no such thing as good writing, just good editing."

In the hectic business world, finding time for editing and re-writing your business writing becomes a challenge. However, investing the time to run your business writing through grammar checkers pays huge dividends.

Many of the latest versions of word processors already come equipped with grammar checkers. Investing some time learning how to use this valuable tool will definitely help save you time, improve the quality of your writing, and eliminate the embarrassment of misspelled words, incorrect grammar or confusing writing styles.

Grammar Checkers are far from perfect. Sometimes they can be confusing and frustrating. But, so can kids and parents. You don't dismiss your kids or you don't ignore your parents because you sometimes don't understand or agree with them.

Let me share a few of the benefits of investing a little time learning your Grammar Checker and then using it.

1. Grammar Checkers can catch errors in grammar and writing style that you never knew or considered. That could mean the difference between readers not understanding your meaning and you getting results.

2. Grammar Checkers provide you with Readablity Statistics that show you how clear your business writing is and where to look to improve it.

Most Grammar checkers will provide you with the following two categories of information.

Sentences per paragraph
Words per sentence
Characters per word

Passive Sentences
Flesch Reading Ease
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

Rather than explaining these categories in detail, let me offer guidelines for you to strive for.

Sentences per paragraph -
Never write more than five sentences per paragraph-ever!

Words per sentence -
Average 18 words per sentence for paper documents and 15 words per sentence for emails

Characters per word
The general rule here is use shorter, more familiar words rather than longer academic or consultant words.

Use "use," not "utilize."
Use "pattern," "model," or "example," not "paradigm."
Use "problem," "challenge," "issue," or "puzzle, not "conundrum."

Passive Sentences
This should never exceed 20%

Flesch Reading Ease
This should be at last 80%

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
This should range between 6.0 and 10.0.

If your Reading Ease is lower than 80% and your Grade Level is higher than 10.0, that means your paragraphs are too long, your sentences have too many words, and your words have too many characters and syllables.

That last sentence shows how easily you can blow away your Reading Ease and Grade Level. The sentence had a Reading Ease of 6.3 and Grade Level of 13.1.


The sentence contained 38 words. It contained four words with more than two syllables.

To make this sentence easier to read, you can change it to read:

If your Reading Ease is lower than 80% and your Grade Level is higher than 10.0, you should check the following:

Are your paragraphs are too long?
Do your sentences have too many words?
Do your words have too many characters and syllables?

Now, the Reading Ease is 80.1 and the Grade Level is 3.8.

Notice how the use of bullets drives the Grade Level down significantly.

So, use shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and smaller words and you will reap big benefits. Use your Grammar Checker to measure your business wWriting and you will receive measurable rewards.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fear of Public Speaking - Get Rid of the Fear

The chances are fairly high that most of you already know that public speaking or giving a presentation in front of a group is the Number One fear in the US.

Your presentation skills are an important part of you career path.

To take you career to the next level, you need to overcome that fear. You need to master the art and skill of speaking to others.

I'm a "Whys Guy."

Let me tell you "why" so many people fear speaking in front of a group.

I believe this fear started at a very early age. What do parents tell their children?

"Children should be seen and ..."

"Speak when ..."

"If I want your opinion, ..."

From an early age we've been taught that, "... is golden."

Then, when we entered the school system, we met classmates who make fun of us if we gave wrong answers.

Even worse, we faced teachers who chided us for not answering fast enough and ridiculed us for wrong answers.

All this negativity added up to a reluctance to offer answers or become involved in class discussions. This traveled with us through our formal education and became a handicap in the business world.

Do you offer comments or questions in meetings? For years, I kept my mouth shut in business meetings for fear I might "make a fool of myself."

Then I started to realize that what I was thinking or the questions I wanted to ask could have proven valuable in the discussion.

So, I started to contribute my thoughts and feelings at meetings.

Guess what? They were welcomed and sometimes actually acted upon. Not always. But if I never spoke up, none of my ideas would become known.

If you have ever experienced similar feelings, you are not alone. You are good people with good ideas. Let your ideas or questions be known.

And, lose your fear of speaking in front of a group or giving a presentation.

My friend, Mike McKinley's father used to tell him, "Nobody knows your script."

That's true. No one is going to know you made a "mistake" except you.

Think about it this way.

If your are giving a presentation, the chances are very high the people that attend your presentation are there because they are interested in you or your topic.

So, get rid of your fear. Welcome and even look for opportunities to speak in public or at meeting.

Watch your confidence and career grow.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Next E-mail You Send Could Cost You Dearly!

Carelessness, emotional excess, and haste can result in e-mail disaster.

One town official learned this lesson the hard way. Check out this series of events.

On June 30, my wife e-mailed this municipal official with a request to have the town perform a specific service that was under his area of responsibility.

She received a prompt e-mail response that someone from his department would look into the situation.

On August 9, after not hearing from anyone in the town about the situation, my wife sent a second request for someone to review the situation. Again, she promptly received a promise from the official to check into the matter.

On August 25, after speaking with the official, she sent him a reminder e-mail as he had requested.

Again, on the same day, she received a response indicating the official understood the situation and would direct someone from his department to take care of it.

On September 20, concerned that the service had not yet been performed by the town, my wife sent another reminder e-mail to the official. With winter coming, the situation could get worse.

On that same day, my wife received the following response.

“Rudy, shoot me! Please put this pain in the ass on the schedule. Thanks”

Because this article focuses on e-mail etiquette and the proper use of e-mail, I will not go into the series of classical managerial blunders this official committed as a result of the above message.

My wife received the last e-mail because the city official hit “Reply,” which meant my wife got the message, not the municipal employee for whom the e-mail was intended.


Before hitting the "Send" button, check your emotional temperature. If you're angry, frustrated, upset, or ready to explode, walk away from your computer.

After you create an e-mail that displays any emotion, save it, and look at it 24 hours later.

The chances are that 24 hours later you will probably revise your message.

Your image, your job, and maybe your career are riding on your communication skills.

The next e-mail you send could cost you dearly!